The Portland and South Portland sustainability offices are looking for public input to finalize a draft climate action plan. Courtesy / One Climate Future

PORTLAND — The One Climate Future plan is nearing completion, but the sustainability offices in Portland and South Portland are looking for a little virtual input from the public to get the plan across the finish line.

Beginning April 10, the two offices will hold online strategy workshops through the Zoom platform for the public to learn about, and provide feedback on, the policies and programs the two cities are considering to reach shared climate action goals. The public is also asked to weigh in on a survey, available at surveymonkey.com/r/OneClimateFuture that prioritizes the mitigation and strategies that could be included in the final plan. The survey will be open through the end of April.

Previous surveys asked the public about concerns they had about climate change and what barriers might be in the way for climate change action. Those surveys found close to 80% of the 663 respondents were “very concerned” that climate change will affect Portland and South Portland, with more than two-thirds “very concerned” that climate change will affect them personally. The biggest concerns, according to respondents, were sea level rise, intense storms and ocean acidification.

A standing room only crowd attended the unveiling last June of One Climate Future, a joint venture between the Portland and South Portland to fight climate change. File photo

“The most important thing (is for us to) have comprehensive public engagement, comprehensive public input, because this is an important comprehensive plan: a climate action plan,” said South Portland Sustainability Director Julie Rosenbach. “We are really looking to give the public a chance to weigh in on the strategies we are considering.”

The effort to develop a joint climate plan began in January 2019 when officials from the two cities started working with a consultant. The public unveiling of the effort took place last June. Rosenbach said then that it made sense for the two cities to form a joint plan because both are committed to building a more sustainable future for residents and business owners.

The final plan will have four components: building and energy use, transportation and land use, waste reduction, and climate resilience.

Building and energy use involves using energy more efficiently and transitioning to renewable energy. Transportation and land use focuses on connecting residences, business and public spaces in a more efficient transportation layout. Climate resilience involves making sure all areas of the cities can withstand, respond to and recover from climate changes, and waste reduction is aimed at minimizing waste by altering how residents and businesses dispose of materials.

As part of its sustainability efforts, the two cities have agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and transition to 100% clean energy for municipal operations by 2040. To get to that shared goal, Rosenbach said, each city will have its own defined action items, including programs, policies and initiative to help residents and businesses and city operations make that transition.

“This will take a community-wide approach by everybody,” Rosenbach said.

Portland Sustainability Coordinator Troy Moon said the hope was to have the meetings in person, but distancing requirements related to emergency provisions around the spread of the coronavirus changed those plans.

“We had mapped out a series of in person meetings but have had to cancel those due to the pandemic. We’ve worked with our colleagues in South Portland to retool the presentations so they work online,” Moon said. “We’ll be using the Zoom platform that will allow us to have break-out rooms for smaller discussions and are looking forward to seeing how that works.”

The online forums, Moon said, “will be an opportunity to discuss the strategy ideas in a bit more depth. We’ll incorporate feedback we get from the surveys and from the workshops into the draft report.”

Moon said the hope is to have the draft plan completed and presented to the two cities by May or June. That could be delayed if the Portland and South Portland city councils haven’t returned to meeting in person by that point.

The final report, Rosenbach said, is set to be presented in September.

“Who know what will happen, but as for our work, we are on track,” she said.

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