How Clean Buildings Can Help Oregon Fight Climate Change

In Oregon Climate Action Plan by OLCVstaff

Oregon is growing fast–by the year 2050, more than 700,000 new homes and 800 million square feet of new commercial space will be added to our communities. These new buildings will last for years–for decades; maybe even centuries. Will they run on fossil fuels? Will they be energy efficient? Who will have access to them? What kind of legacy are we leaving for the next generation of Oregonians?

What we build today should contribute to the future we want to create–a future free from fossil fuels: one that runs on clean energy, and leaves the next generation with cleaner air, lower utility bills, and a healthier climate. We’re running out of time to make this future a reality. Oregon needs to take bold action now to create a better future. Governor Kate Brown’s executive order for climate action (now known as the Oregon Climate Action Plan) will help us get started, but we need to do more.

We haven’t forgotten how Republican lawmakers upended our democracy to kill climate action: how they walked out on climate legislation and prioritized fossil fuel interests over Oregonians. Governor Brown’s executive order for climate action is a first step in helping Oregon transition to clean energy, but it’s not enough. Send an email to your lawmakers and urge them to make climate legislation a priority!

As we head into another summer of drought and wildfire (over 72% of Oregonians are currently in drought or unusually dry conditions!), I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change, and about clean air.

Buildings play a surprisingly big role in both–they consume nearly half of all the energy in the state, and are responsible for a third of Oregon’s climate pollution. Many of our buildings rely on outdated technology like natural gas, which contributes to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Clean buildings, on the other hand, are constructed with better insulation, more natural light, and energy efficient appliances that run on renewable energy like wind and solar, instead of natural gas or other fossil fuels. And clean buildings mean cleaner air both indoors and outside, which is especially important for our health in the time of COVID.

Thanks to Governor Brown’s foresight, the Oregon Climate Action Plan will help us build more clean homes and businesses: it sets goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in new construction. It’s a good start. But what about existing buildings? What about people living in low-income communities? Low-income families currently spend 10% of their income on utilities, compared to 3.5% for the average household. And low-income communities and communities of color also suffer from worse indoor and outdoor air quality.

We need to do more to ensure that everyone has access to the benefits of clean buildings, and protect our communities from climate change. The Oregon Climate Action Plan is a start, but we can’t stop there. Send an email to your lawmakers and remind them that Oregon still needs to pass bold climate legislation. The future we’re building today needs to be built for everyone. We can’t wait to take action: let’s keep holding our lawmakers accountable and demand a better future.