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Oregon and Washington have a chance to come back after early climate legislation promises.

Published: January 19, 2021 by Editorial Team

Despite commitments from over a decade ago to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, results have been underwhelming at best. A recent article from Peter Fairley of InvestigateWest reports emissions rose in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia from 2013 to 2018. Initially, there was great progress in emission reductions from utilities in Oregon and Washington that were the result of the utilities being mandated to purchase wind, solar and renewable energy. But, by the time the economy had recovered after the 2008 economic crash, so had greenhouse gas emissions.

The article points out that in conflict with the idea that economic growth results in increased emissions, California has reduced their emissions by 5% with an increase in GDP of 26%. California’s decrease in emissions is a direct result of their Cap and Trade program. Around the same time, British Columbia implemented a carbon tax that has not resulted in similar carbon emission reductions. Results in California demonstrate that cap and trade is an effective program that can result in emission reductions without harming the economy. In fact, the program has raised $5.34 billion in revenue, of which at least 35% is mandated to be spent in disadvantaged communities. To date 60% has been spent in disadvantaged communities. Despite positive economic and environmental benefit in California, efforts to pass cap and trade legislation has been stalled in Oregon, and Washington by many different stakeholders.

This doesn’t mean the fight is over for these states. Governor Inslee of Washington has again introduced a carbon reduction bill. This bill aims to implement a cap and trade program by January 1, 2023. The start of the program would regulate transportation fuel supplies, facilities and power generators with emissions over 25,000 tonnes per year.  In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-04 has been battled in courts but is prevailing. The order, which was issued in March 2020, aims to reduce statewide emissions by 45% by 2035 and 80% by 2050. The program design for capping and reducing emissions under the Oregon order is expected to be finalized by mid-year. These measures could provide a path for these states to reach carbon reduction goals that can be plausible and reverse the direction these states have headed since proclaiming their emission reduction targets.


News + Resources

How Cascadia Has Faltered Addressing Climate Change
Peter Fairley, InvestigateWest, January 11, 2021

Executive Order Positions Oregon for Statewide Climate Action
Zach Pinard, ClimateXChange

Cap-and-trade Bill Emerges in Wash. Senate
Robert Mullin, RTO Insider, January 14, 2021

Can California’s Cap and Trade Actually Address Environmental Justice?
Julia Rosin, November 20, 2020