One of the things we talked to Barb Iverson about in our group interview was cap and trade, an environmental policy being instituted in many places around the world which takes a two-pronged approach to reducing carbon emissions. Cap refers to the set limit placed on emissions under cap and trade, which is supposed to decrease over time. Companies that produce carbon emissions are then permitted to buy and sell their carbon allowances (trade). Ideally, the system creates a business incentive to willingly minimize carbon emissions while simultaneously mandating and reducing the maximum amount allowed. In March, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed an executive order creating cap and trade in Oregon following a standstill in legislature as Republicans boycotted sessions. Our partnership organization, the Oregon Farm Bureau, is heavily affected by this order and quickly issued a statement of opposition.
OFB has many reasons to oppose the order, which are outlined in their statement and further detailed in an op-ed written by Barb for The Bulletin. These issues mainly pertain to the cost of the order for Oregon farmers and ranchers. The goal of the order is to discourage high carbon emission activities and encourage alternatives. However, during our interview Barb pointed out that many farming activities require some activities with higher emissions at least for now, for instance, there does not yet exist an electric tractor that can do the job of the tractors that are currently used. In addition to this, the order has little to no acknowledgment of the efforts farms may already be making to offset these necessary emissions. In our interview, Barb expressed her disappointment that farmers like herself would receive no recognition or encouragement for the efforts they may already be making to reduce their impact. In her op-ed article Barb wrote “A ‘disincentive’ where there is no alternative is just a tax.” All of this seems to point towards a central issue– a lack of understanding between farmers and legislators.
Beyond this, OFB’s stance in their statement is that the efforts outlined in the order will have only minimal impact on nationwide carbon emissions, negligible compared to the costs. The Bureau’s statement also discusses concern for the statewide economy, which it says could be negatively affected by losing businesses and jobs as a result of the new costs. It also raises the concern of expensive legal challenges due to the nature of its implementation via executive order.
Oregon’s cap and trade order is too messy to be rushed through legislation. The issue is more complicated than just protecting our environment by reducing emissions. It will have serious and in many cases extreme ramifications for many Oregonians. In order to come to an agreement that is favorable to the most involved parties, cap and trade must be a conversation. Oregon farmers need to be heard. They deserve a seat at the table. What could be the future of cap and trade in Oregon if it became a collaborative solution rather than an issue of opposition?
- Borrud, Hillary. “Oregon Republican Walkout over Climate Cap-and-Trade Bill Continues for a Fourth Day.” oregonlive, February 27, 2020. https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2020/02/oregon-republican-walkout-over-climate-cap-and-trade-bill-continues-for-a-fourth-day.html.
- “How Cap and Trade Works.” Environmental Defense Fund. Accessed April 14, 2020. https://www.edf.org/climate/how-cap-and-trade-works.
- “Oregon Farm Bureau Statement on Governor’s Executive Order.” Oregon Farm Bureau, March 13, 2020. https://oregonfb.org/ofbstatement_goveo/.