My View: Why environmental groups support the Portland Clean Energy Initiative
Imagine rooftop solar panels on affordable housing, schools and community centers, healthy urban tree canopies and local food systems in neighborhoods all over the city, including East Portland, and homes that are weatherized to be more comfortable and energy efficient in hot and cold weather.
This election season, Portlanders have an exciting opportunity to support a healthy climate, job creation, and strategies to reduce energy costs for the people who need it most. With today's housing affordability crisis, these clean energy investments can be transformational by significantly reducing costs for lower-income households.
The Portland Clean Energy Initiative, Measure 26-201, would generate $30 million per year, funded by a 1 percent surcharge on national retail companies that have both over a billion dollars in sales nationally and a minimum of $500,000 in Portland. The money would fund clean energy improvements like home weatherization and solar panels, and would fund living wage, clean energy job training for workers.
All projects will prioritize Portland's underserved populations and neighborhoods, who pay a larger proportion of their incomes on energy costs and have benefited the least from existing clean energy programs. It is critical that clean energy benefits people of color and low-income communities, especially given that many live in the most polluted neighborhoods.
The need for rapid and far-reaching solutions to the climate crisis could not be more pressing. A new report by the world's leading climate scientists found that we have just twelve years to drastically reduce climate pollution before unprecedented droughts, floods, extreme heat and related poverty increase dramatically.
This new report by the International Panel on Climate Change underscores that not just countries but every city and state should be taking action now to transition away from the fossil fuels that drive climate change. With over 70 percent of carbon emissions coming from cities, efforts like the Portland Clean Energy Initiative have an essential role in solving the climate crisis and improving living conditions for Portlanders.
Last year, Portland made a visionary commitment to reach 100 percent clean energy in our city in the next three decades. It was a big step, and now it's time for the real work of implementing the plan. The Portland Clean Energy Initiative provides resources to help make this commitment a reality.
The city council's resolution requires generating more of our energy locally, which means more renewable energy and more local jobs in construction. Clean energy distributed throughout the city also creates a more resilient energy system, particularly in times of crisis.
After Hurricanes Florence and Maria, people whose homes that were powered by fossil fuels were still without power weeks later, while many with solar power were back up the next day — or never lost power at all. Here in Portland, we all understand the potential devastation a large earthquake could have on our community. It's vitally important that we do everything we can to prepare and create a more resilient system now.
By voting for the Portland Clean Energy Initiative, Portlanders have the opportunity to prioritize and support our values — for a healthy climate, cleaner air, and improved affordability. Initiated and driven by community of color-led organizations, we stand with them in supporting this initiative.
It's going to take a collective effort at multiple levels to address climate change, and this is a real, meaningful step we can take right now in our own city and neighborhoods. Please join us in voting YES on the Portland Clean Energy Initiative.