This spring, Oregon legislators are poised to pass legislation to establish a cap and invest system for regulating greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) statewide. The legislation has been commonly referred to as the Clean Energy Jobs (CEJ) bill. While CEJ’s proposed cap and invest (a variant on California’s cap and trade bill, otherwise known as AB32) program is viewed as an important step forward on meeting Oregon’s goal of upholding the Paris Climate Accords, as Governor Kate Brown has promised, it is far from a comprehensive climate solution because (1) it leaves out many sources of GHGs; (2) it does little to scale up the natural climate solutions scientists are urging governments globally to embrace in order to meet the goals set by the Paris Climate Accord; (3) it has limited ability to generate revenues significant enough to meet our climate adaptation needs; (4) it fails to prevent new fossil fuel infrastructure, and (5) it fails to remedy longstanding environmental injustices.
These concerns were expressed by Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE) in a critique of a 2018 version of CEJ. The proposed 2019 version did not remedy, and in fact has amplified these concerns, for example, by proposing free allowances for virtually every major polluter—despite the fact that an abundance of free allowances in California’s AB32 remain a significant problem in reducing overall emissions.
Meanwhile, at the federal level, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has revived the concept of a Green New Deal (GND) as a framework for a comprehensive climate agenda nationally. Other members of congress and presidential candidates have expressed support for a GND. Polls show the American public overwhelmingly supports a GND as an appropriate climate solution. Recently, members of the Oregon Just Transition Alliance have put forth the beginnings of a GND packagefor the State of Oregon.
CSE’s new policy brief provides some specific elements of a GND vision for Oregon that legislators could quickly embrace as complementary measures that will work in tandem with, or in lieu of, a cap and invest program for Oregon and, more importantly, as state-level policy measures that can help shape a federal Green New Deal. Measures discussed in the brief include:
- No new fossil fuel infrastructure
- Ensuring the polluter — and not the taxpayer or fenceline communities — pays for climate and public health damages
- Building a climate-resilient workforce
- Monitoring and regulating all GHG emissions
- Rescinding or redirecting harmful subsidies that undermine Paris Accord goals
- Redirecting subsidies for urban sprawl and highway expansion to electrification of transport and low-cost public transit
- A climate test for all state-funded or -authorized projects
- Expediting the transition to 100% renewable energy in line with Paris Accords
- Making climate smart forest practices the law and not the exception
- Investing and removing barriers to regenerative agricultural solutions, and
- Reducing demand for carbon intensive goods and services
A robust climate agenda for Oregon will require Governor Kate Brown and legislators to go far beyond what is being addressed through the cap and invest framework and embrace a suite of complementary measures such as these and others that have been highlighted as part of the Green New Deal. If California’s experience provides a signal for what Oregonians can expect, such complementary measures will represent the most significant policies the state can enact to reduce GHG emissions, expedite a dramatic increase in carbon captured and stored naturally in our forests and farms, and help rural and urban communities adapt to climate change in a way that creates jobs and protects public health.
Such measures should be enacted in parallel with – or in lieu of – the cap and invest legislation to ensure that the state does not lose valuable time in the fight against global warming while upholding our commitment to the Paris Climate Accords.