Climate Stability and Justice Needed for Oregon: A review of HB 3470 and looking forward
During the 2015 legislative session, Oregon Environmental Council was proud to join with environmental, health, communities of color and business partners concerned about climate pollution to help advance the Climate Stability and Justice Act (HB 3470). The Act would enforce Oregon’s existing limits on climate pollution with a firm timeline for putting a comprehensive action plan in place to guarantee Oregon achieves its climate goals. This creates certainty for both businesses and the environment. Everyone knows what targets we’re aiming for and has a voice in developing the action plan.
The proposed Climate Stability & Justice Act is very well-crafted. It authorizes Oregon to join regional climate programs and has the potential to generate revenue that could be reinvested into creating good-paying, clean economy jobs. Other highlights of its design features include:
- Equity: Taking into consideration the disproportionate burden of climate pollution on at-risk populations and using the state’s Environmental Justice Task Force to provide input.
- Cost-effectiveness: Creating a framework to support all cost-effective ways to reduce pollution.
- Efficacy: Drawing upon best practices from our region and the world.
- Flexibility: Allowing Oregon to use the best science and technology while reacting to changing circumstances.
This is not a new idea. Many countries have limits and prices on carbon. Close to home, California has had a comprehensive climate law since 2006 and a cap-and-trade program in place since the beginning of 2013. During the first two years of cap-and-trade, the state’s economy thrived with jobs in California growing by 3.3 percent from January 2013 to June 2014, outpacing the rest of the nation. Carbon revenue generated from the program directs a minimum of 25% of its proceeds to benefit disadvantaged communities disproportionately affected by climate change and pollution. Other revenue helps support transit and renewable energy and energy efficiency jobs.
California’s program consists of more than just cap-and-trade, however. The state’s Global Warming Solutions Act is a comprehensive program to reduce climate pollution that includes a low-carbon fuels standard and a commitment to meet 33% of the state’s energy needs through renewables. This program represents just one way to address climate pollution; there are other successful models worth examining.
British Columbia adopted North America’s first carbon tax, which put a price on the use of carbon-based fuels. The tax is a central component of British Columbia’s climate change strategy and works in conjunction with other programs, such as clean fuels and energy efficiency programs. Together, these programs will reduce greenhouse gases by 33% below 2007 levels by 2020. Since the carbon tax went into effect , British Columbia’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen over 10%, its GDP has grown, and the carbon tax has enabled its citizens to enjoy the lowest income taxes in all of Canada. These two programs by our neighbors to the North and South demonstrate that successful policies to reduce climate pollution are good for the climate, the economy and people.
The Climate Justice and Stability Act, HB 3470, showed great promise this legislative season. It went further than any such previous measure. It passed through the House Committee on Energy and Environment and passed the House Rules Committee, making it all the way to Ways and Means – the last step before going to a floor vote. Hundreds of people turned out in Salem asking for climate action. It had the support from:
55 businesses from throughout Oregon
- The Coalition of Communities of Color, representing 20 culturally specific community-based organizations with representation from six communities of color: African, African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latino, Native American and Slavic
- Numerous local elected officials, including 2 mayors
- People of faith
- Young people, including elementary, high school and college students who traveled to provide public testimony and walked the halls in Salem to talk with legislators
- Hundreds of residents who took time to individually submit comments directly to relevant committees
- Thousands of Oregonians who directly contacted their legislative offices
- Front line communities, including a fire fighter whose job has gotten more dangerous because of extreme heat and ongoing drought
At the bill’s first hearing for consideration, the hearing room and not one, but two, overflow rooms were packed with Oregonians sending a strong, unified message: we want climate action now.
The Oregon Environmental Council stands with Oregonians from every corner of the state calling for comprehensive climate action. Limiting and pricing carbon will remain a top tier priority because it is necessary to protect Oregon from climate change. Oregon can and should be a leader. Our families, our economy, our natural resources, and our communities deserve no less.