There was a lot of love for Portland's green goals this afternoon at city council. Portland is aiming to be the most sustainable city in America, a verdant town littered with eco-districts. And crucial to that goal is the Climate Action Plan city council unanimously approved today. The plan pushes Portland to cut its total greenhouse gas emissions a whopping 80 percent between 1990 and 2050.

Mayor Adams, sporting a chic green-striped tie, lauded the Climate Action Plan (pdf) to standing-room only council chambers. "Portland is recognized as one of the most sustainable cities in America," said Adams. "That is very high praise on an incredibly low standard… I'm afraid, as one of your leaders, that we will sit on our laurels.” Adams' Bureau of Planning and Sustainability drafted the plan in conjunction with Multnomah County. Portland's carbon emissions have decreased 19 since 1990 percent while the rest of the country has increased emissions 20 percent (though since Portland's population has jumped in the past 20 years, our overall carbon emissions have only dropped one percent).

Where well cut our greenhouse gasses - click to enlarge!
  • Where we'll cut our greenhouse gasses - click to enlarge!
Some small criticisms of the plan emerged during the mostly congratulatory testimony. “Only a federal carbon cap will leverage the kinds of technologies that will enable the city and county to meet its goals,” noted Angus Duncan, chair of the Oregon Global Warming Commission. To get on track to end global warming, says Duncan, the country needs to not just decrease its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent, but by an order of magnitude (about 1000 percent). On a less dire note, Portlander Randy White also harshly criticized the high local price of worms for compost.

Transportation activist and Planning Commissioner Chris Smith drew a contrast between the $4.2 billion Columbia River Crossing freeway and the Bicycle Master Plan unveiled last night. "We have projects with dollar signs attached but no funding. Let's move the funding from projects that don't help us meet our goals to projects that do," said Smith.

"The Gordian knot has been how are we going to pay for this," acknowledged Adams at the beginning of the meeting. "Right now, Americans can go out and get a loan for a motorcycle or a power boat but you'll find very little opportunity to get the financing for a green energy retrofit for your home." Adams pointed to the development of Portland Clean Energy Works, a pilot program that will allow homeowners to pay for energy-saving remodeling on an installment plan rather than up front.

One speaker mentioned the need to watchdog the process, noting that although the council is supposed to check in on the plan in 2012, it's likely that no one who wrote the plan will be around in 2050 to make sure the city follows through. Commissioner Randy Leonard took offense. "I will be 98 and I will be sitting right here," he joked.