In Short

After two-year review, Oregon’s climate change strategy must be more aggressive, committee says

By: - March 10, 2022 1:22 pm

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)

More than 50 organizations on a committee focused on Oregon’s climate change policies released a report Thursday calling on state leaders to take more aggressive action. 

The Oregon Climate Action Plan Steering Committee is made up of environmental, labor, public health and youth and community groups such as Renew Oregon, the Oregon Public Health Association and the Eugene-Springfield branch of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The report looked at climate change legislation passed since March of 2020, when Gov. Kate Brown signed an executive order called the Oregon Climate Action Plan, which set benchmarks for reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. To stave off the worst impacts of global climate change in Oregon, it said the state needs to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 45% below 1990 levels by 2035, and 80% by 2050. 

Brown ordered state agencies, including the Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Department of Energy, to come up with plans that could dramatically cut emissions from transportation, improve the capability of the state’s natural and working lands to absorb carbon, build more energy efficient homes and businesses and increase wind and solar energy facilities.

The steering committee outlined several new laws, passed mostly in 2021, that have helped the state become one of the most proactive in the nation when it comes to addressing climate change. 

In the transportation sector, the state adopted two new rules that require truck manufacturers to boost their production of electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks sold in Oregon, and require new medium- and heavy-duty diesel vehicles sold in Oregon to emit less smog. 

The legislature also passed the Clean Energy For All law, requiring the state’s two largest electric utilities, Portland General Electric and Pacific Power, to move to 100% non-fossil fuel sources by 2040 and banned the expansion of new fossil-fuel burning power plants. 

But, citing a recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they note that climate change is affecting the world faster than expected.

“Even with current policies, Oregon is not meeting the level of climate progress needed or envisioned,” noting that 75% of the state is in a severe drought. To meet the goals in Brown’s plan, the state needs to pass stricter building code laws to ban the use of fossil fuels like heating oil and gas stovetops in new homes and require that a growing percentage of passenger vehicle sales in the state be electric by 2030, the report said. 

The coalition will continue to lobby Oregon leaders for higher energy efficiency standards, and expanded public transit and the electrification of transit, the report said It will also continue to push the state  Legislature to adopt stricter regulations on the fossil fuel industry. 

“This is our moment to build a new economy with justice and prosperity for every community and a livable planet for future generations,” the coalition wrote.

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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.