To: City Council
Re: Testimony on Climate Emergency Progress Report
Portland, Oregon, over the past year, has experienced the Climate Emergency in dramatic and tragic way, including heat dome deaths and unprecedented fire seasons. The City is at risk of continued catastrophes from expanded fossil fuel infrastructures and uncontrolled greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rise.
We agree with the Report’s emphasis on frontline communities’ vulnerabilities and the need for community involvement in policy development. We also encourage transparency and public education through published minutes and recordings of the Youth Summit, Climate Justice Initiative, Build/Shift workshops and other meetings/trainings convened by the City.
We look forward to promised decarbonization measures designed to reduce emissions. We need to see more concrete, measurable steps of 8 – 10% annual GHG emissions reductions, given scientists’ warnings about how much more rapidly global climate chaos is becoming evident and the unknown multiplier effects of tipping points and feedback loops. We no longer have the luxury of incrementalist planning without major courageous actions taken annually within this decade. Unfortunately a lot of the “progress”items listed here are measures that might be implemented sometime in the future.
We appreciate that the City is looking for additional funding for responding to the Climate Emergency. General Fund priorities need to change in order to avoid the future costs of dealing with catastrophes (train derailments and explosions, extreme weather events, etc.). The Report lacks any mention of Zenith Energy and the CEI Hub, including ongoing air pollution, risks of catastrophic accidents, and climate effects from burning tar sands and shale oil. The City promises to “advance initiatives led by the community.” Yet, over 9,000 petition signatories, countless letters and phone calls, including from BIPOC organizations such as Portland NAACP, on denying the LUCS to Zenith have not resulted in a positive City response centering the goals in this Report (non-expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, decreased emissions, protecting communities from pollution and disaster). The City’s measures presented in this Report will in no way offset the huge climate costs of continuing Zenith operations.
While there is an emphasis on increasing EV charging stations and electrifying its own fleet, the City needs to play a much larger role in transportation– pushing for the electrification of City busses and a moratorium on diesel busses which lock in fossil fuel consumption for decades.
The proposed I-5 corridor widening must be strongly opposed. Climate leaders don’t widen freeways.
We are concerned about the lack of data on actual greenhouse gas emission changes in the past year. There must be a “whole of government” approach, auditing carbon emissions and setting concrete goals for all city departments. Very relevant to the GHG emissions load of the city, for example, are: the airport, the Port of Portland, the police department and federal agent actions, industrial zones and big polluters.
What about carbon dioxide equivalent taxes or other incentives for polluter compliance? How will the City make decisions weighing the “internal cost of carbon” going forward? Where is the City’s money invested? What monies should be divested from institutions fostering fossil fuels and reinvested elsewhere? Are we looking at other cities for best practices, such as Berkeley banning natural gas hookups on new construction?
Given heat dome deaths, extreme weather events, and early fire seasons, the Portland Mercury report on earthquakes and the CEI hub as well as flood potentials, the City needs more specifics and resources in terms of preparations for disaster relief, resilience, and recovery. More importantly, you must RIGHT NOW do all within your power to take bold courageous actions, such as stopping Zenith, to prevent actual disasters and address the root causes contributing to climate disasters in the first place.
Otherwise, it really is like Council fiddling while Oregon burns.
Submitted by Extinction Rebellion PDX