Global Warming Commission Draws "Roadmap" to Keep Oregon Cool

By Craig Beebe, 1000 Friends of Oregon Communications Intern
May 24, 2011

Responding to climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Oregon has been a national leader in the effort, with ambitious goals to cut carbon emissions, reduce waste, and adapt to a warmer, drier, and more unpredictable climate. In 2007, the Legislature passed HB 3543, which set a statewide target of reducing greenhouse gas levels to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 75 percent by 2050. As of 2011, we are in line with the goal to halt emission growth, but have a long way to go to reduce our emissions to the targets.

However, just last week, the Land Conservation and Development Commission adopted greenhouse gas reduction targets for the state's six largest urban areas to use as they conduct land use and transportation planning. Click here to read our press release about this opportunity.

Fortunately, HB 3543 also created the Global Warming Commission, made up of eleven representatives from business, energy, nonprofit, and government organizations statewide. The Commission’s duty is to provide the guidance and vision necessary to reduce emissions and prepare for what a changed climate means for Oregon communities, agriculture, and natural areas.

In October, the Commission approved an interim “Roadmap to 2020” that charts the necessary actions in the energy, transportation/land use, industry, agriculture, and materials management sectors that will get Oregon on its way to achieve its goals. This month, the Roadmap begins a “roadtrip” around the state for four public workshops in Medford, Eugene, Bend, and Portland.

At the first open house in Medford on May 12, local elected officials, government staff, nonprofit representatives and members of the public heard a presentation from Commission Chair Angus Duncan, of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, on the Commission’s vision of how responding to climate change will also improve Oregon’s economy and communities. A lively discussion ensued, in which participants shared ideas and strategies for reaching the Commission’s goals. 1000 Friends of Oregon’s Southern Oregon Advocate, Greg Holmes, was present at the event and praised it for providing an opportunity for every participant to make their voice heard. Duncan engaged the audience and enthusiastically promised to bring their ideas to the Commission.

Directions to our Destination: Reading the Roadmap

Several themes are prominent throughout the interim Roadmap. First, it’s not enough for the Oregon state government to act alone. To be successful, action at many levels of government, from the local to the national, along with commitments by businesses and nonprofits throughout the state, is absolutely vital. (Some Oregon communities, including Portland, Eugene, and McMinnville, are leading the way. Click here to learn more.)

More importantly, these actions will not result in an austere, constrained lifestyle for Oregonians. In fact, many of the Roadmap’s recommendations point the way toward a healthier, more prosperous, and more livable state. It’s no coincidence: protecting our climate also means protecting our farmland and natural places, and also improving our communities and economy. Jobs will be created and protected, families will save money, and communities will be better connected, while our natural resources and agricultural economy will be properly valued and respected.

The Roadmap identifies many actions to meet our goals for 2020 and beyond, split into several sections. In the energy section, the Roadmap sets a 2050 target where the “primary energy resource…is energy efficiency.” This recommendation is directly linked to urban design and architecture: by building better buildings and neighborhoods, we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for electricity, heating, and transportation. Additionally, the Commission urges that a State Energy and Climate Policy be developed, to foster a renewable energy system based on diverse, decentralized resources, a smart grid, and additional transmission.1000 Friends will continue to advocate for smart siting of renewable energy resources. Click here to visit our Powering Oregon’s Future page to learn more about this element of our work.

In Land Use and Transportation, the Roadmap envisions a future where every Oregonian can live in a “complete community” with plenty of places to walk and a variety of transportation and housing choices. Highlighting a goal that our cities will maintain roughly the same footprint in 2050 as they will have in 2012, the Roadmap recognizes that “land is a finite resource” performing many functions. Such benefits—from beauty to contributing to the economy through agriculture—must be accounted for. “Triple-bottom-line” analysis in transportation, which accounts for economic, environmental, and social impacts, is a high priority. Ultimately, the Roadmap envisions that people will have more choices about how and where to travel, live, and work, not fewer. Meanwhile, farmers and industry would be able to move freight efficiently throughout the state, with less dependence on carbon-based fuels.

Meanwhile, the Commission proposes that in 2050, “the multifaceted economic, ecological, and social benefits of farming and food systems to Oregon [should be] recognized, quantified, and rewarded.” Similarly, forestland, which is essential not only to rural economies but to habitat and carbon sequestration, must also be protected from conversion and properly valued by markets and the public.

In 2050, the Roadmap proposes, “waste” will be a rare thing; more and more materials will be reused and recycled for higher purposes, with a focus on upstream emissions and the true impacts of the choices we make as consumers. Producers and consumers should work together inside and outside Oregon to make better choices that reduce and even eliminate the negative effects of our consumption choices on the natural environment and the climate. Building standards will change so dramatically that “net zero is the norm by 2050.”

A Smooth Road, Without Drastic Curves

Far too often, pessimists imply that meeting the climate change challenge will require drastic, expensive changes to our society and communities. In fact, Global Warming Commission members emphasize that there are many “low-hanging fruit” in our building codes, energy efficiency standards, and land management practices that can make a difference almost right away.  It’s true that some actions will take more time and financial commitment to show their effects. But if we begin soon, in the long run the state’s actions to respond to climate change will pay off many times over, in financial as well as less tangible ways. Ultimately, Oregon will be a healthier, more economically secure, and more beautiful state—not in spite of climate change, but because of how we chose to work together to address it.

Share your voice with the Commission in at the Eugene Hilton on Thursday, May 26 from 6-9pm, in Bend on June 2, or in Portland on June 9. Or fill out an online survey here.

Click here for more information on the Roadmap and how to respond.