Oregon has a nationwide reputation as both a progressive and environmentally sustainable state. The tag of west coast liberalism certainly gels with the Beaver State, which also implies the existence of genuine environmentalism.
Over the decades, Oregon has made lofty greenhouse gas emission promises, stating that it will reduce emission levels on a significant scale. Additionally, Oregon joined 23 other states and Puerto Rico in forming the U.S. Climate Alliance following the country's departure from the Paris Climate Accord, signaling opposition to the lack of environmental concerns that defines the Trump administration.
Oregon agreed to lower 1990 emissions levels by 10 percent by 2020, and 75 percent of 1990 emissions levels by 2050. Current projections show Oregon will just miss the mark in 2020 and will come nowhere close to meeting goals in 2050.
Greenhouse gas reduction plans, policies and agreements have been tossed around since the late nineties, but the results have been underwhelming. Substantial change is necessary if Oregon has any hope of achieving their environmental goals.
During this past summer, a cap-and-trade bill (House Bill 2020) designed to financially charge polluting organizations for greenhouse emissions made its way to the Oregon state house. The goal of the bill was to reduce 1990 emissions levels by 80 percent before 2050.
Cap-and-trade laws are now commonly used in the fight against climate change. They set limits on emissions levels while simultaneously creating a monetary incentive for companies to lower emissions.
While this seems like an effective way to quell further environmental degradation, Oregon Republicans quite literally left the courthouse and the state when the bill hit the floor.
This bill was Oregon’s most recent attempt at altering their flawed emissions path. Oregon’s emissions are not likely to drop significantly for at least 10 years, which falls short of the non-binding commitments made by the supposedly green state.
I feel increasingly impatient and upset with Oregon’s inefficient governmental strategies to combat climate change. Of course, politics are almost always a slow grind, but climate change is a rapidly growing issue that could have been eased decades ago.
It is way too easy for states to throw out empty emission-reduction targets knowing that they are non-binding. Oregon Republicans claim they also strive to protect the environment, this is yet to be seen on a meaningful level. The democratic side is not doing much of significance either, following the failure of HB2020.
Oregon’s lack of environmental action is highlighted by the ongoing youth climate lawsuit co-founded by the University of Oregon’s own Kelsey Juliana. Her case was heard by the Oregon Supreme Court in Portland on Nov. 13, but the lawsuit has been ongoing since 2011.
The words of politicians tend to feel empty or rooted in ulterior motives. It is challenging to judge whether or not a political official is serious about implementing environmental change or if they are just using buzzwords to catch the eyes of the public and potential voters.
Oregon’s government is failing to produce genuine environmental change. Until something is truly done to meet emissions standards, we are on a path to further environmental degradation and we will worsen the climate crisis.