Sometimes it seems all the political talk about reducing greenhouse gas emissions is nothing but hot air.
Take Metro, this week’s Rogue, for example.
Recently, Metro released its draft regional transportation plan, which maps out where $20 billion in new local transportation spending will go over the next 25 years. The federally required plan is built on the wish lists of local government agencies.
One of Metro’s explicit goals for the plan is that it “reduce pollution.” But not only do the listed projects fail to reduce pollution, by Metro’s calculation they would increase greenhouse gas emissions by 49 percent between now and 2035.
Mara Gross, policy director for the Coalition for a Livable Future, an environmental group that has tracked the plan’s process, says the plan is unacceptable. “We need to get serious now about responding to climate change,” she says.
Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder ascribes the gap to a projected regional population increase of 1 million people and rudimentary models. “We know we have a lot more work to do,” he says.
This plan is a big deal because transportation accounts for nearly 40 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted in Oregon and follows 2007 legislation calling for a 75 percent reduction in such emissions by 2050.
Nobody claimed reducing emissions would be easy. Nor are environmental concerns the only worry when knitting together a plan for agencies with different philosophical outlooks and transportation challenges.
While many Oregonians rallied last weekend to reduce global warming (see “350,” WW, Oct. 21, 2009), the gap between feel-good emissions reduction goals and the regional transportation plan remains wider than the Columbia Gorge. Why should anybody take those goals or this Metro plan seriously?