Clackamas County backs action on climate change
Clackamas County has joined other local and state governments in support of efforts to mitigate effects of climate change, despite President Donald Trump's move to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris global accord.
Commissioner Sonya Fischer says the resolution she sponsored Thursday (July 6) is intended to be a restatement of county policies going back as far as 2008 — and nothing more.
"My goal, and I believe it is shared by all of us on this commission, is to highlight the importance for every person that we do all we can to reduce our carbon footprint and understand and learn what we need to do collectively," she said. "It's our planet that is at stake."
Although Trump's action cannot be completed until the end of the presidential term in 2020, his move toward withdrawal from a global agreement that excludes only Nicaragua and Syria has spurred an opposing reaction from states, communities and businesses.
"Like you, we see climate change as one of the biggest threats we face," said Lisa Adatto, who leads the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network.
"The good news is that thousands of cities and counties around the country are working on climate change, and lots of the action is on the level of local government right now."
Unlike similar resolutions by the Portland City Council and Multnomah County commissioners, Clackamas County does not pledge by a specific date to end all use of fossil fuels, which contribute to greenhouse gases warming the atmosphere.
The county did pledge in 2016 to reduce energy usage by 5 percent by 2020. Also, the county adopted goals for sustainability and energy in 2008, and incorporated them in 2014 in Performance Clackamas, a set of standards by which county agencies will be measured.
Among other actions, the county has a nationally recognized sustainability certification program that supports local businesses, initiates grants for healthy local watersheds, and provides energy conservation and weatherization services for lower-income county residents;
The vote on the resolution was 4-0. Commissioner Paul Savas left before the vote for a prior commitment.
Only one change
Savas sought to make three changes in the resolution: A reference to the work of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which tracks climate data; a description of carbon dioxide as a "beneficial" gas, and specific support of compressed natural gas to fuel school and public transit buses.
"I think it's important to do what we can and do what is feasible and practical in a pragmatic and cost-effective way and help people's health in Oregon, as opposed to do things that do not have a tangible benefit," he said.
Savas owns an auto repair business and also is the county's representative on the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation.
But the board ultimately made only one change, proposed by Fischer, for a generic reference supporting use of lower-emission fuels for buses without specifying the fuels.
Board Chairman Jim Bernard, who just closed his own auto repair business in Milwaukie after 92 years in family ownership, objected to Savas' proposed changes.
He said the NOAA reference was unnecessary, and that while carbon dioxide is a beneficial gas for plant life, "it's not the whole story of what carbon dioxide is."
"Those emissions are accelerating and disrupting a natural cycle," Commissioner Martha Schrader said.
"I can go with either version."
Commissioner Ken Humberston also questioned the reference to carbon dioxide as beneficial.
"The fact is that we are putting carbon in the air at an excessive level," he said.
"This is accelerating faster than initially anticipated," along with the melting of Arctic permafrost releasing methane into the atmosphere.
Clackamas County was urged to take one more step to join Portland, Multnomah County and the Metro Council in divesting from 200 companies on the Carbon Tracker list.
Sandy Polishuk of Portland spoke for 350PDX, the local offshoot of 350.org, an international grassroots movement promoting action on climate change and a world free of fossil-fuel usage by 2050.
But the board took no action on her suggestion.
Elizabeth Willis of Wilsonville, who spoke for the League of Women Voters, said the resolution should not go beyond the last-minute change proposed by Fischer.
"As a retired communications professional, I have learned that the less you say, the better," she said. "To start sticking in specifics is likely to confuse the issue and likely to provide loopholes for folks who want to argue what we see as facts."
For a link to the Clackamas County action plan of 2008:
The county also has these links:
Sustainable workplace: (www.clackamas.us/recycling/work/)
Food waste: (www.clackamas.us/recycling/foodwaste/)
Multi-family building and apartment recycling: (www.clackamas.us/recycling/multifamily.html)
Corrects name of advisory committee on which Commissioner Paul Savas serves as Clackamas County representative.