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Portland Wins International Climate Leadership Award

Portland won an international urban sustainability award for a plan to improve walkability in neighborhoods citywide.
Jeff Gunn/Flickr
Portland won an international urban sustainability award for a plan to improve walkability in neighborhoods citywide.

The city of Portland is one of nine cities worldwide to receive an international City Climate Leadership Award.

The awards honor cities for urban sustainability and leadership on climate change on behalf of the climate leadership group and the Berlin-based engineering firm Siemens. Winners were selected from a pool of 87 applications.

Portland won the Sustainable Communities award for its Healthy Connected City plan, which aims to reduce driving and increase transit, walking and cycling by designing more complete neighborhood centers citywide.

“The basic idea is to develop the centers of our existing neighborhoods into highly walkable, lively commercial districts, making it easy and convenient to get to the schools, shops, jobs, parks, coffee and beer that make Portland a great place to live, work and play,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

The city's plan, adopted in 2012, also calls for new housing so more residents can live in walkable neighborhoods and adding low-carbon transportation options in between neighborhoods.

A "20-minute neighborhood analysis" determines whether Portland residents have sufficient walkability and access to services. It considers a "complete" neighborhood one that has parks, schools, transit and businesses close enough that residents can bike or walk to meet their daily needs. The goal is to deliver "complete" neighborhoods to 80 percent of the city's population by 2035, up from around 45 percent currently.

The city plan has additional goals of reducing carbon emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels, increasing transit, walking and bicycling to 70 percent of all transportation, increasing the city's tree canopy to 33 percent, and improving overall health of city residents.

The group C40 is a group of the world's 40 largest cities that are working on climate solutions.

Susan Anderson, director of the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, said Portland isn't big enough to qualify for membership but the group has recognized the city's success in addressing climate change.

"I think we won the award because we've become I'd almost say the cool little sister of these bigger cities," Anderson said. "We've become this place that has walked our talk in terms of trying to reduce carbon emissions while just basically doing good, smart land-use planning and trying to create wonderful neighborhoods."

Other cities including London, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Seoul, and Shenzhen won climate leadership awards in categories including air quality, economic development, solid waste, energy and transportation.

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Cassandra Profita