The Charter Features
“NOW BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, by the City Council of the City of Milwaukie, Oregon, that a climate and ecological emergency, which threatens our city, region, state, nation, civilization, humanity and the natural world, is hereby declared.”
This statement is part of a resolution passed by the Milwaukie City Council in January, 2020. The resolution, Council Resolution No. 7-2020, adds Milwaukie to a rapidly growing list of jurisdictions in the US which have declared climate emergencies, including New York, Chicago, Boston, San Diego, and 77 others as of February 19th, 2020.
As of January, 2020, only six countries are on track to meet climate deadlines set in the 2016 Paris climate accord, so the bulk of reform has fallen on states, cities, and smaller municipalities like Milwaukie.
Milwaukie cites research from a similar climate crisis resolution which was introduced to Congress in 2019 and a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, noting: “the damage done by the current average global warming of 1 °C demonstrates that the Earth is already too hot for safety and justice.”
“The Earth is already too hot for safety and justice.”
While some crisis declarations lack accompanying legal force, like that of the European Union, the Milwaukie resolution turns the city’s already substantial 53 point climate action plan into a more urgent initiative. The original plan mandates upgrades to the city’s public transportation, roads and sidewalks, tree management, and some public buildings. The new resolution fast-tracks these existing goals by five years– meaning the city now pledges to produce no carbon emissions from electricity use by 2030, and to be entirely carbon neutral by 2045.
For most of the ACA community, Milwaukie is a good example of how potential climate legislation in Oregon city could affect daily life. For the 47 ACA students who live in Milwaukie, the legislation is not hypothetical. The climate declaration will mean small changes in daily life, including transport, recycling, and utilities, and infrastructure.
What will carbon neutrality look like?
One Milwaukie resident and ACA student is Rylie Young.
Young hasn’t seen changes as a result of the new legislation, but noted that the resolution is quite recent. She has noticed the city “renovating government owned buildings, such as the Ledding Library, to have a lower carbon footprint.”
The library renovations include a smart lighting system and a rooftop solar system. Katie Newell, director of the Ledding Library, wrote in the city’s climate action plan that the renovation has reduced the library’s Energy Use Index score of 146 (prior to renovation) to 23.
“With the addition of solar panels,” says Jana Hoffman, supervising librarian at the Ledding library; “there will be certain days where our electric use will be close to zero.”
The renovations are also relatively cost-effective. Hoffman notes that the upgrades could pay for themselves in three years.
Milwaukie officials say that they haven’t faced pushback to the resolution or the Climate Action Pla
Natalie Rogers, Milwaukie’s Climate Action and Sustainability Coordinator, says that the city involved the public heavily while writing the Climate Action Plan, which has increased engagement and support. “Since we asked so many people to help us, we haven’t seen too much pushback from community members.”
“Many climate actions benefit a community,” Rogers continues, “even when you don’t consider greenhouse gas emissions. More tree covered, walkable cities with great services for residents are always a good thing.”
In their resolution, the Milwaukie City Council urged other cities, and “all governments and peoples worldwide” to adopt similar climate legislation. Milwaukie’s senior planner David Levitan said: “It may seem like Milwaukie is too small to make a difference. However, when taken collectively with actions taken by communities throughout the world, minor changes in our behavior can make a major difference.”
The Charter contacted Pete Walter, Oregon City’s Community Development Senior Planner. He said that while Oregon City does not yet have any specific climate legislation, the city is starting to lay out their next comprehensive plan, a long-term plan for land use last updated in 2003. Writing the plan, Walter says, “will take at least two years and will result in a comprehensive set of goals and policies, some of which I would anticipate address climate change. This will include a robust public process of visioning, goals and policies discussion.”
The city has several policies already in place that, while not designed specifically to combat climate change, do reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and the usage of single-occupant vehicles (SOV). These include the city’s Transportation System Plan, several development plans for new areas annexed by the city, and the Transport Demand Management Plan.
A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL ENDORSING THE DECLARATION OF A CLIMATE EMERGENCY Milwaukie City Council, 21 Jan. 2020. https://www.milwaukieoregon.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/sustainability/page/111121/r7-2020.pdf. Accessed 7 Feb 2020.
Barnard, Ann. “A ‘Climate Emergency’ Was Declared in New York City. Will That Change Anything?.” The New York Times. 5 Jul 2019.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/05/nyregion/climate-emergency-nyc.html. Accessed 9 Feb 2020.
City of Milwaukie. “Climate Action.”
https://www.milwaukieoregon.gov/sustainability/climateaction. Accessed 18 Feb 2020.
Climate Emergency Declaration and Mobilization in Action. (CEDAMIA) “CED Regions in USA.”
https://www.cedamia.org/ced-regions-in-usa/. Accessed 8 Feb 2020.
Ekbom, Jonas. “European parliament declares symbolic ‘climate emergency’ ahead of summit.” Reuters. 28 Nov 2019.
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Accessed 9 Dec 2020.
H.Con.Res.52. Expressing the sense of Congress that there is a climate emergency which demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address its consequences and causes. United States Congress, 7 Nov. 2019, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-concurrent-resolution/52?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22climate+emergency%22%5D%7D&s=l&r=l. Accessed 7 Feb 2020.
Hoffman, Jana. “Re: Question about the solar project.” Received by Tazwell Brandabur. 18 Feb 2020.
Kennedy, Sarah. “Few Countries on track to meet Paris climate goals.” Yale Climate Connections. 2 Jan 2020. https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/01/few-countries-on-track-to-meet-paris-climate-goals/. 20 Feb 2020.
“Ledding Library.” SolarEdge Dashboard. 24 Feb 2020. Live graph, updated daily.
Milwaukie Community Climate Action Plan. Milwaukie City Council, https://www.milwaukieoregon.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/sustainability/page/85191/2018_1003_climateactionplan.pdf
Rogers, Natalie. “Question about the Climate Action Plan.” Received by Tazwell Brandabur. 6 Feb 2020.
Special Report: Global warming of 1.5 ºC. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 5 Oct. 2018. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/. Accessed 10 Feb 2020.
Samayoa, Monica. “Milwaukie Becomes 1st City In Oregon To Declare A Climate Emergency” Oregon Public Broadcasting. 27 Jan 2020. https://www.opb.org/news/article/milwaukie-oregon-to-declare-a-climate-emergency/. Accessed 5 Feb 2020.
Walter, Pete. “Re: A Question For Oregon City Government.” Received by Tazwell Brandabur. 18 Feb 2020.