Portland plays with the big boys

Leslie Carlson

On Monday, the C40 Climate Summit kicks off in New York. C40 is a group comprised of the 40 largest cities on earth, including London, New York, Rio, Beijing and Amsterdam, and the summit is being organized in partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative. It's a big-time meeting, and representatives of the cities, hosted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and keynote speaker Bill Clinton, are going to discuss practical ways to cut global warming emissions while protecting--even growing--their economies.

It's exciting to me that cities (and indeed, states like Oregon) have leapt into the vacuum left by President Bush's care-not, do-nothing philosophy on global warming. And more exciting is that Portland is being held up as a leader at the C40 conference--an concrete example of how innovative policy and citizen participation can reduce emissions.

Portland, while obviously not among the world's 40 largest cities, has been invited to attend based upon our success at keeping global warming emissions near 1990-levels, the standard set by the Kyoto Protocol. Commissioner Erik Sten, who's championed Portland's Global Warming Action Plan , will be there along with some local business leaders committed to reducing carbon, to talk about what we've done.

Impressively, out of the 36 case studies being presented next week, Portland is the subject of three: two in transportation and one in energy efficient lighting.

The summit is sponsored by large corporations, including Macy's, Shell Oil (?), Citibank and JP MorganChase. This is proof enough that big business has "seen the light" in the twin threats to their survival: rapidly-changing public opinion on global warming and the economic risk as the very ecological system that businesses depend upon falters.

Given Portland's prominence on the global stage in fighting global warming, it strikes me that there may be an economic opportunity here. Would it be possible to sell knowledge and technologies designed to fight global warming to other countries and cities? Could services and products designed to fight global warming create jobs here? I'm not qualified to answer that question adequately, but if powerful people like President Clinton and Mayor Bloomberg are now leading the charge, I think the time has come for local and state elected officials to "sell" our global warming innovation and expertise in the same way we sell our wheat, our fruit and our athletic apparel. "Climate change trade mission" has an oddly compelling ring to it...

Comments

  • pedro (unverified)
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    i'm really surprised that portland was not under a buildings case study, seeing as we are at the forefront of cities with leed buildings (and beyond, with the cascadia region green building council). they gave it to seattle; perhaps their focus is on how government policy has lead to change, rather than private sector activity? or maybe more likely, the featured case studies are just those that were provided by the different cities.

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    Pedro, I think you are right about it being a matter of public vs. private sector. While Portland has more LEED certified buildings than Seattle, the green building market has been driven primarily by private owners and developers. In Seattle, it's been policy set at the state and local level that have been the driver.

    Since the C40 summit is a public sector conference, they must have looked to Seattle for inspiration, although Portland has done a lot in the green building market.

  • Joe12Pack (unverified)
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    So.....what exactly will this monumental meeting accomplish in terms of global warming? I'm referring to tangible outcomes here. By doing A for B years, C (global mean temperature) will be reduced by X. None of the available scientific data or theories I have reviewed offer much if anything in the way of hard evidence or methods that we humans can turn this thing whole climate change thing around. The progressive version of events/apocalyptic predictions tends to make my bullshit sensor go berserk. Really, what can we do and are we willing to do it? I can think of a host of reasons to reduce our dependence on burning fossil fuels, including environmental concerns, but global warming still ranks pretty low on that list. Furthermore, nonsense like carbon offsets smacks of a scheme cooked up in the bowels of Enron HQ in the 90's. Is this really the best we can do to convince folks that we should lead more sensible, low impact lifestyles without refraining from wiping our asses? You global warming true believers strike me as awfully similar to the hardcore evangelical Christians warning me about the pending rapture. No sale.

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    By doing A for B years, C (global mean temperature) will be reduced by X. None of the available scientific data or theories I have reviewed offer much if anything in the way of hard evidence or methods that we humans can turn this thing whole climate change thing around.

    Yeah, probably shouldn't bother trying.

  • truffula (unverified)
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    None of the available scientific data or theories I have reviewed offer much if anything in the way of hard evidence or methods that we humans can turn this thing whole climate change thing around.

    That's decidecly NOT what the IPCC Working Group 3 (Mitigation) summary for policy makers says. The pdf is here. And a summary of the summary at the Left Coaster.

  • Francesco DeParis (unverified)
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    This is a good direction to move in. The rest of the US should adopt this kind of legislation. There are financial benefits for everyone involved, including the end consumer.

    I comment regularly on the business/investor side of alternative energy on Energy Spin: Alternative Energy Blog for Investors-Served Daily.

    Cheers, Francesco DeParis

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