Oregon Needs a Green New Deal, Not Weak Cap and Trade Legislation

Given the urgency of climate change, you might think that any climate-focused policy in Oregon would be a welcome one. However, some policies fall far short of what is necessary and could even do more harm than good. According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) we only have 12 years to get our act together. It’s more important than ever to take this issue seriously with policies that ensure emissions reductions. We don’t have time to waste on false solutions that will fail to lower emissions while increasing economic inequality. This is why Portland DSA members ratified a resolution in opposition to Oregon’s proposed Cap and Trade Bill (“Clean Energy Jobs”) and urges support for an Oregon Green New Deal.

First of all, by allowing companies to utilize carbon offsets, the Clean Energy Jobs bill (CEJ) perpetuates environmental injustice. Companies should not be allowed to pay for questionable pollution reductions in far off places while increasing emissions at the source, especially since polluting facilities are often located in marginalized communities. It is totally unacceptable to continue treating low-income communities and communities of color as sacrifice zones.

Despite all the talk about making the biggest polluters pay, the biggest polluters are actually exempt from the bill. There’s also a loophole that exempts any “trade exposed industry.” This means the only people who will end up paying are fuel suppliers. It will effectively be no more than a gas tax, which means it will fall primarily on drivers. It’s this kind of tax that sparked the Yellow Vest Movement in France, which is rising up against a long war on the poor and working class that has brought severe cuts to vital public services, all while the rich receive huge tax breaks. Instead of passing on costs, we need to bring an end to the neoliberal era in Oregon and ensure that climate programs are funded by those responsible for the crisis, not those who are already struggling within this unjust system.

With so many industry exemptions, this bill will do very little to end our reliance on fossil fuels. Instead, it will actually allow fossil fuel infrastructure to continue expanding. CEJ will do nothing to stop the construction of the Jordan Cove Energy Project, which would become the single largest source of emissions in Oregon and make it impossible for the state to meet its climate goals. If built, most of the emissions from Jordan Cove wouldn’t even be subject to the cap. How can Oregon legislators call this serious climate policy if it would allow companies to lock us into decades worth of additional fossil fuel use? The science is clear — we need to ban the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure immediately.

We are very concerned that Clean Energy Jobs could prevent us from passing the kind of truly bold legislation we need. If it passes, legislators will likely tell the public that they’ve already passed climate legislation and that we should wait and see whether the program works. However, we already know that similar programs have failed to reduce emissions. Cap and Trade has been implemented in a number of places since 2005 and the results have been dismal. The only thing Cap and Trade policies have achieved is allowing polluting industries to continue profiting from the very activities that we need to be phasing out. This is precisely why market-based solutions like this are so popular among the biggest corporations and the neoliberal elite who benefit from a continuation of extractive capitalism. It’s a clever way to hide business as usual behind a complicated smoke screen.

Market-based solutions actually maintain the root cause of climate change: the exploitation of people and planet to create profits for the few. As long as we have a capitalist economy, policymakers will continue with the foolish pursuit of endless growth, which will forever be at odds with our need to reduce energy and resource consumption. Capitalism also prioritizes private profits over human need, thus preventing us from pursuing any solutions that large corporations can’t profit from, such as distributed solar networks and small-scale local food production. Any action on climate that fails to acknowledge the role of capitalism is doomed to fail.

Oregon needs a truly comprehensive and visionary climate program like a Green New Deal, rooted in people power and a Just Transition. We must listen to and follow the lead of communities most impacted who have been leading this environmental justice work for decades. An Oregon Green New Deal should be funded not by additional taxes on the working class, but by those who are responsible for the crisis — polluting industry and the rich. We don’t have time to waste on policies that have an established history of failure and are aimed at maintaining an oppressive, unjust economic system instead of making the rapid transition climate change requires. We must demand better from our Oregon legislators. And we will.

Portland DSA’s Ecosocialist Caucus is coordinating with other partners on a draft Oregon Green New Deal platform. Send feedback to ecosocialistpdx@protonmail.com and please join us at our February meeting: Thursday, February 14 from 7–9pm at 2249 E Burnside.

ACCESSIBILITY: Front-door ramp access is through backyard via the west-side driveway. Location is on TriMet bus line 20 and has a gender-neutral restroom.

PDX DSA’s Ecosocialist Caucus: Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr

The Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Hailing from all corners of the socialist left, our goal is a better world beyond capitalism.

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