Oregon seeks community voices for climate equity committee

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is looking for members for its new climate equity advisory committee.

DEQ is looking for about a dozen members from around the state to provide feedback and hold the agency accountable for its goals under the newly implemented Climate Protection Program. The program is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels used in transportation, residential, commercial and industrial settings by 50% by 2035 and 90% by 2050.

The Climate Protection Program was developed by DEQ under orders from Gov. Kate Brown. It includes new administrative rules that cap and reduce greenhouse emissions over time.

Companies can comply by volunteering in the Community Climate Investments program.

Nicole Singh, DEQ’s senior policy climate advisor, said companies pay a certain amount of money to get credits that fund projects to reduce emissions across the state. She said that’s where the new committee comes in.

“What we’re doing differently in Oregon is we’re saying, it’s not the companies that are going to make the decisions about how these monies are invested,” she said. “We tried to create a program where Oregonians, communities, decide where the money should be invested, and we have prioritized that those monies should be invested in environmental justice communities.”

Youth climate activists march through downtown Portland, May 20, 2022, as part of a youth-led climate mobilization. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is seeking community participants for an advisory panel on climate change.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Singh said the program is not just about reducing burdens in environmental justice communities but ensuring that the benefits flow across the state, including to communities of color, low-income communities, communities with less access to infrastructure for renewable energy and communities that have been historically. marginalized.

One of the first orders of business for the committee will be reviewing applications from nonprofits seeking funds. Singh said that can range from installing solar panels to electric water heaters that make homes more energy efficient.

But this can also present some challenges, she said. Since this is a new program, working with third-party companies might make it difficult for the committee to decide where the funds should be invested.

“Some challenges are going to be just learning to work with each other,” she said. “They have to basically make decisions about how they’re going to make decisions. That’s going to be something I think that’s new. “

DEQ is looking for community members who have lived experience or interests in environmental justice, climate change and health impacts.

“Since the program does prioritize investments in environmental justice communities, of course, we want to hear most from people from environmental justice communities or people who have served environmental justice communities,” she said.

Those interested should provide a statement before the July 8 deadline.

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