Climate Change is an existential crisis that must be addressed now. Eugene has been at the forefront of proclaiming the need for immediate action, but our follow-through has been lacking. Making a real dent in our climate impact is going to require going beyond the easy changes, and reexamining many of the ways that we do things now. We simply don’t have the option not to. We need to do more than just hope that others will make the necessary changes.
Eugene can and should be a leader in addressing climate change, creating innovative new solutions that will be a model for other jurisdictions. To do this, we need to:
- Rethink our transportation system. 53% of our sector-based carbon emissions come from transportation, and the percentage of trips taken by lower-emission modes such as biking, walking, and transit has actually been going down in recent years. Eugene has included many improvements to our active transportation network as part of the Transportation System Plan, but the barriers to active transportation go beyond not having enough bike lanes in the right places. Even with the best sidewalks in the world, walking isn’t a viable form of transportation if there are few places to walk to. Our city has been built around the car. In addition to focusing our infrastructure dollars on resources for lower emission transportation methods like biking, walking, and transit, we need to revise our land use policies to focus on people and not cars. This means prioritizing compact development to create walkable neighborhoods, and removing requirements that new homes and businesses subsidize car use with high parking requirements.
- Prioritize sustainable and clean energy. Fossil fuels are used to power so much of our lives because they are convenient in the short term, but the long-term impacts are going to be anything but convenient... they will be catastrophic. Eugene needs to be leading transitions to more sustainable energy use. It may be comforting to think that if we wait long enough, new technologies such as electric cars and “clean” natural gas will allow us to continue the types of behaviors that have led us to this crisis. But we don’t have the time to wait. We need both carrots and sticks. We need to proactively incentivizing and facilitating switching to cleaner methods, such as supporting low-income households with electric heat conversions. We also need to make the use of fossil fuels less convenient, and account financially for their long-term impact. We should implement a natural gas consumption tax to both provide funding for climate recovery efforts and discourage usage, and ensure that fees for natural gas and other carbon-intensive fuels truly account for their impact on our environment. We can’t allow our climate recovery efforts to be held hostage by those who profit from the current system.