Portland and Multnomah County officials pledged Monday to transition to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2050, the Oregonian reports. The commitment builds on the city’s Climate Action Plan, and aims to meet all electricity needs from renewable sources by 2035 and to transition away from fossil fuels and other dirty energy sources by 2050.
Mayor Ted Wheeler acknowledged in his announcement that the city can only do so much as a municipality to move off fossil fuel sources, but says the city and county will “lead by example.” According to the Oregonian, Monday’s announcement proved “heavy on grand pronouncements but light on financial details.” For the city to meet its goal, utilities will have to turn away from coal and other fossil fuels more quickly, and the market for electric vehicles will have to accelerate.
The city does plan five renewable energy projects at its facilities, such as solar projects at some police and fire headquarters, and will establish an electric-first strategy for new building purchases. A building home to more than 1,000 city employees will also be renovated to meet LEED Gold status and reduce energy use by 20 percent, and the county’s new courthouse and health department buildings now under construction will also be LEED Gold certified.
Wheeler acknowledged that the city’s goal is lofty. “We’re actually going to have to make deliberate steps, and deliberate investments, and deliberate policy changes in order for this to become a reality,” Wheeler said, “and I’m committed to that. … The truth is we really did take our attention off of [climate change], other priorities intervened, and I like to think that this collective effort today is reigniting our commitment to those goals.”
More than 20 other U.S. cities have made similar promises, including Madison, Wisconsin, San Francisco, San Diego and Salt Lake City.
Portland’s announcement comes a month after President Donald Trump signed an executive order intended to undo much of President Barack Obama-era environmental regulations. In March, more than 30 mayors signed a letter to Trump stressing the importance of U.S. climate policies and vehicle fuel efficiency standards. An earlier letter from 37 mayors asked then President-elect Trump to embrace the Paris climate agreement. Many mayors are doing more than letter signing: Portland is already part of an effort involving the West Coast’s four largest cities to buy a collective 24,000 electric vehicles for their public fleets.
“No matter which way the political winds are blowing in Washington, D.C.,” Wheeler said, “I want you to know that Portland will continue to stay the course.”
Kelsey E. Thomas is a writer and editor based in the most upper-left corner of the country. She writes about urban policy, equitable development and the outdoors (but also about nearly everything else) with a focus on solutions-oriented journalism. She is a former associate editor and current contributing editor at Next City.