Perspective on HB2020: “We Oppose Harmful and Ineffective Offsets and Allowances Trading”

This blog post was co-produced by Khanh Pham with OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and Adam Brunelle, a 350PDX Board Member. Given the broad range of convictions, analyses, and strategies within our community, 350PDX is neutral on HB2020 as an organization, but we encourage our volunteers and supporters to continue to engage in the crucial work of crafting just, ambitious, precedent-setting climate legislation for Oregon.

You can find a companion blog post in support of HB2020 here.

To our friends and allies in 350PDX,

We are deeply grateful to you for hearing us. When the 350PDX board chose to remain neutral on House Bill 2020, we felt that someone in the climate movement was finally acknowledging that important disagreements exist, and that frontline communities around the country and world believe we can and must do better.

Let us remember what we all agree upon. We share the urgency of the moment with all of you. Every one of us is terrified about the signs of climate breakdown. The warnings get worse, the impacts have been here for decades and now are undeniable, and there’s no national leadership on climate. But we must not let our sense of urgency turn to desperation to accept anything- especially not ineffective, false solutions. The economists behind carbon trading make bold claims that are not supported by the evidence or the experience of our communities.

HB2020 allows polluters to continue polluting by gaming the system. California’s carbon trading law, already 6 years old, has not done much at all to reduce emissions. 350 shouldn’t support an approach that fails to reach its emissions reduction goals. But beyond carbon reductions, there is also great potential for harm from carbon trading. Richmond, California’s refinery-impacted Black community members have seen emissions in their backyards rise under carbon trading. Refineries are pouring more carbon into the air than they were a decade ago. The health of Black people in Richmond is further decimated as a result. These frontline communities don’t support HB2020’s trading regime.

Replicating California’s harmful failure would be irresponsible. The world is watching Oregon. If we repeat their mistakes we set a bad example for Washington and everywhere else. Our fear, and the fear of international communities watching who signed the letter opposing HB2020, is that legislators replicate a system of offsets, allowances, and trading proven ineffective in California, and then declare victory.

What we learned from the Portland Clean Energy Fund campaign, which we won with nearly 2/3 of voters in favor, is that holding major corporations accountable and funding a transition to clean energy is possible, and voters will support it. The business community cried foul over PCEF for the exact reason it was so popular: it actually holds big businesses accountable.

A working proposal should include a diminishing cap. Polluters should pay for the harm their pollution causes, reduce pollution, and fund direct investments to frontline communities. Carbon regimes relying on trading, offsets, and allowances are unjust, ineffective and harmful. The negative impacts, potential for manipulation, and failure to reduce pollution tell us that carbon trading is the wrong approach to achieve climate justice here or anywhere. We have done our research to offer a list of resources for readers to better understand our position. We invite 350PDX members to engage with these resources so we can work toward a shared understanding of climate justice. Take action to support our position here.

Thank you,

Khanh Pham, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon

Adam Brunelle, 350PDX Board Member