Our work here is not done.
Midnight on June 30 marked the constitutional end to Oregon’s legislative session. The final bang of the gavel ended the chance for the current 2019 legislature to pass major climate legislation. That’s why we are calling on Governor Kate Brown to do everything within her power to deliver on the promise of climate action represented by the Clean Energy Jobs bill. The work is not done. This critical legislation – a decade in the making – ought not be derailed by a small minority of fossil-fueled, corporate-bought legislators who broke the rules to smother a climate bill supported by a broad majority of Oregonians.
We are losing valuable time to address the climate crisis – to dramatically accelerate our state’s transition to a clean energy economy. We know the climate math; any further delay will require us to pass bigger and bolder policies to close the gap between our current trajectory and a healthy, livable future.
The final fight over Clean Energy Jobs has been a dark and dramatic chapter for Oregon and for the state of climate progress. Like many of you, I’m infuriated, and still processing what just happened. In case you missed the headlines, a group of Republican senators literally ran and hid, out-of-state, to shut down the Senate and thwart Oregon’s chance to pass a keystone climate policy, the Clean Energy Jobs bill. These runaway senators mounted a direct challenge to our democratic systems and processes. Threats of violence, first from one of the runaway senators, and then from far-right militia groups, created a chilling effect at our Capitol and garnered international attention. Then, as the country and world watched, Senate President Peter Courtney traded away Oregon’s response to the climate crisis, in a shrinking plea for the rogue senators to return to do their jobs. All of this was hard to watch unfold in a state I love and am usually proud of.
One thing I can’t shake from this past week is the tough questions asked by the youth who went to Salem every day to demand climate action. They watched in dismay as Senate leaders offered up the Clean Energy Jobs bill as a bargaining chip, then traded it away without much of a fight. “It feels as if our right to a safe climate future is a political game, and no one cares that we will live with the consequences,” one teenager told me in tears. Others asked me, “After this, how can we keep hoping and trusting the adults will take the need to respond to the climate crisis seriously?” and “Why should we even bother to participate in this democratic process, if those that break the rules are the ones rewarded?”
I had no easy answers. Today, these are my questions, too.
Here’s what we do know: World-renowned scientists have made clear that we have 11 years to dramatically cut climate pollution. Right now, large corporations in Oregon are continuing to pollute for free, and we lack serious investments to fund the transition to clean energy and protect communities from climate impacts. Every year Oregon fails to take action, our goal of achieving a safe, resilient and pollution-free future does not change, but the curve representing how much we must do and how quickly we must do it gets ever steeper. We will be called to do more, not less, to take responsibility for Oregon’s climbing emissions and transition rapidly away from our dependence on fossil fuels.
As of today, here’s what we don’t know: Our Governor has been unwavering in her dedication to strong climate action. Will she call a special legislative session to pass the Clean Energy Jobs bill? Will Oregon’s leaders step up and restore our reputation? Will we be the state that ran away and hid from our climate responsibility, or will we reclaim our position of climate leadership?
We will demand answers to these questions. In the meantime, the entire Climate Solutions team wants to thank YOU for all you have done to bring the Clean Energy Jobs bill to the cusp of passage. As one youth said last week, “We have no choice to just give up. This is our future on the line. We deserve better.”
We cannot fail them. So we can, we must, and we will succeed.