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Guidelines for 2019 climate pollution policy in Oregon

In 2007 Oregon assumed national leadership in combating global warming with a measure that targeted a 75 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels. Because this was a voluntary measure, we are not on a trajectory to achieve what we now understand to be very limited goals. Meanwhile, droughts and wildfires in 2017 and 2018 indicate that action is urgent.

To address state climate pollution emissions, Gov. Kate Brown launched an office within her administration to oversee their reduction. House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney also established a joint House/Senate legislative committee to develop proposals for the 2019 legislative session.

The statewide coalition of climate organizations, in combination with health, social justice and labor organizations, drafted a set of outcomes that we wish to see incorporated into the legislation that emerges from the joint committee:

The goal is to shift Oregon to a strong clean-energy economy where greenhouse gas emissions are capped and carbon sequestration is promoted in our natural and working lands.

The first priority for an effective proposal is to reduce emissions substantially, achieving an 80 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2050 with meaningful intermediate targets. This will be achieved within a strong market and a thriving clean-energy economy.

The program should impose economy-wide pricing targeting major emitters and thus produce meaningful emissions reductions while simultaneously promoting clean-energy innovation in communities and industries across the state. The program should include regional partnerships and linkage with other states and provinces, thus creating a broad market with widespread integrity that levels the playing field for clean energy, minimizes administrative costs, and attracts out-of-state investment to our clean energy economy.

To minimize economic hardship, the program should accommodate industries that are trade exposed (thus compromised in competition with similar enterprises elsewhere) in a manner that recognizes historic efforts to increase energy use efficiency and support in-state production. The program should not allow unfair windfall profits to those in the program. Meanwhile, all communities, especially those that suffer an excessive burden from current pollution and workers who are dislocated by the transition, should be provided programmatic and economic support.

We recognize that how the state undertakes the transitions from fossil fuel to a clean-energy economy is critical, as are the quality of jobs created and who has access to these jobs. Thus, the program should generate funds sufficient to provide investments in rural, tribal, urban and low-income communities and increase climate resilience among them. Fixed- and low-income households should also be given support to minimize any negative effects.

Investments in these groups will stimulate clean energy, encourage science-based, climate-friendly practices on working lands, and foster development of the next generation of workforce and apprenticeships. Oregon will assume an economically competitive advantage with enhanced public health. Meanwhile, projects undertaken as a result of the program will pay a prevailing wage and will comply with responsible contracting standards and Tribal Employment Rights Ordinances.

The program will incorporate strong and transparent oversight accessible to all Oregonians. The program’s design and implementation must be undertaken by representatives that reflect the geographic and demographic diversity in the state with over-representation from those who have historically been under-represented. The program should also be continuously monitored for equity, environmental protections and program efficacy.

Furthermore, the bill should uphold the state’s leadership in creating effective and innovative solutions and should inspire other local and state governments to address climate solutions.

These principles should guide the legislative committee’s considerations and will serve as the benchmarks against which any proposal is evaluated.

Since the federal government has abdicated all responsibility for addressing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting clean energy, states must step up and assume responsibility. Although Oregon’s emissions are relatively small, from water shortages to wildfires to health consequences and threats to our natural world, the current impacts of global emissions are devastating.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 report underlines how absolutely urgent collective action is. To protect our planet for future generations, we must take substantial action by 2030. We cannot credibly or authoritatively ask other states and nations to protect our corner of paradise unless we are prepared to lead.

Oregon should accept moral responsibility and assume leadership in addressing global warming. By passing a meaningful bill in 2019, we can do it. We should evaluate state candidates in terms of their willingness to accept this challenge and act.

Alan Journet of Jacksonville is co-facilitator of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now.