In Short

State on track to meet 2035 greenhouse gas reduction targets, forecast finds

By: - August 6, 2022 6:00 am

Wind farms, like this one near the Washington-Oregon border, help lessen reliance on fossil fuels, a prime cause of climate change. (Bob White/Flickr)

At least 14 of Oregon’s climate change policies are on track to meet the state’s goals, according to a new analysis by environmental consultants. The analysis indicates the state is likely to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions to 45% below 1990 levels by 2035, a goal established by Gov. Kate Brown’s 2020 executive order on climate change. 

A British Columbia, Canada-based company, the Sustainability Solutions Group, prepared the modeling, which is a forecast based on certain assumptions. The group helps local governments achieve their climate goals. A grant from the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of states committed to upholding the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate change, paid for the study.  

The analysis was discussed last month by Oregon’s Global Warming Commission, which was established by the Legislature in 2007 to tackle the growing threat of climate change in the state. The group, with 11 members appointed by the governor, also discussed the role the analysis will play in its Roadmap to 2035, a slate of recommendations it will make to state lawmakers this fall to reduce emissions.

The modeling evaluated the effectiveness of Oregon policies such as the Climate Protection Program, which puts a declining cap on emissions from fossil fuel producers over the next 13 years. It also evaluated the impact of House Bill 2021, passed last year, which requires the two largest investor-owned utilities operating in the state to provide emissions-free electricity by 2040. PGE and Pacific Power deliver electricity to more than 70% of Oregonians.

The analysis also looked at the state’s new energy-efficiency standards for appliances, rebates from the Oregon Department of Energy for buying heat pumps and solar panels and the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, which requires truck makers to guarantee that a growing percentage of new medium and heavy-duty vehicle sales in Oregon have zero emissions.

Provided the policies are fully implemented on time and state regulators have adequate staffing and funding, Oregon should be able to hit the emission targets set by Brown, the analysis found. 

Currently, three of the state’s private natural gas utilities are challenging the authority of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to regulate greenhouse gasses under the Climate Protection Program. 

Despite the commission’s optimism about Oregon’s progress, a presentation from the committee’s chair, Cathy Macdonald, noted that there is still a great deal of work needed to meet the state’s 2050 goal.

By that year, greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon should be 80% below 1990 levels, according to Brown’s order.

In a statement the commission acknowledged the state’s current goals fall short of those established by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In its latest report published in April, the consortium of scientists from around the world said global emissions must reach net-zero by 2050 to avoid irreversible, catastrophic impacts of climate change. The commission’s Roadmap to 2035 will propose actions the state can take to meet the panel’s recommendations.

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Alex Baumhardt
Alex Baumhardt

Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post. She previously worked in Iceland and Qatar and was a Fulbright scholar in Spain where she earned a master's degree in digital media. She's been a kayaking guide in Alaska, farmed on four continents and worked the night shift at several bakeries to support her reporting along the way.

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