Climate 411

Oregon Governor Kate Brown and House Speaker Tina Kotek show real leadership amid scorched Earth tactics in Salem

Co-authored by Pam Kiely and Erica Morehouse

Two disturbing national trends – scorched-earth politics and a failure to act boldly on the climate crisis – came together in Oregon last week. For the fifth time in less than a year, legislators opposed to the majority party’s agenda fled instead of fulfilling their core responsibility as elected officials: to represent their constituents by casting votes in the legislative process.

From North Carolina to Wisconsin to Washington DC, we’ve seen increasingly reckless behavior to block the will of the voters on a range of issues. In Oregon, with the anti-climate lawmakers gone, House Speaker Tina Kotek ended the legislative session, acknowledging that there was no time left to adequately consider more than one hundred pieces of legislation that were hanging in the balance. She rejected a radical proposal to allow a small minority of legislators to dictate what would be considered by the chamber.

Into that policy void, Oregon Governor Kate Brown committed to using the tools available to her to deliver the outcome demanded by the people of Oregon: meaningful action on climate that cuts pollution consistent with scientific recommendations. Brown appears poised to use this moment to drive investment and innovation in clean technology, boost the state’s economic competitiveness and improve public health outcomes

What happened?

Almost two weeks ago, 11 Senators and 21 Representatives walked out on their jobs, not only preventing climate action supported by a significant majority of Oregonians but also halting the basic functioning of government, including the passage of a budget to allow the state to operate. The walkout meant both houses of the Legislature were denied “quorum,” a Constitutional requirement that two-thirds of all members be present to hold a vote.

These members left a full two weeks before the Constitutional end of session, refusing to return to their taxpayer-funded jobs, halting the functioning of the legislature on myriad critical issues including measures to prepare the state for earthquakes and the coronavirus, and then at the 11th hour “offered” to come back for 12 hours to vote for bills of their choosing, effectively proposing a true tyranny of the minority. President of the Senate Courtney and Speaker Kotek took the only path available to them by closing the session.

Oregonians overwhelmingly support strong action to protect the health and economic future of their state from climate change. Even more interesting, the legislation has garnered broad support, from an impressively diverse array of stakeholders from utilities to labor, farmers and farmworkers alike.

Legislative leaders had secured all of the votes needed for passage in the House and the Senate. This is not the first time that an obstructionist minority has refused to do their jobs in order to block legislative action on the climate. Over the three years that they have been delaying, denying, and obstructing, Oregon could have made real progress slashing climate pollution and investing in clean energy solutions across the state, helping to lead the nation in solving the climate crisis and growing good jobs from Pendleton to Klamath Falls .

What’s next?

Governor Brown has two main options for the immediate action on climate Oregon needs.  Pursuing both, tirelessly, will be critical not just in order to secure critical cuts in carbon pollution, but also to restoring a functioning democratic order. First, she can call a special session of the Legislature to conclude all of the state’s unfinished business—and continue to work with House and Senate leaders to ensure that whenever the legislature does meet again, the agenda is not dictated by a small minority threatening to hijack the process. Since walkout members just ignored a subpoena to return to the House and answer questions, it is not clear this will be immediately effective—but it will be absolutely essential in the long run to not legitimize these obstructionist tactics.

Second, Governor Brown can also tap into the robust existing authority of the Department of Environmental Quality, tasking them to develop regulations that will deliver reductions in line with what the science tells us is necessary, and engage other state agencies to develop complementary policies that will enable Oregon to get on a path to achieving a 100% clean economy by mid-century.

Oregon, like almost every other state, has strong clean air laws already on the books that direct state environmental regulators to protect residents from harmful air pollution, which includes greenhouse gases. These existing authorities are powerful, and the DEQ has a well-stocked toolbox to develop a regulatory proposal that secures the reductions that would have been required by HB2020 (2019) and SB 1530 (2020) using time-tested regulatory tools.

Governor Brown last week explained her thinking on these two options with a clear commitment to take action, saying:

“I have always been clear that a legislative solution was my preferred path to tackle the impacts of climate change for the resources it would bring to our rural communities and the flexibility it would provide for our businesses. However, I will not back down. In the coming days, I will be taking executive action to lower our greenhouse gas emissions.

I am open to calling a special session if we can ensure it will benefit Oregonians. However, until legislative leaders bring me a plan for a functioning session I’m not going to waste taxpayer dollars on calling them back to the State Capitol.”

What will success look like in Oregon?

Governor Brown is a consistent and stalwart supporter of climate action in Oregon: she understands that what is needed in Oregon and across the country is to turn climate commitments into concrete action, locking in the policies that will guarantee the reductions we need. She and her administration can draw from years of extensive public engagement that carefully balanced the interests, and won the support of, business owners, labor groups, farmers, outdoorsmen and women, consumer advocates, Tribes, and community leaders.

In evaluating the executive action that Governor Brown has promised, EDF will be looking for three main indicators of a strong commitment to action:

  • Maintains or ideally strengthens the climate pollution reduction targets the legislature included in its proposals: at least a 45% reduction below 1990 levels by 2035 and at least an 80% reduction by 2050.
  • Directs agencies to deliver a regulatory package that is capable of ensuring these targets will be met.
  • Recognizes the urgency of action and adheres to the timeline the legislature was pursuing so that Oregon has an enforceable climate policy framework in place that can deliver reductions by 2022.

Governor Brown can ensure that those walkout legislators who abandoned their jobs don’t set a dangerous precedent for a functioning democracy, and don’t thwart the kind of policy momentum that our communities and our planet desperately need. If their underhanded tactics are successful, it will be our kids– and their kids – who will pay the price.

It is heartening to see two women, the Governor and the Speaker, provide such responsible, strong, and forward-looking leadership. In a moment when the country is observing the roadblocks faced by women in politics, Oregon is providing a vivid counter-example. With women like Governor Brown and Speaker Kotek in office, we know we have a fighting chance to make progress on the climate crisis.

Posted in News / Comments are closed

California-Quebec August auction clears after emissions below 2020 target for second year running

Wind farm in San Gorgonio Pass, California.

Wind farm in San Gorgonio Pass, California. Photo: Pxhere.com

This post was co-authored by Katelyn Roedner Sutter

Results of the August 2019 California-Quebec carbon allowance auction were released today, and demonstrate that a strong and steady market is the status quo. These results come just weeks after the Newsom administration’s announcement that in 2017 the state’s total emissions were below the 2020 target for the second year in a row.

Today’s results in brief:

  • All 66,289,515 current allowances sold, clearing at $17.16, $1.54 above the floor price of $15.62. This is $0.29 below the May 2019 clearing price of $17.45. As in the last auction, no previously unsold allowances were offered from California.
  • All of the 9,038,000 future vintage allowances offered also sold at $16.85, $1.23 above the $15.62 floor price. These allowances are not available for use until 2022, demonstrating strong confidence in future market performance.
  • The auction raised approximately $ 729 million USD for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which allows California to invest in programs to improve local air quality and reduce emissions from buildings, agriculture and transportation.
  • Quebec raised over approximately $ 248.75 million CAD (approximately $ 187 million USD), which funds local climate investments in the province.

These results demonstrate a couple of notable trends:  Read More »

Posted in California, Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Read 2 Responses

The Status Quo is not an Option for Oregon or the Planet

Authored by Erica Morehouse, Senior Attorney, U.S. Climate Policy and Analysis

Oregon is the current bellwether for climate action in the United States thanks to its effort to place an ambitious, firm limit on all major sources of climate pollution in the state.  HB 2020, Oregon’s “Cap and Invest” bill has passed three major legislative hurdles this year and has the final and most challenging – passage in the state Senate – left to clear before the end of session on June 30.  We are expecting a vote today.

The status quo is not an option

Oregon is already seeing the devastating effects of climate change; the question is only how much worse it is going to get before we transition to the clean economy we need. It’s time to be honest with ourselves, the status quo is not an option.  HB 2020 lays out a solution to address climate pollution while providing a smooth transition for Oregonians directly impacted by this bold initiative. These features include assistance for low-income Oregonians, investments in worker transition programs, compliance cost reductions for many manufacturers designed to protect jobs, and a novel investment set aside for tribes.

The two most critical components of Oregon’s policy

In the final weeks of Oregon’s legislative session, opponents tried and failed to make amendments to the bill that would have gutted the core of what makes Oregon’s effort so ambitious and critical—and a true model for other states to follow: the interim 2035 target and Day 1 coverage of the transportation sector.

  • The 2035 interim target ensures reductions over the next decade on the timescale that science demands. The IPCC report tells us we have just over a decade to significantly reduce climate pollution and avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Setting ambitious targets for the 2030s is essential for getting reductions on track now, and achieving the critical early emission reductions people and the planet need. Also, having an ambitious target in the 2030s is almost certainly a non-negotiable prerequisite for linking with the California-Quebec WCI market – a stated priority for the architects of Oregon’s policy. Moreover, this level of ambition is consistent with Colorado’s recently passed statutory requirement to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Coverage of the transportation sector means the largest source of Oregon’s pollution is included. Exempting the rising emissions of this sector means smaller industries would have to do even more to reduce emissions to meet Oregon’s goals, while giving the biggest polluters a free pass. Without the transportation sector in the program from day one, Cap and Invest will not have the power or reach to drive the transformational change that we literally cannot live without.

Climate action under attack

After failing to push their disastrous amendments, opponents are now set on undermining this bill altogether and are asking legislators to vote “no”.  Leading the charge against HB 2020 are Boeing and AAA.  AAA claims to be the travelers “most trusted advocate”, but it is unlikely that their members across Oregon who rely on them for towing services and roadside assistance understand that they are working actively in Salem to undermine an effort to get cleaner cars on the road and to diversify transportation options for Oregonians. Boeing’s opposition is also particularly hard to understand.  Final amendments to the bill put Boeing in the enviable position of being guaranteed valuable free allowances for their facility in Gresham that will significantly, if not completely, reduce costs the company might have seen from the program while creating a critical market-based incentive to improve efficiency and reduce emissions associated with their production practices while protecting incentives to increase output.  Yet, the company is lobbying against climate policy that is in line with corporate sustainability commitments they have already made.  Many companies have taken on ambitious voluntary, climate commitments and vocally supported climate action including in Oregon. Companies that are stuck in the past and insist on obfuscating, misleading, and outright obstructing to derail climate action should be held accountable.

A diverse coalition of stakeholders reflects a fine-tuned policy

As demoralizing as myopic opposition can be, Oregon has a winning coalition that can provide lessons on how to win on climate in the U.S. and around the world:

  • Legislative leaders and Governor Kate Brown have provided their full throated support for Cap and Invest for well over a year and have been diligently putting the pieces in place to pass a policy that can deliver the environmental outcomes the climate needs while ensuring the provisions are carefully tailored for Oregon communities.
  • Local environmental, environmental justice, and health leaders have been working hard for the better part of a decade to pass companion legislation and lay the groundwork for such an overarching policy like HB2020 that will provide the certainty around pollution outcomes and harness the power of the market to drive investment and innovation in clean technologies.
  • Over 100 forward-looking businesses, including major companies like Nike and Uber, have been supporting the policy through several legislative iterations.
  • Major electric and gas utilities—those that power and heat Oregon’s homes and businesses—are supporting the legislation, including Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, and Northwest Natural, citing key consumer-protection provisions.
  • Oregon’s Native American tribes have played a critical role in developing and advocating for the policy and have secured a novel set aside from carbon revenue that will directly benefit tribes.
  • Key labor unions such as the building trades also support Cap and Invest, after securing the inclusion of prevailing wage provisions.

Time for the Senate To Act

Oregon has all of the ingredients for success, but the political fight is still a bitter one. HB2020 will create tangible benefits for Oregonians and the state’s economy—while laying out a clear policy template for other states who are now committing to strong reduction targets but don’t yet have the regulations or policies in place to actually achieve the reductions in climate pollution that we know are necessary. It’s imperative that Oregon shows the way toward a real solution that can drive action now— and such a framework will not only chart a path for other states, but provide a real roadmap for future federal action.

Posted in Carbon Markets, Climate Change Legislation, Economics, News / Comments are closed

Latest EPA climate pollution data shows disturbing lack of progress

Greenhouse gas emission trends since 1990. Click to expand

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday reported that that the US made essentially no progress on climate pollution — an insignificant drop of 0.5% — even as scientists warn that without major reductions in emissions, global temperatures are on a dangerous track to increase well above 2 degrees Celsius.

Other data indicates that since 2017, the last year covered by this report, emissions have actually begun to rise. The Energy Information Agency and Rhodium Group estimate that in 2018 climate pollution from energy combustion rose 2.8 and 3.4%, respectively.

As climate pollution remains stubbornly high, the Trump administration has worked to undermine limits on carbon pollution, roll back rules on highly potent methane emissions and ducked international obligations to deal with climate change. This new report is another sign that without bold action, climate pollution will cause worsening impacts on our economy, health and future.

The dismal national climate pollution numbers contrast with pollution reductions underway in many states that have put in place aggressive policies to limit emissions and move towards clean energy even while the federal government sits on the sidelines. Read More »

Posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy, Science / Comments are closed

Oregon poised to cap carbon pollution

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffgunn/8237668817/in/photolist-cXAqeb-eKtpYD-22HdzME-2aKADbW-j3fACu-rdqUSL-4psFMA-h2pgpG-JLrzPx-2cQryfW-pHj7q7-CnaWpN-dxWcWH-r7SPf-ezHCnq-hyMSjJ-sw97qX-ZxDuR-ssSyRn-sonWuA-q4Mraz-dByjPK-ixGyPj-eZuV1t-rBC5Ao-LrCUZQ-ipr4Ze-jfT1pG-rgTCFb-ejLRAy-nmvBz-fcNTHb-oZGWqn-rBBBZr-ekSVRZ-r7SK44-C6i95A-moDYBA-A7nips-tRD7vz-eczcuJ-pVPQ1S-txYbBh-oN7iF4-sgBqMh-ydRfMa-ejLUy7-kuNYkr-rYC7pz-pXL8dN

Portland, Oregon. Flickr/Jeff Gunn

Federal climate action is in an indefinite holding pattern with a serious risk of major backtracking; but the good news is that non-federal climate action has continued, with states, cities and businesses gearing up to take big strides toward the commitments they have made on climate.

Oregon is one key state with a big opportunity for bold action in 2019. The state Legislature reconvened on January 22 and will consider a “cap and invest” bill that promises to place a firm limit on the state’s climate pollution while ensuring continued investments in resilient communities, green jobs and clean energy. Legislators are expected to release bill language by January 31.

Read More »

Posted in Carbon Markets, Cities and states / Read 2 Responses

Climate scare tactics won’t work in California

Some polluters and their allies are rolling out an old and tired playbook in Sacramento. California is ahead of schedule in curbing climate pollution and the economy is booming. Yet alarmism persists. These latest scare tactics are focused on one particular provision of the state’s cap-and-trade program: the level of the “price ceiling”. The price ceiling is an emergency provision that is intended to ensure that prices polluters have to pay per ton of pollution don’t reach above unexpectedly high levels.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is currently working to update the cap-and-trade program based on direction the Legislature gave in 2017 to extend it out to 2030. CARB will consider proposed amendments to the program today with passage of the amendments expected after a second consideration in January.

The future of climate action in California is optimism and transformation, not fear and anger

Those who look only at doomsday scenarios are mixing farfetched fearmongering with a dose of outrage by boiling this complex policy decision down to an oversimplified estimate of how much Californians might have to pay in the worst possible scenario in 2030. But fear and anger aren’t what California is about (whatever your political leanings). California is transforming its economy to a cleaner and more prosperous version of itself. After the great recession the economy recovered and grew, but carbon pollution did not.

Read More »

Posted in California, Carbon Markets / Comments are closed