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City of Corvallis, OSU sign “We Are Still In” pledge to support climate action
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City of Corvallis, OSU sign “We Are Still In” pledge to support climate action

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The Corvallis mayor and the president of Oregon State University are among many Oregon officials who have signed a national pledge to support climate action.

The pledge, called “We Are Still In,” surfaced after President Donald Trump on June 1 announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has signed the pledge, which promises to continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum also has signed.

Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber said the city is committing to meeting climate reduction goals the city has already outlined, which are equal to or slightly better than what the country pledged in the Paris accord. The City Council in December passed a Climate Action Plan. Its primary goal is a 3.2 percent annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that, if achieved, would put the city at 75 percent of its 1990 emissions by the year 2050.

Under the Paris accord, the Obama administration pledged to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The accord’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius. The landmark agreement, which was made in 2015 between nearly 200 participating countries, asks nations to set individual targets to reduce emissions.

“We are going to still be doing our part,” Traber said.

The city’s climate plan includes municipal and community actions to improve energy conservation and efficiency, to promote electric vehicle use, to conserve water, reduce waste, expand public transit and more. Traber said a task force is drafting a process for implementing those actions.

Traber said climate change and global warming are serious problems requiring all citizens to make adjustments to their lifestyles.

“It’s a major worldwide problem that needs to be worked on as a whole,” he said. “For the president to renege on commitments the U.S. has already made, and to make some questionable claims on whether it’s a good deal or not good deal, I think it was a bad decision.”

Oregon State University is a global leader in both sustainability and climate change research, and signing the pledge communicates those values, said President Edward Ray.

“Improving the environment and addressing climate change are longstanding priorities and initiatives of the university,” he said.

Ray said OSU students were among the early advocates in the 1970s for Oregon’s bottle bill, which requires cans, bottles, and other containers sold in Oregon to be returnable with a minimum refund value. The bill was created to address a growing litter problem in Oregon.

In 2007, Ray signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which initiated efforts to eventually end the university’s institutional carbon emissions. Since then, per-student carbon emissions at OSU have decreased on an annual basis by 38 percent, he said.

The organization Second Nature, which created the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, provides institution leaders with guides to avoid or reduce emissions through efficiency and conservation, eliminate emissions through switching to renewable sources of energy and offset any remaining emissions.

Ray said the university is a front-runner in academically understanding and measuring climate change, including research efforts to develop renewable and low-carbon sources of energy, such as wave, wind, nuclear and solar energy systems.

OSU also has a sustainability officer, whom Ray encourages students to contact for information on what they can do personally to reduce their carbon emissions.

The Benton County Board of Commissioners has not discussed signing the We Are Still In pledge, county spokeswoman Lili'a Neville said.

The pledge was penned by a group of environmental and sustainability groups. The signees comprise 125 cities, 9 states, 902 businesses and investors, and 183 colleges and universities, Business Insider reported. The coalition represents $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy. Oregon businesses who signed include Intel, Nike, Deschutes Brewery, KEEN, Inc., Portland General Electric, Columbia Sportswear and more.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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