FAQ: The Oregon Climate Action Plan: What it is and What to do

By Mike Green

What is the Oregon Climate Action Plan?

The Oregon Climate Action Plan, or OCAP, is a comprehensive plan to dramatically reduce climate pollution and protect Oregon’s air and water by systematically increasing the adoption of clean, renewable approaches in transportation, businesses, and buildings. The long-term plan will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly but will also improve health, save money, and create jobs.

Alvord Desert, Oregon Photo by Elle Storset

What’s new about it?

This plan, authorized by Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-04 in March 2020, is the most comprehensive and aggressive approach in our state’s history to address the crisis of climate change. You can read the executive order here and follow updates from Governor Brown here.

How comprehensive is the plan?

OCAP is a broad and systematic approach to foster a clean economy, make fuels cleaner, and make buildings more energy-efficient. For example:

  • Clean Economy: OCAP requires corporate polluters to reduce pollution over time by strengthening the existing pollution-reduction targets and requiring large polluters, by law, to reduce emissions. Large polluters will be required to lower climate pollution levels 45% below 1990 levels by 2035, and at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
  • Clean Fuels: OCAP extends the state’s successful four-year-old Clean Fuels Program, which creates jobs and lowers pollution from fuels by making cleaner options available. The program’s previous goal was to reduce pollution by 10% by 2025. The added goal, to reduce pollution 25% by 2035, is the most ambitious goal for clean fuels in the nation.
  • Clean Buildings: OCAP requires that new homes and buildings in Oregon be able, by 2030, to produce as much clean energy as they use and to maximize energy efficiency. By broadly applying technologies already in use today, homes and buildings will waste less energy with more efficient heating, cooling, and lighting.

The COVID pandemic and the large-scale movement for racial justice have put a spotlight on the many struggles of Oregonians. How does OCAP help disadvantage populations and communities?

The plan has an intense focus on communities of color and lower-income communities who are more likely to live and work closest to the major pollution sources and thus be harmed most by climate change. For example, OCAP requires state agencies to consult with impacted communities and the Environmental Justice Task Force on climate actions. The plan also prioritizes actions that help impacted communities adapt to climate change and calls for the creation of an interagency work group to address climate harms to impacted communities.

Is there any progress yet?

Yes. In May 2020, twelve state agencies submitted their plans to carry out the Governor’s Executive Order establishing the plan. Agencies with specific directives—ranging from the Department of Environment Quality to the state’s departments of Energy and Transportation—provided detailed plans to achieve major climate progress in Oregon. These include concrete plans for increasing transportation electrification, using cleaner fuels to replace petroleum, installing more infrastructure for clean energy generation and usage, building cleaner and more energy-efficient homes and commercial buildings, reducing food waste, reducing methane emissions from landfills, and mandating better land use planning. You can read the agencies’ detailed plans here

What comes next?

Much is yet to come from both state agencies and advocacy groups across Oregon. For example, by mid-September the Building Codes Division will outline options for achieving the 2030 energy efficiency goal over the next three cycles of updating the state building code. And many of the state’s administrative processes are making individual directives within the governor’s order a reality. In addition, advocacy groups within the Renew Oregon coalition have submitted letters to many agencies to inform their plans, and those groups are exploring how to coordinate their activities and collaborate with the OCAP goals in mind.

What can we do as Oregonians and as Climate Reality Project members to make OCAP successful—and accelerate its gains?

First, we should work to do everything we can as individuals to set an example and reduce our own emissions and overall carbon footprint, by following the advice of Oregon groups like reneworegon.org and international groups like The Climate Reality Project. Then we should require the companies we buy from to meet or exceed their requirements under OCAP—or do business with companies that do. And we should make sure we VOTE to elect or re-elect the officials who will lead with the integrity and urgency that the climate crisis demands. For more information see the Turn Out for Tomorrow initiative of the Climate Reality Project and follow our Oregon legislative activity here.  

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