We were thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about Michele Crim, Portland’s new Chief Sustainability Officer, who now leads 40+ staff in the development and implementation of policies and programs focused on climate action, waste reduction and recycling, energy efficiency and renewables, emerging mobility, green building, business assistance, and community outreach and engagement. She led the development of Portland’s award-winning Climate Action Plan (2015) and seeks to ensure Portland’s marginalized communities reap the benefits of those efforts. Check out what we learned and hear more at GoGreen Conference Portland next week on October 10th.
As the new Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Portland, what are some of your long and short-term goals?
We are in a time of tremendous change and there is an urgency to act that hasn’t really existed before. From climate change to racial justice, we are at a critical crossroads that means our collective work – public, private, non-profit, academia, advocacy – is more important than ever before. My short-term goals are to continue the important work we already have before us (as outlined in the Portland Plan, the Climate Action Plan and the Comprehensive Plan) and ensure we deliver on the commitments we’ve already made. In terms of mid and long-term goals, I’m eager to push hard on some of our seemingly impossible challenges. We no longer have the luxury of nibbling around the edges of some of the big stuff we know we need to tackle, from our energy systems to addressing emissions from the goods and services we consume – and everything in between.
You will be a part of our Closing Plenary, where you will discuss how climate change impacts our generation. How do you see climate change and the economy as interrelated?
Portland’s early work on climate created opportunities for local companies to develop clean technology, innovative products and sustainability expertise that have since been exported around the world. Our local policies and programs and initiative from sustainable business leaders drove that demand. As Portland considers future policies and programs, we must be more intentional about driving economic opportunity. Special care and intention must be paid to ensuring that those opportunities extend deeply into those communities that have historically been left behind and not benefited from climate action, most especially communities of color and low-income populations.
What is an example of a policy that the City of Portland has enacted that integrates equity in its design?
Portland is known internationally for our work to integrate equity into the 2015 Climate Action Plan. From high level vision setting, to specific actions and policies, that plan was greatly informed by the perspectives and expertise of Portland’s frontline communities. That work built the capacity of our staff and community members to understand the linkages between equity and climate action. However, it didn’t go far enough. The City of Portland and Multnomah County will be updating the Climate Action Plan in 2020. To go farther we won’t be looking to our frontline communities to simply inform our work. Instead, we’ll invite them to be collaborators in the design. The design community describes this as co-creation. It will require us to build new skills and mindsets as designers, and create structural and institutional changes in order to be successful.
For more information about join us at GoGreen Conference – Portland on October 10th, 2018. Visit portland.gogreenconference.net for more information and to purchase tickets.