Building on Climate Progress

By Stephanie Kaza

In the aftermath of the November election, many people are wondering what will happen with U.S. climate commitments.  People fear we will lose ground with cabinet nominees who seem bent on unraveling all climate action progress. There are plenty of good reasons to imagine a backward-trending future under such leadership.

Here’s something different for the New Year: let’s look at Oregon’s successes and celebrate how far we’ve come.  Celebrating success seems out of fashion in the midst of so much handwringing.  It is still good to know our history and what we have to build on as our state legislature begins this year’s work.

The Oregon Global Warming Commission is one of the lead state agencies for tracking climate progress.

In a recent memo to the Oregon League of Women Voters, the chair of the Commission, Angus Duncan, pointed out significant steps that have placed Oregon ahead, rather than behind the curve on climate action.

Starting in 1992, Oregon was one of the earliest to adopt greenhouse gas emission (GHG) goals. By 2007, the goals recommended by then Governor Kulongoski had been put into law.  These goals were set as targets to guide planning and decision-making and they have clearly generated significant results.

Oregon’s GHG emissions peaked in 1999 and have been going down ever since. They should only decline further with agreements that passed in the last legislative session in SB 1547.

This successful bill requires real steps toward climate progress: to close the coal-burning plant in Boardman by 2020, to end all coal fuel use in the state by 2035, and to increase renewables to 50% by 2040.

Though these goals per se are not yet achieved, the legal targets are already driving policy making at state agencies. This platform of commitments should set Oregon up for close to 90% carbon-free electricity by 2050.*

We can celebrate the Global Warming Commission’s leadership as they try to think accurately about sources of GHG emissions.

The Commission broke new ground in developing a toolkit for counting consumption-based emissions. This provides more complete accounting of GHG pollution from shipping and manufacture of consumer goods from out of state.

They are working with the Department of Forestry to understand in a more sophisticated way how forest carbon storage changes over time under the impacts of fire, pests, and timber harvest.

In light of the potential for drastic changes in federal policy, it is more important than ever for states and cities to keep moving forward on their climate agendas.

Already the four governors of the western U.S. states and British Columbia have signed a compact to do exactly this and to support each other in their efforts. Here at home, the recently updated 2016 Oregon Climate Assessment will soon be available to help us understand the nature of climate change in Oregon in detail.

To learn more about these developments, and to encourage your own sense of hope and possibility, there is the 2017 Let’s Talk Climate series.

January 25, the series hosts Angus Duncan, chair of the Global Warming Commission, along with Oregon Senator Michael Dembro and Shilpa Joshi of the Renew Oregon.

They are eager to speak with neighbors and citizens who want to engage these difficult climate issues, drawing on the positive steps already taken in Oregon.

This series takes place at TaborSpace in the Copeland Commons room, 5441 SE Belmont, at 7 pm.

For more information, see or join the mailing list at

*For a full discussion of Oregon’s GHG emissions and measures for continued progress, see the Global Warming Commission’s 2015 Report to the Legislature at:  

Building on Climate Progress

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