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The Dwindling Hourglass for Oregon Climate Policy | Scorcher

Published: September 25, 2017 by Editorial Team

Sean Penrith, The Climate Trust
Weekly Policy and Finance Update – September 25, 2017

Bottom line | “Be among the first – coming in last is just a losing proposition.”

The Dwindling Hourglass: We were given some homework last week. I participated in the Agriculture, Forest, Fisheries, Rural Communities and Tribes work group, which was one of four groups convened to review and make recommendations on specific components of a cap and invest (SB1070) program for Oregon. Representative Ken Helm, Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environment, charged all attendees to answer a number of questions. The first question was, “What aspects of a cap and invest policy as it is being discussed in Oregon are you most concerned about?”

The work group meeting was underway when one of the attending legislators asked whether the importance of the matter merited such a compressed timeline for working on these components in order to introduce SB1070 for the short session in 2018. His inference was that we should wait.

The short answer to that legislator is a resounding, Yes! Here at The Climate Trust, the aspect we are most concerned about relative to the cap and trade program being contemplated for our state is time. A decade ago HB 3543 set the non-binding goals of reducing emissions to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 75% by 2050. The conclusion by the Oregon Global Warming Commission is that we are due to miss our 2020 target by 11 million MTCO2e and by 22 million MTCO2e by 2035. Ever since I arrived in Portland in 2005, there have been discussions on how to best price carbon. Cap and trade, carbon tax, cap and fee and a greenhouse gas emission limit rule have all been debated. This culminated in the push for the Climate Stability & Justice Act (HB 3470) in 2015 that did not make it across the line.

I recently re-read a February 2016 article in Sightline. It was déjà vu. The author hopefully suggests that “In the short 2016 legislative session, Oregon lawmakers have a chance to pass the Healthy Climate Act SB1574, a bill that would enforce the climate pollution reduction goals Oregon legislators passed nearly a decade ago.”

And here we are; September 2017 and we are contemplating yet another short session in the Oregon legislature in 2018. This is not about what impact Oregon’s emission reduction impacts would have overall on global emissions as temperatures rise. This is about the billions of dollars of financial impact to our state resulting from lost recreation revenues, impaired natural resources, and a disappearing fishing industry.

Quebec authorized their cap and trade program in 2012-2013 and joined the Western Climate Initiative with Ontario and California in 2014. Clean Energy Canada documented perspectives of policy architects and stakeholders involved in the implementation of their cap and trade program. They found that the most significant rationale for supporting the program was that it prepared “Quebec to enter into a new, green economy as the system’s primary economic benefit.” The report’s parting thought is valuable to us in Oregon; “Be among the first – coming in last is just a losing proposition.”

I salute Rep. Ken Helm and Sen. Michael Dembrow for asking us to consider action before the sand runs out for Oregon.

Research and Resources

Oregon Global Warming Commission Biennial Report to the Legislature
Keep Oregon Cool, February 2017

Inside North America’s Largest Carbon Market
Clean Energy Canada, 2014

Macroeconomic Impacts and Design Considerations for Carbon Markets
Energy + Environmental Economics, January 17, 2017

Top News Headlines

Climate change poses multi-faceted threat to Oregon, report says
Kale Williams, January 25, 2017, The Oregonian

Report: How climate change will affect Oregon
Cassandra Profita, November 30, 2010, OPB

Nothing But Clear Skies Blog

The Question of Linkage
Sean Penrith, September 5, 2017

Demand Remains for Out of State Offset Projects
Peter Weisberg, August 21, 2017

Image credit: Flickr/Bemep