Media Room

REMARKS AS PREPARED

Governor Kate Brown
Climate Action Executive Order Remarks
March 10, 2020

Hello, and thank you all so much for being here today. I want to welcome our students who are joining us. Can we give them a round of applause?

I’d like to introduce you to a couple of them. 

Angelique is a senior at South Salem High School. The daughter of immigrant farmworkers, she has seen first hand the devastating effects of climate change: crop shortages and layoffs due to wildfire smoke, health risks due to heat waves, and the danger of working in extreme weather events.  

It’s inspired her to advocate, to balance academic achievement with climate activism. She led the Student Climate Strike in Salem last September that drew hundreds. 

Charlie is a sophomore at Cleveland High School in Portland. 

He has been coming to the Capitol since he was in sixth grade to testify in support of  climate action. That’s five sessions of waiting for adults to take action. Five. I’m proud that today, we are putting an end to that count.

Young people like Angelique and Charlie are truly the reason we are here today. 

I grew up as a campfire girl, and we learned to leave the world a little better than we found it. And in a career as an advocate and public servant, I’ve tried to do that every single day.

And while today’s young people are also encouraged to make our world a better place, our planet is running out of time. 

I’ve heard it loud and clear from young people across  Oregon: climate action is crucial and urgent. 

If we don’t take action right away, it is the next generation that will pay the price. Neglect on our part will mean their loss. And that is simply unacceptable.

From the beginning of this conversation regarding climate change, I have been very clear. Immediate efforts and bold action are needed to tackle this scourge that is devastating the Oregon we know and love. And a smart approach can both protect the environment and continue to grow our economy. 

Hundreds of people spent countless hours over many years collaborating on a path forward via legislation using a market-based approach known as cap-and-trade. 

Republican lawmakers repeatedly walked out on the job, thwarting the democratic process. 

That is not how democracy works. Their actions held Oregonians hostage and seriously damaged the legislative branch. 

Oregonians deserve to be healthy, safe, and to see opportunity in the future, no matter what happens — or doesn’t — in the Oregon legislature. 

Significant change doesn’t have to take the form of a single step. It can come when several actions add up. And that’s what I’m doing today. 

As Governor, I will pursue every option available to me in the Executive Branch to combat the effects of climate change. As a state, we will put Oregon on a path our children can be proud of.

Last July, I committed to Oregonians that if the Legislature failed to take necessary action this year, I would use the tools available to me as the Chief Executive to address climate change. And that is exactly what I am doing today. 

The executive order that I will sign shortly is sweeping and comprehensive, directing our state agencies to take action to urgently tackle climate change. 

I want to highlight a few major parts: 

First, it sets new, science-based greenhouse gas reduction goals: 45% below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Second, it directs the Environmental Quality Commission to set and enforce sector-specific caps on climate pollution in three of the largest sources of emissions in our state: transportation, natural gas, and large industrial polluters. 

These caps will decline over time in order to meet our new greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Third, it doubles the Clean Fuels standard to 20% by 2030, and 25% by 2035, reducing pollution from cars and trucks. 

This is the most ambitious Clean Fuels goal in the country. It will substantially reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector, using a model proven to reduce pollution at a very minimal cost. 

At the same time, it will fuel new jobs in the biofuels sector and expand investment in transportation electrification.

Finally, my executive order adds climate action as a lens to all state agency work, making lower carbon emissions a priority. The state oversees billions of dollars.  We should put our money where our mouth is. 
 
And there is more. 

These efforts will reduce emissions from transportation and industry. As huge contributors to climate change, that’s really important. 

But we use energy in every facet of our lives. Our buildings. The appliances we put inside them. The power we use to turn them on. 

We will accelerate the transition to clean energy in our electricity and natural gas sectors, and set higher standards for building codes and appliances.

I am setting these targets and charting the direction forward. 

However, there will be significant opportunity for public input. Full details will be hammered out during agency rulemaking processes.

In addition, it is my continued expectation that climate action and the growth of our economy will not be mutually exclusive. 

As we look ahead, I am committed to including money for these three critical climate-related investments in my next budget:

Funding environmental justice work. This means including communities most-impacted by climate change as we build a more resilient economy.

Creating a just transition fund. We’ve already created 55,000 clean energy jobs. We need to train and prepare more workers for good-paying jobs in Oregon's 
growing clean energy economy. 

And, tackling wildfire mitigation work. Climate change has made wildfires more frequent and more intense. We must invest in fuels reduction, which will create jobs in rural Oregon, and foster healthier landscapes.

I deeply appreciate the action of the legislature’s Democratic Leadership to allocate the necessary resources for state agencies to carry out this work. I am particularly grateful to the Speaker of the House Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney for their leadership.

I also want to thank the attorneys at the Oregon Department of Justice who carefully reviewed this executive order to make sure that we are as ambitious as we can be, while fully complying with existing laws and the Oregon Constitution. 

I look forward to working with Oregonians across the state on implementing this order, in such a way that does not exacerbate existing economic disparities in our rural communities, our tribes, our low-income families, and our communities of color.  

Because, we’re all in this together. And if we can make progress on climate change, we just might have a world that we can pass on to our children.

Thank you. Now, I’ll sign the order and then take a few questions.