Meiffren-Swango: Oregon can't wait another season for climate action
Last year, Oregon was devastated by a historic wildfire season that burned more than 1 million acres. As summer arrives, this year threatens to be just as dangerous: Our state has already declared an early wildfire season, and we are facing the worst drought in more than a century. Climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, and it is clear that we need a bold plan to confront this crisis.
Around the devastating fires last year, Environment Oregon launched its "Climate Defenders" project, which is designed to get people engaged and make sure our calls for action were being heard by local, state and federal decision-makers. It was heartening to see our members rally behind climate action, with the number of people wanting to volunteer quadrupling following the fires.
Now, with a new administration that has prioritized addressing climate change since day one, we are grateful that the drumbeat of federal climate action is growing louder. Already, President Joe Biden has announced a series of climate-focused executive orders, nominated a roster of climate change experts to serve in his administration, committed to reducing U.S. carbon pollution by at least 50% from 2005 levels by 2030, and is working to allow states to return to setting stricter vehicle emission standards.
Also at the federal level, our own Sen. Ron Wyden has used his chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee to fight for action to address climate change. His Clean Energy for America Act recently advanced through committee. If signed into law, the bill would address climate change by updating our nation's tax code to provide strong, permanent incentives to accelerate the transition to clean electricity, transportation and energy efficiency.
These clean energy incentives are critical for states like Oregon to transition away from fossil fuels. Sen. Wyden's bill would also encourage Oregonians to participate in the transition to a clean energy future by making it more affordable to purchase an electric vehicle, make homes more energy efficient and put solar panels on their roofs. These investments should be part of any package that moves this year, and it's exciting that a senator from Oregon is leading the effort.
These investments are not only smart, but also popular. A recent poll, sponsored by Environment Oregon in one of the state's most competitive congressional districts, found that residents supported clean energy investments. On multiple measures, including extending tax credits to support investments in clean energy to fight climate change, survey respondents signaled that these parts of the president's plan are essential to truly building back better as a nation.
We cannot afford to wait any longer to make the investments we need to fight climate change. Oregonians have already made their voices heard when it comes to taking bold climate action, and Sen. Wyden's Clean Energy for America Act does just that.
Celeste Meiffren-Swango of Southeast Portland is state director for Environment Oregon.
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