Will 2018 be the year Oregon legislators set a cap on carbon emissions? Some state lawmakers have been working out the details of a cap-and-trade program and expect to introduce a draft bill on January 8, one month before this year’s session.
The aim is to reduce the carbon emissions cap each year, and help Oregon reach its goal of emissions that are 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Sen. Michael Dembrow, a Democrat from Portland and one of the bill’s chief architects, said recent changes will ensure that rural Oregonians see the benefits of revenue generated by the program.
“Rural Oregon contains the people that are already most affected by climate change, and will be increasingly so,” Dembrow said; “people who are dependent on natural resources – timber, agriculture, fisheries, etc. – where we’re already seeing substantial changes due to climate change.”
He said funds would first go to businesses affected by the policy change. After that, 60 percent of revenue would go to communities most affected by climate change, 20 percent to carbon-sequestration projects, and the remaining 20 percent to projects that decrease greenhouse-gas emissions.
Opponents of the bill have said they see it as a tax on businesses.
Dembrow said companies are able to trade their emission allowances if they get ahead of the curve, which would incentivize investment in energy-efficient technologies. He said that makes this policy more flexible than a simple carbon tax.
But he acknowledged it could negatively affect some businesses, so the bill includes a fund for displaced workers.
“We want to make sure that we set aside resources that will provide supports for those workers while they’re going through retraining in newer, cleaner kinds of industries,” he explained.
Dembrow said cap-and-trade hasn’t severely hurt businesses in other countries – or in California, which has the only such program in the nation. And he added there’s a sense of urgency to act on climate change as soon as possible.
“It’s clear to all of us that changes that we need are not going to come from Washington, D.C., they’re going to have to come from the states,” he said. “They’re going to have to come from the regions. They’re going to have to come from states working together with our partners to the north, in Canada. And together, we can make a real difference.”
Dembrow said he hopes the bill will become a model for other states facing the same issues.