8:38 a.m. PDT April 6, 2016
Consistently, people are told to save the planet so future generations can enjoy it as well.
Well, some youth aren’t willing to wait.
Dozens of university students from across the state gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to talk about taking matters into their own hands.
The purpose of the Oregon Higher Education Climate Policy Forum was to ask, “What are we doing to lower emissions in Oregon and what might we be doing in the future?”
Willamette University’s Sustainability Institute organized the forum, which brought students from several universities, such as Oregon State University, Southern Oregon University, and Lewis and Clark College.
More than 80 people were in attendance, crowding the hearing room. About 10experts came to present to and speak with attendees.
One of the organizers, Joe Abraham, said student learning was the priority, for students to leave more informed and engaged.
Attendees first learned about Oregon’s emissions and then about Oregon’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan and related state, national, and international policy.
The Clean Power Plan is a policy aimed at combating global warming. It was first proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in June 2014. The final version of the plan was unveiled by President Barack Obama on Aug. 3, 2015.
The Supreme Court stayed implementation of the Clean Power Plan in February pending judicial review, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In Oregon, tens of millions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions are dissipating into the environment every year, caused by factors such as electricity generation, natural gas, transportation, agriculture and more, said Elizabeth Elbel of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
Jason Eisdorfer of the Oregon Public Utilities Commission said to reduce these emissions and move toward a more environmentally-friendly future, Oregon is looking to first increase coal plant efficiency, then convert more coal energy to gas, and finally convert the gas to renewable energy resources.
He said what he presented to the students Tuesday were “the kind of things we are showing our legislators.”
Armed with information, attendees broke into two groups — one to discuss effective, equitable implementation of the Clean Power Plan, and the other to discuss aligning local, state, federal and international policy.
Jake Kornack was the student coordinator for the event.
He said this opportunity for students to engage with this information and seek solutions is vital for progress.
“(Tuesday) was about giving students a chance to engage with key stakeholders in Oregon who are crafting our response to the Clean Power Plan,” he said. “Students rarely have a chance to interact deeply with the people who are actually making the decisions — the people who are translating our international vision to combat climate change into actionable policy.”
Kornack said this next year is critical for Oregon’s future.
“We’re likely to see a statewide policy … to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “Because our state has relatively low emissions, Oregon has the opportunity to create visionary policy that can act as the standard-bearer for other states; it makes sense that we create the most progressive, proven policy model … instead of falling in line by joining California or Washington’s carbon market.”