Groups Plan Ballot Initiatives to Battle Climate Change in Washington and Oregon
While climate activists around the world are hoping that the UN climate talks in Paris, COP21, will finally spur world leaders to take bold action on climate change, two U.S. states—Oregon and Washington—are taking matters into their own hands.
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In Oregon, there are two ballot measures. One would replace coal by 2030, mandating that renewable energy (other than hydro) double by 2040, accounting for 50 percent of the state's electricity use. Oregon still gets one-third of its electricity from coal, according to Renew Oregon, the group behind the initiative. They say that combined with hydro, Oregon would have 90 percent clean energy by 2040 if the measure passes. The second measure "attempts to make sure utilities comply by linking executive salaries with referendum goals," says Sustainable Business.
In Washington, an initiative would cap greenhouse gas emissions and put a price on carbon pollution, though many other details have not yet been determined, reports The Columbian. The measure "would build on the state’s recently announced Clean Air Rule by enforcing existing global warming pollution reduction targets, charging the largest emitters a fee for each ton of carbon pollution they emit," says the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, the group behind the initiative. "The funds will be invested in accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy and addressing the impacts of carbon pollution on our air, land and people."
“The solutions to climate change are opportunities to lift people out of poverty, create stable jobs in a resilient economy, protect our communities from extreme weather and invest in clean air for our families,” said Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson.
The coalition plans to gather the necessary signatures to put the measure on the 2016 ballot after the turn of the year. The Columbian reports there is a "competing effort," Initiative 732, which would also tax carbon pollution. Organizers have collected 270,398 signatures of the 330,000 needed to put I-732 before the 2016 Legislature. "If lawmakers don’t act, it would go on the 2016 ballot," says The Columbian.
Both the Washington and Oregon groups cite the urgent threat of climate change for the ballot initiatives. "We're already feeling the effects of climate change," says Renew Oregon.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just announced that September 2015 "blew away the margin for Earth's warmest month on record," as Mashable puts it. And the Pacific Northwest has been hit especially hard. Washington and Oregon had their warmest summers ever as the Pacific Northwest battled record heat and Washington dealt with its largest fire in state history. The two states, along with California and Nevada, recorded their warmest January to August, and are poised to see their hottest years ever, according to the NOAA.
According to Renew Oregon:
"If we don’t lead, wildfires, extreme weather, heat waves and drought will become our new normal. These measures would make Oregon the first state to have a public vote to go coal free. Oregon has always been a leader on protecting the climate. By transitioning to clean energy, we join other states like Colorado, Hawaii, California, Vermont and New York with aggressive standards for renewable energy."
This summer, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to enact a 100 percent renewable energy standard. Earlier this month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that mandates the state get 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.
Colorado has a renewable energy standard of 30 percent by 2020 for investor owned utilities—Xcel Energy and Black Hills Corporation. New York and Vermont have set up aggressive renewable energy plans as well. Three U.S. cities—Aspen, Colorado, Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas—have all gone 100 percent renewable and several more cities in the U.S. have set renewable energy targets as well.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
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