While many topics – from earthquake preparedness to rural broadband expansion – were discussed, it became clear throughout the Oregon Coastal Caucus Economic Summit that many challenges our coastal communities face trace a line back to our rapidly changing climate.
For two days, community leaders, businesses and state and federal legislators spent time focusing on the specific challenges and opportunities for the Oregon Coast.
“Drought harms our farms growing food, fish surviving in our rivers and our forests’ health. Rising acid levels in the ocean, toxic algae blooms, and dead zones harm our fishing families and our crab and shellfish industry,” said Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay), a key organizer of the summit. “And perhaps the most top of mind for everyone is the risk of wildfire. How can we protect our communities, prevent wildfire and find resources for sustainable forest management?”
Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) and Rep. Karin Power (D-Milwaukie) are leading the state legislative efforts to reduce pollution that leads to climate change, as well as how state strategies can grow the economy and protect communities from the impacts of climate change we’re already experiencing.
“As we grapple with climate change in Oregon, it’s important to continue to have conversations outside of Salem on how we’re going to do it. The Coastal Economic Summit was a great opportunity for more perspective,” Power said. “We remain focused on using a cap-and-invest system to accomplish several goals: have Oregon take responsibility for our share of emission, grow our clean energy economy with good jobs and benefits statewide and invest in those places, like the Oregon Coast, which are feeling the effects of climate change right now.“
Investments from a cap-and-invest program, as laid out in previous legislation, would make funds available to address some of the challenges discussed during the summit. For instance, affordable housing is not just sticker price, but monthly expense.
Energy-efficient housing is affordable housing and Oregon’s housing stock needs upgrading and updating to better use energy. Proceeds from cap-and-invest can help Oregonians pay for those upgrades. This creates good-paying construction jobs, results in energy bill savings and lowers emissions.
“We’re seeking to bring opportunities to communities across Oregon as we effectively reduce our climate pollution. Expanding the clean energy economy with cap-and-invest will do that. It’s something we hear from communities is they want career opportunities that can’t be outsourced,” Dembrow said. “Another thing we’ve learned a lot about from listening is the need for funds to adapt to climate impacts we’re feeling now. For instance, cap-and-invest proceeds can be used to hire Oregonians to sustainably manage forests and prevent wildfires.”
Legislators are committed to significant work in the next six months on Oregon’s responsibility to do our part to reduce climate pollution. Conversations, like the ones on the coast this week, will be how to best reach climate protection law that works for all of Oregon.