Beyond Cap and Trade: Towards a Green New Deal for Oregon

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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.

3 thoughts on “Beyond Cap and Trade: Towards a Green New Deal for Oregon”

  1. Thank you for laying out and explaining how we can effectively move towards a reduction of GHG emissions with the Green New Deal.

    Because corporate timber companies are paying 80% less taxes than 10 years ago the counties need to get every penny out of their residents to cover county costs. This is affecting permitted land use and property taxes, especially the taxes small farmers may become liable for.

    I also hope Clatsop County will define growing trees for carbon capture as an acceptable forest use.

  2. All highly desirable – both the aspirational and the legislative goals. Where the cap+invest bill falls short is its relatively modest aim, its reliance on market forces, its ‘carve-outs’ and exemptions and gaps. [Plus a national carbon tax would be a vastly better tool]. There will be many compromises till we have a final bill. But only measures proposed through the initiative process will ever be “pure” in the sense of escaping the compromises inherent in the legislative process. The question arises, is not an imperfect bill better than no bill at all?

  3. I like it! How quickly can we get this moving? I’m inclined to said let’s get the Clean Energy Jobs bill (HB2020) strong*, passed AND start working on the Green New Deal. Perhaps we can even get the moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure passed this legislative session.

    * I think the following make HB2020 stronger
    1. Cap to 50% below 1990 by 2030 (as the IPCC states) and zero by 2050.
    2. Minimize the free allowances (which EITEs are only promised in the first year per the bill).
    3. Include all industries emitting 25,000 Tons/Year (except aviation and heavy marine fuels because they need international controls).
    4. No exclusions for the ‘F’ gases from the semi-conductor industries even for the first five years specified in the bill.
    5. Set specific fund allocations to all impacted groups: 50% of funds to rural, 10% to Tribes, etc).
    6. Add a clause that states this is a beginning and shall not preclude other regulation of greenhouse gases and programs to decrease greenhouse gases.

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