HB2020: Corporate Carbon Trading Bill

Opposing HB2020

Dear Governor Brown, Speaker Kotek, Senator Dembrow, and Representative Power:

We, leaders of environmental justice groups in Oregon and throughout the U.S., call on you to be a true climate leader by supporting a fair, equitable and just transition and to oppose false solutions that fail to make meaningful impacts and cause further harm. HB 2020, the Oregon Climate Action Program, is one such false solution and we urge you to stop advancing it. It relies on carbon market schemes that commodify emissions and favor polluters at the expense of communities. Instead, the urgency and scope of the climate problem require a cap on emissions, a phase out of existing fossil fuel infrastructure, and an immediate halt on new fossil fuel projects in favor of 100% renewable energy. This must be supplemented by policies that uphold indigenous rights, prioritize support for communities who have historically been harmed by the dirty energy economy, and support workers in the energy sector and related industries.

Carbon Pricing is Not Working

Over 40 governments worldwide have enacted carbon pricing policies, yet emissions in those places continue to increase, especially localized pollution that poses direct threats to frontline communities. We cannot waste any more time on policies that have been shown not to work. Instead we must act quickly to reduce and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels if we want to prevent the planet from warming much beyond 1.5°C. Exceeding this benchmark by as little as .5°C will significantly increase the scale of human suffering, loss in biodiversity and extinctions. It also risks triggering climate tipping points, which will cause irreversible and unpredictable changes to our planet’s climate.

Carbon Trading Harms Our Communities and Creates Sacrifice Zones

Establishing a pollution trading program for carbon means relying on markets to allocate pollution, rather than direct regulation that addresses public health and environmental protection. In a market-based system, polluters can simply purchase credits -- or receive free allowances -- to emit pollution rather than adhering to a hard cap with strong penalties for lack of compliance. The result is a failure to reduce localized pollution causing significant health impacts and creating sacrifice zones. The California cap and trade program has resulted in  pollution hotspots in environmental justice communities, increasing health problems in low-income communities and communities of color that are already overburdened with pollution. Oregon joining that market will exacerbate the pollution burden on frontline communities. In particular, transportation fuel suppliers and refineries, both sectors that have significant impacts on frontline communities, both increased in emissions under California’s cap and trade system.

Carbon Trading is Pay to Pollute, not Polluter Pays

Under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, nobody has an inherent right to pollute our air and water. If passed, HB 2020 will undermine this basic premise by assigning value to pollution. A just and equitable transition is a complete system change, one based around local rather than global economies and is led by the communities who have been most impacted by climate change. In the development of HB 2020, industry has had a significant hand in shaping the program, but environmental justice communities have only been given belated opportunities to give feedback and have had to fight hard to ensure that a small portion of program funds are directed to impacted communities.  

Carbon Trading = Fossil Fuels

We will not transition off fossil fuels with the passage of HB 2020. Instead, because the bill does not explicitly define “sequestration” it opens the door for the use of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, as a scheme to capture CO2 emissions at power plants. CCS is energy intensive, increasing CO2 generation and other harmful emissions from fossil fuels. Furthermore, CCS would require pipeline infrastructure to transport CO2 gas to centralized locations for storage or use. The risks posed by the potential use of CCS technology represent one of the many loopholes in HB 2020.

Carbon Trading is an Unjust Revenue Source

A just and equitable transition will require investment and resources for the communities most impacted by climate change. Because revenue generated by HB 2020 comes from the sale of pollution credits, communities will suffer the health impacts of pollution in order to fund clean, renewable investments. Pollution traders are essentially asking communities to trade clean air for resources. To make matters worse, states that have enacted cap and trade programs have a record of diverting revenue to the general fund, away from clean energy programs.

There are Better Alternatives

Communities have the solution. 100% renewable portfolio standards or renewable energy mandates, investments in public transit, equitable transportation electrification, and direct regulation are proven and effective ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Portland Clean Energy Fund is one example of a just and equitable funding source that is raising revenue without trading pollution. Under this program, billion-dollar retail companies direct 1% of their revenues to fund clean energy programs in low-income communities that will reduce emissions and save money for ratepayers.

We are eager to work with you to create the just energy transition plan that Oregon needs and deserves. Carbon trading plans like HB 2020 are inherently flawed, unjust and continue the toxic legacy of fossil fuels. Oregon and the world need you to show real climate leadership that will ensure a fair, just, and equitable transition to 100% clean renewable energy.


Asian Pacific Environmental Network

California Environmental Justice Alliance

Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice

Center for Sustainable Economy

Climate Justice Alliance

Communities for a Better Environment

Community to Community Development

Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice

Energy Justice Network

Farmworker Association of Florida

Food and Water Watch

Indigenous Environmental Network

Global Justice Ecology Project

Got Green

Grassroots Global Justice

The Harambee House / Citizens for Environmental Justice

Institute for Policy Studies

Just Community Energy Transition Fellowship (Movement Strategy Innovation Center)

Movement Generation

NYC Environmental Justice Alliance

OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon

Unite Oregon

WE ACT for Environmental Justice


Carbon Trading Reading List

We've developed a resource to better understand carbon trading, offsets, and other false solutions. Click here to view it.


Action Alert: Tell Governor Brown You Stand with Frontline Communities

Take action! Click here to tell the Governor: carbon trading harms frontline communities!


FAQ: Frontline Voices against Cap and Trade

Today's video opposing carbon trading has raised some questions. We have answers! Check out our FAQ about why frontline communities oppose carbon trading and offsets.


VIDEO: Frontline Voices against Cap and Trade


Frontline communities and allies with whom OPAL has relationships produced a video to explain why we oppose carbon trading. Check out the video here!


National and Statewide Frontline Communities Oppose Carbon Trading

Groups from across the United States and around the world have sent a letter to Oregon’s state legislature urging politicians to oppose HB2020, the carbon trading bill under consideration in the state legislature. “HB 2020, the Oregon Climate Action Program, is [a] false solution and we urge you to stop advancing it,” reads the letter.

This statement, backed up by recent news and scientific study, includes endorsement of groups from New York, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Florida, Washington state, national organizations, and many California-based groups impacted by their state’s carbon trading bill. Oregon-based groups signing onto the letter include OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Unite Oregon, and Center for Sustainable Economy.

The groups oppose House Bill 2020, the cap-and-trade bill currently under consideration in the Oregon legislature.

“Carbon trading is not working to reduce emissions and pollution. These policies cause harm in our communities and create sacrifice zones,” says Huy Ong, Executive Director of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon. “Our opposition shows solidarity with Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities who are harmed by pollution trading and offsets.”

The letter points to recent studies determining that carbon trading isn’t leading to reduced emissions.

“Our members come from communities on the frontlines of climate change,” says Kayse Jama, Executive Director of Unite Oregon. “As we learn more about the harmful impacts of carbon trading globally, we stand with environmental justice groups from around the world in opposing HB 2020.”

The letter asserts that carbon markets around the world have failed to reduce climate pollution. “In California, where cap and trade has been the law since 2012, localized pollution and emissions from oil refineries have actually increased, particularly in communities of color.” says Darryl Molina Sarmiento, Executive Director of Communities for a Better Environment, based in California.

“Cap and trade actually increases emissions,” says Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli of Farmworker Association of Florida. “For farmworkers in Florida that increase means that it’s hotter out in the fields where they’re working and that leaves them more exposed to heat and heat-related illnesses.”

“With billions of lives and the fate of our planet at stake, we urgently need to stop climate pollution, not let corporations pay to pollute, says Khanh Pham, OPAL’s Organizing Director. “Carbon trading allows for the expansion of new fossil fuel infrastructure, and is an unjust revenue source. There are better alternatives.”

The letter points to alternatives such as equitable transportation electrification, 100% renewable energy portfolio standards, and the Portland Clean Energy Fund, as preferred alternatives to carbon trading.

Read the full letter here.



About The Bill

Objective: Prevent climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Mitigate potential harms to workers in impacted industries. Invest in communities experiencing climate change impacts. Set a national example of what carbon policy can look like.

Issue:  The most serious global crisis impacting people of color and other environmental justice communities is that of climate change. Unfortunately, the wealthiest companies on the planet are to blame. Fossil fuel companies will oppose any legislation to address carbon output. But they can't necessarily stop climate policy. So fossil fuel companies and other polluters also lobby to impact climate legislation, resulting in false solutions.

What's In The Bill: The current bill, HB 2020 includes the following:

  • Creates an Oregon Carbon Policy Office which is only accountable to the Governor.
  • Set up a carbon trading market, allowing polluters to trade "allowances" to pollute.
  • Creates "allowances" - permits to emit climate-changing, health-impacting pollution
  • Creates "offsets" - projects that claim to draw carbon from the atmosphere. Offset projects trade similarly to allowances.
  • Gives allowances to companies expected to face serious impacts in the first years of the program.
  • Reduces the number of allowances offered over time, eventually reducing the amount of pollution allowed overall to a 80% reduction in pollution (from 1990 levels) by 2050.
  • Most revenue generated from selling pollution permits is subject to the state highway trust fund - meaning it must be spent on motor vehicle infrastructure. The bill proposes a workaround directing that the funds must be part of a "Transportation Decarbonization Fund." This may or may not be legal.
  • Funds generated outside the highway trust fund are distributed to frontline communities and impacted workers, attempting to make the transition in the economy easier for those most impacted
Posted in Against Enclosure of Wealth and Power, Against Exploitation, Against Extraction, Against White Supremacy, Air Quality, Build the New, Climate Justice, Coalition Building, Invest in the Good, Just Transitions, Opal in the News, Policy Advocacy.