Climate Recovery Starts at Home

Catalyzing environmental action in the community climate reality

In July 2014, as youth and adults testified on behalf of Eugene’s Climate Recovery Ordinance (CRO), the fierce urgency of now was palpable in the Eugene City Council chambers. 2014 was shaping up to be the hottest year on record, and Eugene was poised to become a national leader in science-based climate recovery solutions.

We remember feeling giddy and hopeful when the council passed the CRO. The councilors seemed to recognize that tomorrow is indeed today, as Reverend Marin Luther King Jr. wrote.

Climate action was coming to Eugene at a time when climate inaction was the norm across the U.S.

Fast forward to January 2019. 2018 appears to be the fourth hottest on record, following 2015, 2016 and 2017. We’ve left the record-shattering 2014 far behind; we have a new emergency-level report form the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — and the city of Eugene is not even close to being on pace to meet the CRO’s modest goals.

As early as 2010, Eugene published a solid Climate Energy Action Plan; in 2014 the CRO was passed and in 2016 was updated to include a goal reflecting the Paris Accord targets. The CRO set goals for reducing Eugene’s fair share of pollution in two categories: “internal city operations reduction goals,” 2 percent of the total, and “community reduction goals,” the remaining 98 percent.

The real work is in reducing community emissions.

The CRO addresses both “fossil fuel use” and “greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.” Its fossil fuel reduction target specifies: “By the year 2030, all businesses, individuals and others living or working in the city collectively shall reduce the total (not per capita) use of fossil fuels by 50 percent compared to 2010 usage.”

In addition, the CRO stipulates that by the year 2100, “Eugene’s average share of a global atmospheric greenhouse gas level of 350 ppm, which is estimated in 2016, requires an annual average emission reduction level of 7.6 percent.”

Considered ambitious when adopted, these goals now seem dated. Scientists warn that we have 12 years to respond robustly to the climate crisis before unstoppable feedback loops start unraveling the ecosystems on which all life depends.

Since 2016, the city has been working on a process to update its Climate Action Plan, CAP2.0 — a process consisting of three rounds of meetings with system-level actors, called Large Lever Shareholders (LLS). LLS organizations include representatives from city of Eugene Transportation Planning, Lane Transit District, University of Oregon, Lane Community College, Bethel and 4J school districts, Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commissions, NW Natural, PeaceHealth and EWEB.

In spring 2018, round one introduced the predicted regional and local climate impacts (water flows, weather, snow pack) and previewed the update process. Completed in December, round two revealed a first look at the numbers compiled by the city’s contractor, Good Company, reflecting LLS organizations’ voluntary plans for reducing emissions. These were presented as an initial forecast and comparison against the CRO targets.

Round three continues in 2019, with an updated CAP2.0 expected in late spring.

The CAP2.0 Update Project, as it’s now called, is heavy on analysis. It has clear measurable targets but contains few implementable actions. More aptly, it might be called “a gap analysis” and, as such, will require a follow-up plan before it can be put to work to reduce our community’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Eight crucial years after the first Climate Action Plan, our updated plan-in-the-making indicates that the city will miss our sector-based, community-wide GHG emission reduction targets by 84 percent and our fossil fuel reduction targets by 40 percent; and the city’s biggest challenge, consumption-based targets — which include consumption of Eugene manufactured and imported items — are off by 102 percent.

Without an immediate and serious effort to reduce fossil fuel use and GHGEs across the community, we’ll quickly surpass even current emissions levels.

The Eugene Community Climate Coalition (ECCC) has been meeting for five months now. We are a citizen group committed to educating ourselves, “bird dogging” the implementation of the CAP2.0 and strategizing how best to help our community reach the CRO’s goals.

The CAP2.0 Update Project or “gap analysis” has not delivered. The city must not be allowed to spend another year, with all the financial resources involved, to further document the CAP’s failures. A “course correction” is in order.

Citizens of Eugene, let’s be bold! We invite the community to lead the way forward. We plan to kick off a crisis-response effort with a Community Climate Town Hall Feb. 21.

For the sake of future generations, let’s embrace with fierce urgency the need to respond locally to the climate crisis now.

Patty Hine and Debby McGee live in a log cabin and grow most of their own food in a 7,000-square-foot fenced garden and a 100-square-foot greenhouse. They are retired public employees, dedicating the last chapter of their lives to fighting for a stable climate future. Poet, writer and climate activist Sara Burant lives on Grant Street in west Eugene’s Amazon Creek watershed.

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