Eugene is suffering the same climate change inaction as the global community. This is what the United Nations Environment Program calls an “anonymous” problem. adaptation gap: “the difference between actually implemented adaptation and a societally set goal.”
In just a few weeks, Eugene City Council has an opportunity to shift that trajectory and finally execute its Climate Action Plan by adopting an ordinance that will help the city electrify our energy sector — a key step in becoming more resilient in the face of climate change.
Beginning in 2020, community members, climate and tenant’s rights advocates brought forward a plan for Eugene to move our community away from its reliance on fossil fuels. The first is to ensure that future construction uses all-electricity. The next step is to develop a plan for just transition for existing buildings.
The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ReportIt is extremely dire, with the U.N. Secretary of General this week, “we are sleepwalking to climate catastrophe.” Understanding the dire consequences of inaction to address climate change is also impacting people’s mental health. A Recent studyThe Lancet reported that young people are experiencing overwhelming climate anxiety. This is compounded by government inaction.
Eugene residents testified before the City Council to support the passage of the building-electrification ordinance. They raised a variety of valid points that each justified adopting it. Gas stoves pose a risk for the elderly and forgetful, who may accidentally leave the burners on; indoor pollution caused by gas appliances Asthma risk can increase by up to 42%Renters in Eugene, which is roughly half the population, have no control over the energy source of their homes. Facked gas is a dangerous and potent greenhouse gas.
As with many other aspects of the climate crisis’s impact on the environment, residential gas use has health consequences. The Oregon Health Authority2014 Reaffirmed in 2018,“Low-income and minority populations in Oregon have existing environmental exposures and burdens of disease that place them at higher risk.” Noting, “[t]hese groups are more susceptible to climate-related health effects and have fewer resources to plan for, and recover from, climate impacts.”
Not only is electrification a good choice for public health but it’s also an option for electrification. CheaperMore efficient and better for our environment. Northwest Natural, a non-profit gas utility, seeks approval from the Oregon Public Utility Commission. Rate increasesThis would lead to an average 11.8% increase in residential ratepayer bills. EWEB subsidies are not available to homes that are primarily heated by natural gas.
It’s time to ensure that we are building a livable future. Literally. To be able to operate with a decarbonized grid, new construction must not be retrofitted in just a few decades. Supporting a fossil free Eugene is the best way forward, regardless of whether you are motivated to improve indoor air quality, address social justice inequities and reduce our dependence on energy resources that fuel global conflicts and make them more difficult to resolve, cut costs for homeowners and renters, or confront climate impacts and their associated anxiety.
Bethany Cotton was born in Oregon and raised there. She is now an environmental attorney and conservation director at Cascadia Wildlands.