Healthy Climate Bill Would Protect Health, Businesses and Jobs

By Neil Smith and Tonia Moro

The great majority of Oregonians want to see smart, practical action to slow climate change.

We know the effects of climate disruption ― heat waves, drought, wildfires, unrecognizably extreme weather ― will be too destructive to delay action. Further, we have the opportunity to animate our economy by transitioning to energy-efficient practices. We can take advantage of this transition if we insist that our state government provide a legislative framework to support businesses in this emerging economy.

This year, Gov. Kate Brown and the Legislature have a chance to slow climate change while stimulating Oregon’s economy. The proposed Healthy Climate Bill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. In the process, it would create thousands of new jobs by encouraging investment in clean energy and efficiency.

Our state is already required to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 75 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The Healthy Climate Bill would create a pragmatic way of achieving those goals.

A cap would be set on about 85 percent of Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions ―those caused by about 50 of our largest businesses, including fuel refiners, power plants, utilities and large industrial facilities (but not including agricultural operations).

An auction would be held to sell climate pollution allowances. Those emitting more than their share of the cap would have a compelling incentive to reduce pollution. Those emitting less could trade their allowances. Those facing direct out-of-state competition could apply to receive their allowances for free to prevent them from being unfairly disadvantaged. The cap would be reduced gradually over time.

The auction proceeds will be used to provide important benefits to communities like ours:

  • Millions of dollars would be allocated specifically to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and transportation investments, creating family-wage jobs where they’re needed most;
  • A portion would be allocated to reduce utility bill impacts on households and small businesses; and
  • Another part would be used to protect businesses that otherwise might be at a disadvantage relative to out-of-state competitors.

Putting a price on pollution will attract billions in new investment, creating jobs in solar and wind facilities, creating more efficient buildings and businesses, and creating a climate-friendly transportation infrastructure.

California has the strongest cap-and-trade program in the country, and has attracted over half of the clean-technology venture capital investments in the country as a result. In fact, one of us is a local employer whose business manufactures whole-house fans, now in demand in California because of that state’s energy efficiency requirements and incentives.

California isn’t the only state benefiting from a cap-and-trade policy. Thirty-nine countries and 23 states, cities and provinces have begun pricing greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change. In nine Northeastern states, over 16,000 jobs have been created in the first years of their programs. By the end of this year, nearly a quarter of these greenhouse gas emissions throughout the world will be regulated by such policies, with more being enacted every year.

Why would anyone object to this common-sense approach? We believe that only the short-term interests of a small number of businesses and individuals are served by blocking this bill.

For Oregonians to win, Governor Brown and our legislators need to hear from us. Please join us in telling them we cannot afford further delay in adopting proven policies on climate change. Learn more about the proposed legislation at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the Gold Hill library or 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan 14, at the Medford library. Φ

Neil Smith is a mechanical engineer and runs AirScape, a Medford company that manufactures whole-house fans. Tonia Moro is a Medford attorney working on energy policy.

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