Testimony on City Climate Action Workplan

[Note: this testimony was given at the City Council hearing on July 20, 2022. To send in YOUR testimony by the deadline of August 24, submit written testimony by email at cctestimony@portlandoregon.gov.]

My name is Lynn Handlin, I am with Extinction Rebellion PDX.

“We are living in a climate emergency.  It’s time for Portland to act like it.” Nice words, too bad this climate workplan shows that the Portland City Council is NOT acting like it. This plan has lots of pretty pictures, nice graphs and some good language, but the City budget allocates less than .06% on climate change, which is nothing. I think this Council knows very well that money talks, and on climate, the City is silent. 

In the section on transportation, there seems to be a lot of reliance on renewable fuels to reduce emissions, but renewable fuels can actually be worse on climate than fossil fuels.  The feedstock, the stuff biofuel is made from can be very problematic. Feedstocks such as soy and palm oils can actually have a higher carbon production cost than fossil fuels, and then there is the induced land use change, cutting down forests to grow fuel, or replacing food crops with fuel crops, is just a bad plan. We need to transition away from burning stuff to get around, whether fossil fuels or biofuels. The pricing options for equitable mobility section of the plan is one of the few bright spots, this section is heading in the right direction, but what is the timeline here?

The Portland Clean Energy Fund is another bright spot, a program voted in by the people, in spite of the Portland Business Alliance and some on the City Council who seem determined to weaken it.

Trees. The plan recognizes the importance of trees for both slowing climate change and climate mitigation. Very good, unfortunately this City government has demonstrated just how badly you all  handle trees in Portland.  Why did the city break up with the Friends of Trees?  This was a partnership that was working well to expand tree planting and maintenance in Portland, and getting great community involvement.  It has been replaced with programs that get less trees planted, with little or no community involvement. 

The various bureaus do not communicate well when it comes to trees – a prime example is PBOT’s Division Street transportation project in outer South East. This area is referred to in the Plan: “East Portland experiences summer temperatures up to 15 degrees hotter than neighborhoods east of the Willamette with significantly greater tree canopy.” A few years ago PBOT came to my little business association with nice diagrams and models showing a lot of trees being planted in the median of SE Division Street, east of I-205. Fast forward to today and the project is nearly done, with not a tree in site. Apparently PBOT forgot to discuss the trees with the Water Bureau so now there are no trees.  So there is now more hot pavement and concrete in this area, and no more trees. Also, we need an immediate moratorium on cutting down large trees on public and private property, not wait 2 years while developers cut down every big tree in the city. 

With the federal government’s climate actions being essentially gutted by the Supreme Court and Joe Manchin, we are all counting on local governments everywhere to do the work. We are counting on you. You have a chance to be real climate leaders. For the sake of future generations and all the others we share this planet with you must do what your document starts with and act like we are living in a climate emergency, but really act, backed with big chunks of the budget, not teeny-tiny crumbs.

[Photo of Lynn Handlin Spitaleri heading toward City Hall taken by Janet Weil.]

About Lynn Spitaleri Handlin

Organizing member of Extinction rebellion pdx, founding member of Cascadia Magical Activists, loves doing habitat restoration for fun.


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