Led by the Multnomah County Office of Sustainability and in collaboration with the City of Portland’s Bureau of Sustainability, Kapwa Consulting, Studio B:ask, and Coalition of Communities of Color, the County is updating the 2015 Climate Action Plan through a community-based process called Climate Justice by Design (CJxD). The focus on climate justice is grounded in the County’s responsibility to support and protect the most vulnerable people in our community who are most at risk of experiencing disproportionate impacts and harms of climate change.

CJxD is a commitment to rethinking the way our community can thrive by pairing local government, community-based organizations, and philanthropy together to enhance local capacity to build equitable and sustainable communities. By connecting community members, local lawmakers and service providers, and funders, relationships can be formed that are rooted by a shared vision that our community can be better prepared for the impacts of the climate crisis and that we can move together toward a future powered by renewable clean energy. 

CJxD will explore the role that power and privilege play in the creation and decision making behind government, community, and the broader response to the climate crisis, as well as create a new process for collaboration on addressing climate issues in a way that is inclusive and centers racial equity. 

By creating a "shared space," or "third space" where community and government meet as peers to find shared priorities and strategies, new solutions to address the effects of climate crisis that center the people and communities who experience systemically-created disparities, including Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and other people of color (BIPOC), as well as other disenfranchised, under-resourced residents, will emerge. CJxD will ensure frontline communities -- those who experience the impacts of the climate crisis first and worst -- can work with local governments in a way that shifts power in decision-making and honors community wisdom and lived experience. This newly-created space isn’t exclusively for community organizing or one for agency staff to set an agenda and make decisions but instead is where both partners can bring their unique perspectives to influence a new mental model for climate justice.

Fundamentally altering the way that local government and community co-exist in Multnomah County involves imagining new ways of working together. Rather than being in a reactive role to government policies and programs, community members will be in a generative role, helping to co-create climate justice strategies that will serve their needs. In honor and respect of the time and effort needed to develop the strategies, community members will be compensated to fully participate and provide their time and expertise, which will demonstrate the value of community experience and acknowledge the traditional financial imbalance between community members providing input and paid government staff.

This new way of thinking, and this new process of developing solutions for the climate crisis, will require all partners to be flexible, capture learning along the way, prioritize relationships over outcomes, and trust the leadership of frontline communities. Partners agree that change will require alternative ways of thinking, and cannot rely on the same way of thinking that created the problem.

Climate change and social injustice are symptoms of the same problem – an economy and political system that undervalues its human and natural capital for the generation of profit. 

Change will require alternative ways of thinking, and not the thinking that created the problem.