Portland meets London: A chat with Nicky Gavron

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Nicky Gavron of the London Assembly will be in Portland this week talking climate change and economic development.

Nicky Gavron of the London Assembly will be in Portland this week talking climate change and economic development.

This week, Nicky Gavron, member of the London Assembly, former Deputy Mayor of London and climate change policy advocate, makes her first trip to Portland.

She'll deliver the keynote address for the City of Portland's BEST Awards Breakfast, an event that honors the region's most sustainable businesses, Tuesday morning at the Hilton Towers in downtown Portland.

But Gavron will also be looking around to see what policy and clean-economy tips she can pick up from the Rose City, according to an email interview we conducted before she departed for Oregon.

Given the United Kingdom's status of one of only a handful of countries due to meet its Kyoto Protocol target, there's plenty for Oregon to learn from London. In 2008, the U.K. passed its Climate Change Act, setting a very ambitious target of 80 percent emissions reductions from 1990 levels by 2050.

Here's what Gavron had to say about planning for climate change, involving the business sector and learning from cities around the world.

Sustainable Business Oregon: The U.K. in general and London in specific has been leading the world in recent years with some of its sustainable design and climate change action policies. How has this actively been reflected in London's economy in recent years?

The first thing to say about London is that we started way down the learning curve. When the Greater London Authority was set up in 2000, the first Mayor, Ken Livingstone, described London as “The Dirty Old Man Of Europe." London had a ramshackle public transport system, was highly congested, had appalling air quality and underinvestment in its infrastructure. Our task was to literally retrofit the city's infrastructure – a process, of course, which is ongoing.

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