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Oregon Climate gains traction on novel carbon cap-and-dividend bill with new campaign strategies. Hearings held. Movement building.



Oregon Climate is a statewide network of volunteers united by our conviction that Oregon can build the model of effective, lasting climate policy. We educate and organize advocates in support of a carbon price and dividend, a policy that would require polluters to buy allowances at auction and return 100% of the proceeds back to Oregonians.

We propose to pass a carbon price and dividend in Oregon as a model for federal action, with the power of a grassroots movement.

Oregon Climate is led by young students, engineers, economists, and social justice activists. Our co-founders helped organize a climate art project in Southern Oregon in February of 2013. Twelve hundred volunteers were invited to assemble a 117-foot mosaic of a salmon from individual tiles of art for the “It’s a Rogue Thing” event, which attracted 400 participants. Resolved to channel this unprecedented community energy for climate action toward a specific solution, we organized a citizen lobby day the following May. 200 Oregonians assembled the salmon in Salem and lobbied 40 lawmakers for a carbon fee and dividend.

Since our inception at that lobby day, our team has authored and introduced three carbon pricing bills in the state legislature: the cap-and-dividend in both the House and the Senate, and the fee-and-dividend in the House (see links to the bills in the References). We have involved more than 15,000 Oregonians in the effort to pass one of these bills--hosting and taking part in over 30 public meetings, community events, and classes, as well as our weekly volunteer phone banks and networking with allied organizations. We have hosted Southern Oregon’s first carbon pricing forum, “The $2 Billion Question,” attended by 250 people in December 2014; and established “Action Hubs” of volunteers in the Rogue Valley, Corvallis, Eugene, Bend and Portland. Our volunteers have passed six local government resolutions calling on the state legislature to put a price on carbon.  

We'll continue until we win!

What actions do you propose?

The momentum we’ve built over the legislative session--generated in target districts and focused on the capitol--will now channel into an extensive field operation to engage 30,000 diverse Oregonians across the state by leveraging creative projects, partnerships, social media, and earned media to meet our goal. Our leadership trainings will equip 400 volunteers to serve as effective advocates, setting us up for success in the 2016 legislative session and/or for a ballot campaign.

Oregon Climate's campaign to hold polluters accountable is focused on three goals:  

  1. Establish strong, inclusive and coordinated grassroots support for fair and effective climate policy.

    1. Host community outreach events and presentations in areas of the state that are not typically represented in climate activism networks.  Develop 10+ leaders in eastern and coastal Oregon who are committed to the statewide campaign and advancing the campaign in their communities. November 2015.

    2. Strengthen existing community Action Hubs in five metropolitan areas (Portland; Eugene; Corvallis; Bend; and Ashland/Medford) to initiate and lead local outreach work. Develop 30+ volunteer leaders who are coordinated and empowered to move the campaign forward in their own communities and engage constituents in densely populated areas. November 2015.

    3. Organize a creative art project to unify leaders and supporters from all corners of the state around a common goal and vision; simultaneously building goodwill among participating organizations.  Participation of over 2,500 Oregonians, earning statewide and national media coverage. January 2016.

Background on leadership development: Since the formation of Oregon Climate’s first leadership team in February 2014, we have accrued over 18,000 volunteer hours from more than 100 active volunteers across the state. Our “citizen muscle” has grown as the price and dividend policy moves closer to law. Individuals have dedicated over 3,500 volunteer hours to the campaign since the onset of the legislative session in February, with peaks of activity immediately preceding milestones such as committee hearings on our bills.

  1. Establish a broad coalition of organizations and constituencies whose issues often intersect with climate and environmental justice.

    1. Organize facilitated meetings and discussions with social and environmental justice organizations to identify common ground and opportunities for coordinated work to hold polluters accountable. February 2016.

    2. Launch media campaign to connect the dots between economic/social injustice and climate change by partnering with 2-3 social justice advocacy groups to develop message and share communications capacity.  Message exposure to 30,000+ viewers via social media, print newspaper distribution, TV and radio. February 2016.

    3. Empower high school and college students as strong advocates for climate protection and carbon pricing by training them to give presentations, talk to their peers, organize events, etc. Youth advocacy training to include 200+ students to build community, equip them with necessary skills and materials to advocate for carbon pricing, and determine ways to grow their collective voice. March 2016.

  2. Pass state legislation that puts a price on carbon and distributes the revenue back to citizens, to serve as a model for federal climate action.  

    1. Lay the groundwork for success in the 2016 short session by building relationships with legislators and key opinion leaders across the state. Win public support from 10+ legislators across the political spectrum for a carbon cap and dividend bill.

    2. Build a united coalition for price and dividend among influential political operatives, including social justice advocacy groups, labor, and business. Convene monthly meetings with interested parties to build consensus around policy details and strategy moving forward.

Background on legislative engagement: In the last four months we have arranged more than 65 face-to-face meetings between constituents and legislators to build support for the price-and-dividend bills. In April, 250 people from around the state to attended our first hearing in the House Energy and Environment Committee, with 14 traveling more than 100 miles to testify for our bill. Our outreach also resulted in 130+ pieces of written testimony in support of price and dividend, representing business, progressive advocacy, conservative advocacy, youth, elders, and communities across the state.

Who will take these actions?

Oregon Climate has made a concerted effort to reach out to a diversity of groups and constituencies across the state and nation, to educate and gain support for price and dividend. Groups that we have built relationships with include: The Bus Project, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, CAPACES Leadership Institute, Oregon Interfaith Power and Light, R Street Institute, KSKQ Community Radio, Oregon Action, Center for Intercultural Organizing, Siskiyou Sustainable Co-operative, 350 PDX, 350 Eugene, Bee Girl Organization, CarbonWA, Douglas County Global Warming Coalition, Sierra Club, The Environment Center, Civil Liberties Defense Center, Citizens’ Utility Board, Climate Solutions, Sightline Institute, Oregon Students Association, First United Methodist Church, Blue/Green Alliance, Organizing for America, Geos Institute, Chesapeake Climate Action network, US Climate Plan, and Pricing Carbon Initiative.

Oregon Climate also has strong working relationships with a number of state elected officials with whom we have worked on legislation, and with local officials with whom they have worked to past resolutions encouraging the state to put a price on carbon.

Oregon Climate’s leadership team includes Camila Thorndike, Dan Golden, Page Atcheson and Ty Gorman. We have 45 years combined experience in climate change advocacy, education, economics, engineering, and energy management at local, state, national, and international levels. Our individual experiences led us to the same conclusions that underpin this organization. First, without an economy-wide and science-based carbon pricing mechanism, adaptation to the climate crisis will not be possible. Second, this indispensable policy solution will never happen unless we proactively ask for it by name.

In less than a  year, Oregon Climate attracted 15 volunteer Steering Committee members, nine Advisory Board members, 200 volunteers, 300 individual donors and 1,800 supporters. 

What challenges will be faced in implementing this proposal and how will they be overcome?

Conservative political opposition to a price on carbon can be overcome with a market-based solution. The disproportionate burden on the low income can be overcome when distributing the revenue. 

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Oregon Climate's proposal would reduce carbon emissions (and C02 equivalents) 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Based on the best available science, this ambitious emission reduction level is what we must reach to prevent the catastrophic impacts of climate change. 

The 2013 Oregon Legislature authorized a study of the economic and greenhouse gas emission impacts of implementation of a clean air tax or fee in Oregon, which was conducted by the Northwest Economic Research Center (NERC). The report found that putting a price on carbon emissions will effectively reduce emissions through behavior change and providing economic incentives for better energy efficiency, cleaner fuels, and other alternatives to the status quo. A price of $30 per metric ton of emissions would reduce emissions in Oregon below 1990 levels before 2020 and keep them below 1990 levels beyond 2032.  The significant findings of study are summarized in the Fact Sheet, which also can be found in the references.  

What are other key benefits?

The NERC study found a number of desirable outcomes.  Oregon Climate assumes that the impacts of a carbon cap-and-dividend would be similar to a carbon tax studied by NERC.  Here's what NERC found:

  • Putting a price on carbon emissions will result in cleaner air in Oregon. 
  • Putting a price on carbon will generate significant state funds providing many policy options for putting that money back to work for Oregonians and offsetting any economic impacts of the the tax. 
  • Carbon pricing can serve as an economic development strategy for Oregon 

Furthermore, by distributing the revenue back to citizens in the form of a dividend, 2/3 of households will get more money back than they spend on increased energy costs. In this sense, carbon price and dividend is a progressive policy that addresses economic inequality. 

What are the proposal’s costs?

The NERC study found few negative economic costs or other side effects of a carbon tax.  Oregon Climate assumes that the impacts of a carbon cap-and-dividend would be similar to a carbon tax studied by NERC.  The NERC study found the following:

  • The statewide economic impacts of a carbon tax, even without the strategic use of the revenue to offset its effects, would be modest compared to the size of the economy
  • A carbon tax wouldn't overburden any particular region.
  • A carbon tax will have minimal impact on industry, but wholesale trade and businesses at the end of the supply chain will feel the strongest pinch.
  • A carbon tax would place more pressure on low-income households than on high-income households -- but it's possible to support low-income individuals through existing programs to mitigate those effects.

Time line

The short term actions and outcomes are presented above.

After the Legislative session ends in June 2015, Oregon Climate will regroup with its partner organizations to decide on next steps and to rewrite its strategy and work plan accordingly.  Summer plans focus on building more robust partnerships with social and environmental justice organizations, building our youth leadership development program, and expanding our membership base.

Related proposals


Oregon Climate Home Page:

Oregon House Bill to adopt carbon cap-and-dividend program:

Oregon House Bill to adopt a carbon tax-and-dividend program:

Northwest Economic Research Center Carbon Tax Report Fact Sheet:

Economic and Emissions Impacts of a Clean Air Tax or Fee in Oregon (the complete study):