(CN) – Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced Tuesday what she called the nation’s boldest move to curb greenhouse gas emissions, further highlighting a sharp political divide in the Beaver State.
With an executive order she described as “extensive and thorough” as well as “aggressive,” Brown set state carbon-reduction goals to targets of 45% below 1990 levels by 2035, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
The “science-based” endeavor, which calls for comprehensive efforts across 18 agencies and commissions, comes after a second legislative session failed to produce a successful cap-and-trade climate bill.
Oregon Republicans walked off the job Feb. 24 and boycotted the capitol in an effort to block Senate Bill 1530, which called for a gradual reduction in emissions over the coming decades while increasing the price per ton of carbon that companies must pay to emit.
On Monday, lawmakers approved $5 million in emergency funds to launch a decade of Department of Environmental Quality positions to spearhead Brown’s pledged order.
“This executive order is extensive and thorough, taking the boldest actions available to lower greenhouse gas emissions under current state laws,” Brown said in a morning press conference. “As a state, we will pursue every option available under existing law to combat the effects of climate change and put Oregon on a path we can be proud to leave behind for our children.”
Brown touted increased funding for environmental justice work and wildfire mitigation, as well as a transition fund to prepare workers for clean energy jobs.
“The executive branch has a responsibility to the electorate, and a scientific, economic, and moral imperative to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions,” the 14-page order states, “and to reduce the worst risks of climate change and ocean acidification for future generations.”
A beaming Brown was flanked by youth climate activists while signing the order.
“I grew up as a campfire girl, and we learned to leave the world a little better than we found it,” she said to repeat applause.
“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.”
Brown downplayed potential challenges to the order or legal costs to defend it.
“If opponents to my executive order are really concerned about the costs of litigation, particularly Republicans, they should have stayed in the capitol and completed their work and done their job,” she said.
Oregon had a standing carbon-reduction goal of 75% below 1990 levels by 2050 prior to the order.
“Our state has an urgent, moral obligation to set and achieve more ambitious” goals, the order states.
Brown noted the Oregon Department of Justice carefully reviewed the order to “make sure that we are as ambitious as we can be, while fully complying with existing laws and the Oregon Constitution.”
The Oregon GOP also walked out of legislative sessions in 2019 over a similar climate bill and a tax to support education.