Friday summit to explore possible actions to reduce climate change

Oregon is about to enter a new chapter in its environmental history with the adoption of state rules requiring an overall reduction in motor vehicle emissions.

The rules could result in higher fuel taxes, fees based on how miles vehicles are driven, road tolls to reduce congestion, and increased downtown parking charges.

The rules are being adopted by the state Department of Land Conservation and Development. They will be presented and discussed at an April 1 Climate Leadership Summit in Portland sponsored by Metro, the elected regional government.

The rules are intended to help meet the state goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 75 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. They are required by two bills approved by the 2009 Oregon Legislature that gives DLCD the authority to set targets for reducing light motor vehicle emissions in metropolitan areas by 2035.

According to a memo prepared for the summit by Metro staff, the rules could require Metro and local governments to take steps to reduce emissions from cars, small trucks and sport utility vehicles. The memo lays out a series of potential actions - called scenarios - in a number of transportation-related fields. They include travel demand management, land use planning, public transit and pricing.

• Click here to read the Metro memo.

Some of the scenarios to be discussed at the summit are familiar land use planning subjects, such as encouraging more development in urban centers to reduce commuting distances. Other scenarios that have received public attention in recent years include promoting more bicycling and walking.

Perhaps the most controversial scenarios involving increasing transportation costs. They involve the use of charges, fees, taxes and tolls to increase driving costs.

'These actions and programs focus on raising the cost of vehicle miles traveled and fuel consumption, which have been shown to result in people driving less - thereby reducing carbon emissions,' the memo reads.

The rules are being issued at a time when much of the public appears more concerned about the economy and taxes than environmental issues, according to a recent poll. It was conducted in February by Davis, Hibbitts and Midghall Inc., a Portland survey firm. The poll was commissioned by the Portland Business Alliance and Portland General Election.

The poll surveyed 600 registered voters in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and Marion counties.

Asked which of 10 issues concerned them the most, 54 percent chose the economy, 47 percent chose creating good paying jobs, 47 percent chose education, 45 percent chose the state budget and 35 percent chose state taxes.

In comparison, 26 percent chose the environment, 21 percent chose global warming or climate change, and 24 percent chose renewable and alternative energy.

The summit will be held at the Oregon Convention Center. Scheduled speakers include Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette, Clackamas County Chairwoman Charlotte Lehan, Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen and Davis, Hibbitts and Midghall co-founder Adam Davis, who is scheduled to present the results of a different poll.

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