Salem Climate Action Plan

Salem city planners have invited the community to offer input on Salem’s new Climate Action Plan. Unfortunately, the plan so far seems primarily focused on climate resilience rather than climate change prevention. Tell city planners we shouldn’t get side-tracked by focusing on adaptation. Rather, we need to put our energies into developing strategies to achieve zero emissions in order to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Let city planners know we need to shift the focus to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, not learning to live with climate chaos.

Salem’s Climate Action Plan

In their most consequential vote in recent memory, a 7-2 majority of the Salem City Council voted to set a goal for Salem to become carbon neutral by 2050, with a second goal to get halfway there by 2035.

This was the culmination of nearly four years of effort by 350 Salem OR. It was an uphill fight back then with a conservative City Council, but we persisted. The City Council has changed dramatically since then.

City planners have engaged the Verdis Group, a Nebraska-based consulting firm, to facilitate the development of a plan. A Task Force will lead the effort, which concludes December 2021. Our 350 Salem OR representative Janet Lorenzen will serve on the Task Force.

Now that the Salem City Council has formally adopted Climate Action goals, 350 Salem OR believes it should be the job of the Climate Action Plan Task Force to develop reasonable and achievable strategies to meet the goals, focusing on the near-term 2035 goal to cut our carbon emissions in half compared to 2016 levels.

The Salem Oregon Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory reported that in 2016, greenhouse gas emissions in Salem totaled over 1.5 million metric tons. More than half (53%) came from transportation (cars and trucks) and a quarter came from electricity generation.

350 Salem OR will be asking the task force to look at aggressive strategies of vehicle electrification, encouraging more biking, walking and transit use, and more use of clean energy to power residences and businesses.

Governor Kate Brown’s recent Executive Order 20-04 committed Oregon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. In June the City of Portland set a goal to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions before 2050. The cities of Eugene, Corvallis, Bend, Ashland and Milwaukie have also set similar goals.

On January 13 from 9 am-noon the CAP Task Force will hold the second of four  workshops. All meetings will be online and open to the public. Check the city website for schedules and links.

Fifty years from now people will likely look back on this era through the lens of having seen catastrophic climate changes that we cannot even imagine. Our legacy will likely depend on the level of moral courage we display in this difficult challenge.  

— Phil Carver, 350 Salem OR Co-Coordinator