The sustainable development of global cities is vital in reducing the effects and impacts of climate change, and so, each week I will look at a global city and what it is doing to make cities more sustainable. In a growing global population with mass migration from rural areas to urban areas, the sustainable growth of cities is vital. This week is the turn of Portland, Oregon, USA.

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Map of Western United States

Located in the northwest state of Oregon, USA, Portland is home to a population of 632,309 and is the 26th largest city in the USA (as of 2016). The city sits just to the west of the Cascade Mountains and has two major rivers running through it.  But what makes this city so sustainable?

Portland has carried out a series of projects to improve the sustainability of the city and improve the lives of those living in the city since the 1990s. From housing regeneration to clean energy investment, sustainable public transport to city ‘greening’, Portland is running projects on it all and the results are clear to see. It has the goal of transitioning to 100% reliance on renewable energy by 2050 as well as reducing city emissions by 80% on 1990 levels, moving Portland a long way ahead of the United States as a whole.


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Change in Emissions of Multnomah County (Portland) and the USA in general.


The city has encouraged cycling and walking in the city and research suggests that people are happier when commuting this way. The use of cars in the city and the suburbs is decreasing with the increase in availability and affordability of public transport. The goal here is to increase the use of public and active transport to 80% of the population by 2030.

The city aims for all new buildings to achieve zero net carbon emissions and wants renewable energy to supply 50% of all building energy requirements. Along with the changes to the city’s infrastructure, Portland aims to (tree cover). This would improve the air quality and capture carbon in the atmosphere.

In many aspects of sustainability, Portland is leading the way in the USA. The diagram below shows its 2008 ranking against 50 other American cities. It is leading the way on things like energy and climate change policy, green economy, and city innovation.


Chart showing Portland’s ranking against other US Cities in a number of sustainability categories


Portland is leading the way in achieving a completely sustainable city in the USA and around the world. What is being done in Portland is a clear indication that it can be done in cities all over the world if they have the desire that will mean they become completely sustainable. The pictures below will given an example of how Portland has been transformed the the sustainable city that it currently is.


Portland and the Columbia River



Cars, buses and light rail transit systems have all been designed to work alongside each other on Portland’s streets


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