A city task force working on a climate action plan has set preliminary targets for community-wide greenhouse gas reductions.
The committee chose to align itself with the state of Oregon’s approach and will shoot for a 10 percent reduction from current levels by 2020 and a 75 percent reduction by 2050, with an intermediate goal of approximately 40 percent by 2035.
Committee members recognize that a lot might change by 2050 and that flexibility will be required.
“Let’s update this as necessary based on the best science,” task force member Kirk Bailey said. “Let’s think ahead and have the ability to adapt to changes as they are identified.”
The targets would represent the city’s goal and not be legally binding, although three members of the Sierra Club who testified at Tuesday’s meeting encouraged the panel to finalize the targets as soon as possible and include an enforcement mechanism.
“Eventually we will have legislation that says ‘thou shalt,’ ” Bailey said.
The final climate action plan the task force assembles is scheduled to be reviewed by the City Council later this year.
The task force also heard from Jessica Shipley, a state analyst with the Oregon Department of Energy who also provides technical support for the Oregon Global Warming Commission, and Matt McRae, climate and energy analyst for the city of Eugene.
Shipley noted that if current trends continue greenhouse gas emissions will remain flat by that intermediate 2035 checkpoint. Shipley outlined measures the state could take on energy efficiency, transportation, materials and waste, agriculture and power generation that if implemented still might not get the state to that 2035 goal.
“There is no silver bullet, no one strategy,” Shipley said. “It’s going to take a combination of approaches to get there.”
Shipley added that the 2035 goal is “technically feasible but that it will be a difficult measure to implement and a political challenge to move forward with.”
McRae outlined Eugene’s current strategy, which includes reducing city operations to carbon neutrality by 2020 and the community’s carbon emissions to 350 parts per million, which scientists say would limit global temperature increases.
Eugene acted on climate action ahead of most communities, starting its work in 2010. The city’s lawmakers approved a plan in 2014 that calls for the city to hit the 350ppm target by 2050.
“We’re dropping 2.5 percent per year … we’re headed in the right direction,” McRae said. “But to achieve 350ppm? That’s a super aggressive target. Can we do it? I don’t know.”
Panelists and guest speakers all agreed that cities such as Corvallis and Eugene can’t win the battle alone.
“It’s going to take state and federal action, particularly on carbon pricing,” said Susie Smith, a consultant the city has hired to work on the climate plan.