A Call for Climate Action - Columbia Land Trust
Advocates hold signs supporting the Portland Clean Energy Fund
The Land Trust is endorsing climate action proposals, including two initiatives on ballots in Washington and Portland.

Since its inception in 1990, Columbia Land Trust has been dedicated to conserving and caring for the lands, waters, and wildlife of the Columbia River region through sound science and strong relationships. Given our focus on voluntary, private conservation solutions with willing landowners, we’ve historically refrained from advocating publicly for issues unless they were directly tied to conservation. Today, it’s clear that climate change represents a threat to our vision of a thriving and nature-rich Northwest.

While the impacts of climate change extend far beyond the realm of conservation and far beyond this region, we see local and regional conservation action as critical and tangible avenues for climate action. By conserving wetlands, forests, and other natural lands, we can store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions tied to land use change. By conserving and restoring rivers and wetlands, we can offer both drought and flood resilience while protecting vulnerable water supplies. By encouraging the installation of native plants and trees in the urban landscape, we can lower summer temperatures that threaten the most vulnerable among us. These are natural climate solutions.

At the same time, we recognize that conserving land at our current pace and changing our daily behaviors won’t be enough. By using our collective voice, we can bolster our efforts at home and in the field with political action. Our circumstances today demand that we do more than we’re used to—that we do everything in our power to act while we still can.

Columbia Land Trust is endorsing three proposals that address climate change—two initiatives on this November’s ballot (The Protect Washington Act & The Portland Clean Energy Fund), and one bill that will be introduced into the 2019 Oregon legislature. These initiatives would create critical new funding sources for our private conservation work.

What We’re Voting On

Washington Initiative 1631, also known as the Protect Washington Act, will be on the ballot in Washington State on November 6th. The initiative would enact a carbon emissions fee on large emitters. The fee would be $15.00 per metric ton of carbon beginning on January 1, 2020, and would increase by $2.00 per metric ton each year until the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals of 2035 are met and the 2050 goals are on track to be met. Revenue from the fee would go into three funds: (1) a fund for air quality and energy programs and projects, (2) a fund for water quality and forest health projects, and (3) a fund for community-related investments.

The Protect Washington Act provides support for many of the strategic priorities in the Land Trust’s Conservation Agenda. This bill would create funding sources for projects like sequestration, freshwater enhancement & habitat development, and climate change resilience to name a few. The intention and language of the bill prioritize equity and community resilience, both of which directly align with our organization’s equity commitments.

The Portland Clean Energy Initiative, also known as The Portland Clean Energy Fund, will be voted on by Portlanders on the November 6th ballot. If passed, it would impose a tax of 1% on the revenues of certain very large national retailers with significant operations in Portland (excluding groceries and medicine) and dedicate the money to an array of measures that respond to climate change. The measure has a strong environmental justice component, as much of the funding it would raise would go to underrepresented, historically disadvantaged populations.

The Portland Clean Energy Fund provides funding and support for both clean energy projects and clean energy jobs training. As an organization heavily invested in the future green economy, equitable workforce development in the sector is of absolute importance to us, and to the communities in which we work. Certain funding streams directly align with our mission, including but not limited to projects such as watershed support, forestry as a tool for sequestration, and green infrastructure.

Looking Ahead

Oregon’s Cap and Invest Bill, also known as the Clean Energy Jobs bill, will soon be re-introduced into the 2019 legislature. If passed, this bill would set a cap on total greenhouse emissions, and about 100 companies in the state’s largest industries would be required to buy pollution permits to cover their emissions. This bill requires any business that emits more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent to have a permit to do so. Over time, the cap on emissions will come down and fewer pollution permits will be available, leaving companies with a choice: reduce emissions, spend more on permits, or buy credits to offset their emissions.

This system creates a new marketplace that allows companies to buy and sell pollution credits, which in turn creates opportunities for offset projects and gives people, like forest landowners an opportunity to sell carbon sequestration credits from not cutting down trees. Offset credits could provide cheaper options for companies, making the new market of credit and permit buying/selling competitive, but with an end result of emission reduction. Options are good, and lower emission levels are better.

It’s called a “cap and invest” program because the state of Oregon could make an estimated $700 million a year from selling these pollution permits. That money would then be invested in projects that expand public transit, solar power, electric vehicles, and home energy efficiency upgrades that will help reduce the state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

We’ll be keeping you posted on how these measures will affect our work at Columbia Land Trust, but we believe that one of the most effective ways to act on climate change is to educate yourselves on these issues and vote.

We’ve devoted more than a quarter century to conserving land so that we can pass the legacy of a nature-rich Northwest to future generations. That legacy depends on the action we take today.