Aug 28, 2020
We have a basic responsibility to leave our kids and grandkids a healthy future, but the climate crisis and unchecked air and water pollution from dirty energy are putting that at risk. Whether it’s the coronavirus or climate change, we’ve seen what happens when people in power ignore science, delay action, and pass off their responsibility.
The health and economic consequences of failing to follow the science are well known for Oregonians.
😷 🔥 more severe wildfires and smoke threatening communities
👩🏽🌾 🌾 farmers struggling to grow enough food to feed us
👷 🧒🏿 👵 outdoor workers, children and elders suffering from heatwaves, lung & heart disease, and cancer
💧 🚰 endangering clean drinking water
🌲 🐟 🦀 our forest trees, river fish, and ocean crabs dying.
The Oregon Climate Action Plan (OCAP) is the most sweeping set of climate actions in our state’s history, using multiple policy tools to point us toward a 100% Clean Economy. OCAP sets an overall mandatory target for lowering climate pollution in Oregon at least 45% below 1990 levels by 2035, and at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. These targets are a minimum! Not as far as we need, but a tremendous running start and one of the most ambitious targets in the U.S.
Holding the largest polluters accountable: Cap & Reduce
One policy tool in the OCAP toolbox is known as Cap & Reduce, referring to a limit or “cap” to be placed on climate pollution and then year after year requiring large polluters to reduce what they put into our air by switching to clean power from fossil fuels.
Just over 100 corporations are responsible for nearly 85% of the climate pollution Oregon puts out every year-- out-of-state oil corporations, coal & fossil fuel (natural) gas, and industrial polluters. We all must take personal responsibility for reducing pollution – we pay to have our trash properly disposed of and work to save energy at home. Cap & Reduce has the opportunity to require big corporations, like oil companies, to show the same level of responsibility for cutting pollution that we do.
Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is designing the program right now and must have it in place by January of 2022. Ultimately, it’s up to Governor Kate Brown and her environmental regulators to make a good program, so we’re fighting to make sure the voices of Oregonians impacted by the climate crisis are heard and the program doesn’t let any polluters off the hook.
Done well, Cap & Reduce can deliver great benefits:
Lobbyists for Shell Oil, BP, Phillips 66, NW Natural, and a host of Oregon’s other largest polluters and fossil fuel corporations are already weighing in on the Cap & Reduce rules. You can guess what suggestions they’re making-- loopholes, delays and exemptions. We can't let that happen. We must raise our voices for a strong climate program.
Air pollution and the climate crisis do not affect us all equally
You may have heard this argument for everyone to get involved combating climate change, “it’s the great equalizer; it affects us all.” The second part is true, but the first part is not.
The climate crisis and fossil fuel pollution disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, and people of color in Oregon, across the nation and the world. Racist policies on housing, economics, voting, and more have made it so communities of color are more likely to be located next to industrial and highway pollution, to be more impacted by extreme heat, flooding, wildfire smoke, and other harms made worse by climate change.
All climate protection and clean energy transition policies must address this systemic racism. We’ll fight for a Cap & Reduce program that reduces air pollution in low-income and/or communities of color first, even requiring polluters located in those communities to reduce faster. We’ll fight attempts to allow polluters to buy pollution reductions elsewhere, while continuing to pollute as usual at their current locations.
Additionally, the state must give decision-making power to those communities most affected by climate change and air pollution. Program design and implementation must include representatives of geographic and demographic diversity, as well as organized labor. All advisory and oversight committees should have an overrepresentation of underrepresented communities.
A transition to a clean energy economy brings the opportunity for creating good-paying jobs that can't be outsourced, a way to relieve the pollution in communities of color, improve health for all, and make our businesses and our state more resilient to future disruptions because we'll make more of our own energy instead of waiting to import it. We'll get the same job done using less energy thanks to efficiency guided by OCAP, and by acting first, Oregon becomes an exporter of technology and expertise and a magnet for new investment.