SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown on Wednesday marked a year since she signed an executive order that directed state agencies to tackle the issue of climate change after the legislature adjourned early rather than address it.
Oregon's 2020 legislative session saw the return of a cap-and-trade bill meant to address greenhouse gases by penalizing the biggest polluters. In a repeat of the 2019 session, Republican lawmakers walked out to deny a quorum — but unlike 2019, Democrats did not agree to give in to the minority party's demands, allowing the session to end in acrimony.
With no climate legislation to sign, Governor Brown signed Executive Order 20-04 for state agencies to take what steps they could in the interim.
The order updated Oregon's carbon emissions goals "to reflect current science" through a 30-year plan — setting a standard of 45 percent reduction from 1990 greenhouse gas levels by 2035, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. The order also outlined ways that agencies could pursue those goals under existing state law.
According to Brown's office, the state has been working toward those goals over the past year, with some developments to report:
- The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is working on rules for a Climate Protection Program, using its authority to cap and reduce emissions from large polluters in Oregon.
- The state released the Climate Adaptation Framework, Climate Equity Blueprint, and the Climate and Health in Oregon Report, intended to inform future actions to protect Oregon’s most vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change.
- The Oregon Department of Transportation has created a new Climate Policy Office, providing data on the climate impacts of ODOT’s major investment decisions, and resulting in a historic 60% increase in allocation of federal funding for biking, walking, and public transportation for 2021-2024.
- A statewide public electric charging plan has been launched to align electrification efforts and incentivize charging infrastructure in rural and historically-underserved communities.
- The Every Mile Counts statewide transportation plan is making progress to reduce emissions from the transportation sector equitably through improved land use and transportation planning.
- Wildfire prevention and mitigation work by the Public Utility Commission is ongoing.
- Agency work is underway to expand the state’s successful Clean Fuels Program, strengthen rules on methane emissions from landfills, and increase energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances in Oregon to highest national standards.
Governor Brown issued the following statement on Wednesday to mark the occasion:
“One year ago, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with young Oregonians from across the state to announce I was taking decisive action to address one of the greatest challenges facing this generation and the next: climate change. Since then, so much has happened. In addition to the pandemic, Oregon has been struck by floods, wildfires more intense than any in recent memory, and severe winter weather. It has never been more clear how urgent the need is to take climate action.
“I would like to thank all the state agency leaders and staff, business leaders, environmental advocates, and others who, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, have remained focused and worked hard to put Oregon on track to hit our climate goals, as we endeavor to protect Oregon’s clean air and water, and to grow our economy for a clean energy future.
“The impacts of climate change disproportionately fall on historically-disadvantaged and vulnerable communities: Black, Indigenous, Tribal, Latino, Latina, and Latinx, Pacific Islander, and communities of color, as well as low-income and rural Oregonians. I am committed to environmental justice and to addressing the disproportionate impact of climate change on these communities.”
Cap-and-trade has yet to re-emerge in 2021 as state lawmakers grapple with the fallout from a pandemic, devastating wildfires, the push for police reform and racial justice, and an ongoing housing crisis.