Today is a significant milestone for Oregon’s climate progress, but it requires a little time traveling to the cusp of the pre-COVID times to fully appreciate how far we’ve come.
Back in March of 2020, Oregon was drastically off track from achieving our climate goals. Despite some bright spots like the landmark Coal-to-Clean law in 2016 that required phasing out coal from our electricity mix by 2030, fossil gas power plants were rapidly taking their place. Worse still, annual pollution levels from the transportation and buildings sectors were climbing, and a bloc of Republican lawmakers chose to flee the state and derail our legislative process twice rather than vote on the Clean Energy Jobs climate bill. Our state’s proud history of climate leadership was in jeopardy at a time that the federal government was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement and climate impacts were starting to hit Oregon hard. But this trajectory our state was on changed dramatically with the stroke of a pen on March 10, 2020.
On this day two years ago, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed the Oregon Climate Action Plan (OCAP, i.e., Executive Order 20-04). Governor Brown secured necessary and bold action for our state that moves us toward making an equitable clean energy transition. OCAP directed Oregon’s state government agencies to plan for and incorporate addressing climate change into their work, established new and legally-binding targets for reducing climate pollution (including creating the Climate Protection Program), doubled our Clean Fuels Program, accelerated electric trucks and vehicles on our roads, and bolstered existing state programs dedicated to achieving climate, environmental justice, and resiliency goals. It’s the largest executive action on climate in Oregon history, and arguably the biggest single climate action ever undertaken by the state given its broad sweep.
Much of that progress has come to fruition in the last year, which means that if we continue to scale up clean energy, efficiency and electrification rapidly, Oregon is now on track to achieve a 55% greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2050 (while growing our economy and reducing air pollution).
There is much more to do to both urgently cut pollution at scale and ensure the clean energy transition is an equitable one, but the programs achieved due to OCAP coupled with the legislature passing 100% Clean Electricity for All in 2021 has helped us make a sharp U-turn on our climate trajectory and Oregon’s clean energy future in a short amount of time.
The OCAP Coalition—of which Climate Solutions is a member—has just released a report celebrating the two-year anniversary of this achievement. This report highlights the progress the state has made—thanks to the efforts of engaged advocates like you!—thus far for climate and communities in six key issue areas (Cap & Reduce; Clean Buildings; Natural & Working Lands; Transportation; Clean Energy; and Public Health), while also detailing opportunities for policymakers and other stakeholders to continue building on this important promise.
As we mentioned in our climate wrap-up of the 2022 Oregon Legislative Session, our work is far from complete. Even with the major achievements of OCAP, 100% Clean Energy for All, and other recent climate policy wins, Oregon’s annual climate pollution levels continue to rise, particularly from burning fossil fuels to power buildings and the transportation sector. We will need your support and participation to sustain all these wins and continue to make forward progress in the face of the escalating climate crisis. Stay tuned for more ways to get involved!
P. S. Want to join in celebrating this milestone anniversary? You can share out on social media and to your friends this bright spot of progress for our state (here are our posts on Twitter and Facebook).