New state agency could meet urgent need for climate action
Gov. Kate Brown announced this week a major step toward reducing climate impacts with a proposal to create the Oregon Climate Authority after a year of harmful wildfires, algae blooms and a steady flow of alarming reports by scientists and federal agencies.
Without a doubt, climate change is one of Oregon’s most urgent issues of 2018. The agency would help the state better prepare for the ever-changing impacts across our land and water, while helping to promote a clean-energy economy to benefit all of our communities.
The Oregon Climate Authority would significantly elevate climate change in state government and make the state the first in the country to create an agency solely dedicated to solving one of this generation’s greatest challenges. It would be charged with overseeing and coordinating programs, such as the proposed cap-and-invest that creates Clean Energy Jobs, and it would measure progress towards meeting our climate targets.
Why the need? Some of the most alarming impacts include the weeks of harmful exposure to wildfire smoke endured by Oregonians throughout the state. And in addition of dealing with the smoke exposure, Oregonians have to foot a $514 million price tag to fight the blazes this season, up from $447 million in 2017. Salem’s drinking water turned undrinkable this year because of toxic algae blooms spurred by warm weather, and Prairie City ran out of water altogether because of drought.
Just last week, the National Climate Assessment—published by 13 federal agencies—revealed that Oregon’s natural resource industry alone has 256,423 jobs at risk from climate disruption. And that’s just one of many impacts found in the report’s Pacific Northwest Chapter. Weeks before the assessment, the world’s top climate experts also sounded the alarm saying we have a mere decade to dramatically cut emissions. The United Nations published this week yet another report showing countries are woefully behind their commitments made in Paris three years ago.
For more than a decade, our journey to reach our state’s ambitious climate goals has been hindered by a lack of necessary tools needed to get there. We have seen little accountability, and we wholeheartedly agree with Gov. Brown that it’s time to take emission reductions seriously.
In conjunction with the Clean Energy Jobs bill, a new Oregon Climate Authority has the potential to create the framework for reaching those goals and attracting even more talent and expertise to tackle this challenge. We need the nation’s best professionals fighting the negative impacts brought by climate change to work alongside our hard-working experts that already serve in our state government.
We applaud the hard work accomplished by the Oregon Department of Energy over its 43-year history. The agency has worked to keep so many homes and businesses warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and we’re grateful for its historic impact.
Click here to access the Governor’s Office report, which outlines the strategy for climate change and her plans to protect the land that we love from pollution and other negative impacts. Below is an eight-step summary to her plan: