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The Race to Beat Kyoto
Jamais Cascio, 10 Jun 05

Over 160 cities have signed on to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickel's plan to get US municipalities to agree to meet the Kyoto Protocol greenhouse emission targets, calling on signatories to reduce emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Some cities have announced even more ambitious targets -- San Francisco claims that it will get to 20% below 1990 by 2012. But, of these potentially-green cities, which one is closest to meeting its goal?

Let's give a big round of applause to Portland, Oregon.

On Wednesday, Portland released a report (PDF) showing that the city's overall carbon dioxide emissions in 2004 were 0.1% below 1990. Nationwide, CO2 emissions have increased by 17% in the same time frame. Notably, the bulk of the reduction came from institutional sources:

The report, prepared by [the Office of Sustainable Development] and the Multnomah County Department of Business & Community Services, says the largest drops came in the industrial, transportation and waste-management sectors. It cites an array of reasons, including: Creation of two more light-rail lines and a 75 percent growth in public transit since 1990. Portland's purchase of renewable energy for 10 percent of its electricity. Planting of more than 750,000 carbon-dioxide absorbing trees and shrubs since 1996. Weatherization of more than 10,000 multifamily units and 800 homes in two years.

As with water, most of the effort on improving efficiency has been outside of domestic use. As getting Portland down to the Kyoto goal of 1990 -5% (or its own more ambitious goal of 1990 -10%) will require coming up with new ways of improving energy efficiency, the relative lack of movement in the domestic arena suggests an obvious pathway. Fortunately, the technologies and ideas for making homes more efficient just keep coming. Portland looks like it will be the first better-than-Kyoto city in the US, unless some other city makes a real effort to beat it.

Is your city up to the challenge?

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