Our region definitely made history this week, adopting America's first regional set of strategies to combat climate change. The Metro Council voted unanimously Thursday to adopt the strategies, which will cut vehicle emissions to 29 percent below 2005 levels in the next 20 years.
Ambitious, yes. But entirely achievable – in part because of decades of work in our local communities to get us there.
When we started the work of addressing the Legislature's mandate to curb tailpipe emissions, it looked daunting. Even after accounting for increased auto efficiency and cleaner fuels, cutting our region's emissions by one-fifth still seemed like an extraordinary challenge.
In most places, it would be. But Oregon is different, thanks, in large part, to the decisions made by prescient leaders decades ago.
When Oregon's land use planning system was put in place in the early 1970s, it was designed to keep our beautiful state from becoming another California. To quote the late Gov. Tom McCall, "Unlimited and unregulated growth, leads inexorably to a lowered quality of life."
By coordinating growth, we supported communities that have stayed healthy. We supported small business. And, coincidentally, we made it easier to achieve the state's climate goals.
I want to congratulate all 25 cities and three counties in our region. They did the heavy work in getting us to reach the Legislature's target. Locally adopted plans, in Beaverton, in Lake Oswego, in Oregon City and Troutdale and everywhere in between, they got us to the finish line.
But we've only gotten there on paper. We're only halfway through our challenge.
Those local plans – ideas that have sprung from community forms and city council meetings across the region – still have to be put into place. To actually succeed in curbing emissions, we need that trail down the street from your home to go from paper to pavement. We have to ensure that transportation bottlenecks that cause pollution are addressed. We have to increase transit service, so taking TriMet or SMART to work is a viable option for most of our region's residents.
That will take further investment. If we want to ensure we live up to our Oregonian legacy, and to leave a better place for our children, we have to work together to tell Salem and Washington, D.C., that we need help to do our part.
When I think about our work this Climate Smart project, I think how far we've come in the five years we've been working on this. When our work started, there was a chorus of people who said that any progress we made would still be overwhelmed by emissions from China. Now, even China is on board with solving this global problem. If we're going to make a difference, we all have to do our part – and I look forward to working with all of you to ensure the Portland region leads the way in this groundbreaking effort.