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Funding urban climate justice

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Planetizen, June 2022

Leading U.S. cities are updating their climate action plans to emphasize racial equity and social justice, but their efforts are constrained by a scarcity of funding for implementation. One instructive exception is Portland, Oregon, where activists succeeded in creating a new source of ongoing revenue for climate justice initiatives—a surcharge on the gross receipts of large retailers.

The surcharge, which will generate between $80 and $90 million annually, came to be because of a ballot measure overwhelmingly passed by Portland residents in November 2018. The measure called for imposing a surcharge to create a dedicated funding stream to support climate initiatives that advance racial and social justice.

The law created by the ballot measure charges large retailers (with gross revenues of more than $1 billion nationally and $500,000 locally) a one-percent surcharge on gross revenues from retail sales in Portland (exempting groceries, medicines, utilities, and health care services). The millions of dollars the surcharge will generate is enough for more than a token commitment to climate justice.

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