Businesses rally behind strategies for reducing GHGs

A diverse group of high-profile businesses have recommended a set of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to frame the discussion on how the state should respond to climate change. 

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The Oregon Business Leaders’ Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Task Force, led by Merritt Paulson, CEO of Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns, and John Carter, Oregon Board of Trustees for the Nature Conservancy, released a ground breaking set of recommendations they say show promise for reducing carbon emissions while growing the economy.

The task force of 20 members represents a broad swath of the business community, several of which are large emitters of GHGs, including timber, agriculture and energy companies. Members include representatives from Ochoco Lumber Company, Google, Portland General Electric and ESCO Corporation.  

The report is the culmination of a year-long effort and represents the first time Oregon businesses have collaborated on a climate change strategy.

The set of recommendations the group put forward cut across major areas of the economy, including transportation, alternative fuels, energy and agriculture.

Crucially, the group supports carbon pricing – the most controversial and potentially most effective method of reducing GHGs. But it admitted in a newly released report that members had differing views on how best to frame a strategy.

Rather than support a specific carbon pricing mechanism, such as a carbon tax or cap-and-trade, the task force recommends the business community participates “constructively” in any legislative effort to develop carbon pricing. 

State legislators are considering five bills this session to regulate carbon emissions, including variations of a market-based cap-and-trade program as well as a carbon tax.

Other recommendations the task force made include:

  • Introducing congestion pricing and complementary transit improvements to reduce traffic in the Portland metropolitan area.
  • Designing alternative-fuel vehicle incentives, including the electrification of buses.
  • Developing a new state tax incentive for building owners who provide energy efficiency retrofits for their renters.
  • Modernizing irrigation systems to reduce energy use and conserve water.

The task force calls on businesses and government agencies to better coordinate on climate policy to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. Oregon will exceed its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal by 22% if it does not take more economy-wide actions to cut emissions, a government report shows. 

Merritt Paulson is the son of Hank Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs and U.S. Treasury Secretary under president George. W. Bush. The senior Paulson has taken a lead role publicizing the economic risks associated with a changing climate. Last month Paulson joined other prominent Republican policy makers in calling for a revenue-neutral carbon tax starting at $40 per ton.