My View: Oregon must lead on protecting climate
The Clean Energy Jobs bill has been years in the making. Now is the time to call on our state legislators to resist the strong pull of inertia, and vote on the bill during this short legislative session.
The Clean Energy Jobs bill is long overdue, and change, no matter how prudent, is always uncomfortable.
Our state's fossil fuel habits are deeply entrenched, requiring thoughtful, just and progressive remediation. The Clean Energy Jobs bill, though complex in its cap-and-trade dynamics, is straightforward in its commitment to meet our ethical obligations, grow our economy, and establish Oregon as a leader in addressing our climate crisis:
1. Ethical obligation:
First, in the words of the ethicist Stephen Gardiner, we have an "intergenerational obligation" to promote the health and well-being not just of current Oregonians, but also of future citizens of our state.
The decisions our state Legislature makes (or does not make) today will profoundly affect the well-being of future Oregonians. Our undeserved control over future generations and their posterity must be checked by thoughtful environmental policy now.
Second, we have an ethical duty to serve those least responsible for, and most affected by, climate pollution, including the poor, the working class, indigenous populations, and communities of color.
Through this bill, we must rise to the challenge to ensure that our economic transition to renewables benefits all, with particular concern for those who are most negatively affected by climate change.
2. Economic opportunity:
Given the clear national and global trend away from fossil fuels to renewables, Oregon has the opportunity to become a bastion of innovation and 21st-century job creation.
Much as Texas's economic success was built on a foundation of petroleum, Oregon can capitalize on our country's increasingly rapid transition to renewable energy.
The Clean Energy Jobs bill makes this leadership opportunity possible. This bill is not a sacrifice; Oregon reaps significant economic benefits from being at the forefront of the new, increasingly renewable energy economy.
3. State leadership:
The federal repeal of the Clean Power Plan and withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, among other actions, have made it clear that the federal government is no longer a reliable leader that can address the urgency of our climate crisis.
The states, especially Oregon, are now in a position to assume this leadership role. Though the Clean Energy Jobs bill is clearly for and by Oregon, we also have the opportunity to create a West Coast collaboration, joining California, Canada, and (perhaps) Washington in reducing greenhouse gases through joint cap-and-trade approaches. The hope is that, through our regional example, similar cap-and-trade bills will be embraced across the country.
Oregonians are poised to reap substantial economic, health, and quality-of-life benefits from the Clean Energy Jobs bill. Our state has the opportunity to emerge as a clean-energy leader, while fulfilling our ethical obligations to future generations and those most affected by climate change.
Wesley Allen is a speech pathologist from Southeast Portland who volunteers with 350PDX and the Oregon Sierra Club.