Gonzalez: Pass a bold Clean Energy Jobs bill
As I begin my term as a Metro councilor, I frequently ask myself: What kind of region are we going to leave for future Oregonians? What communities will benefit from our decisions?
I believe the issues we work on are interconnected. As we develop strategies to support a healthy climate, affordable homes, options for getting around and access to nature, we need to ensure the outcomes benefit everyone — particularly the people who have borne the brunt of injustice for so long.
The catastrophic changes that are coming if we don't take bold action on the climate crisis keep me up at night. But we can change direction. To address climate change, we need to rapidly transition away from fossil fuel infrastructure, while centering and uplifting those who are most impacted by climate change and pollution.
The Green New Deal is an exciting vision for community-led climate initiatives and investments to dramatically expand clean energy and family-wage jobs, with a clear-eyed focus on low-income communities and people of color. These communities frequently pay the heaviest price for our decisions, and like all of us, deserve the opportunities to live a healthy life.
The Clean Energy Jobs bill, currently being considered by the Oregon legislature, is a chance to build a Green New Deal that invests in the capacity of and economic viability for all, not just those that can afford it. It will help our region and state move away from fossil fuels toward clean energy, and it invests heavily in climate strategies that empower communities to be local stewards of our clean energy future — expanding economic opportunity, improving air quality and reducing the need to drive so far to meet basic needs.
The clean energy economy employs people in a wide range of jobs, from construction workers to salespeople, engineers, designers, and office staff. Investments from Clean Energy Jobs will expand these local jobs, and a new economic report found they will also save people money that they are more likely to use to support the local economy, rather than sending it out of state to fossil fuel companies. In addition, energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades will be made more affordable, saving families and small businesses on energy bills.
Metro's Climate Smart Strategy sets out regional climate priorities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Funding from Clean Energy Jobs must be committed to fund the strategies that we know reduce climate pollution and help people get to work and school, including expanding transit access, improving pedestrian and bike safety, and increasing accessibility for people with disabilities and communities who have been displaced to areas with poor infrastructure.
All of these decisions should be made with representation of the communities on the front lines of climate change, including communities of color, tribes, rural and low-income communities. Meaningful representation in decision-making by impacted populations is essential because it leads to more inclusive, accountable and effective strategies.
We're now seeing the impacts of climate change and have just 11 years to get it under control before even greater problems will be locked in. The Clean Energy Jobs bill is a major step toward a clean energy future that puts people first. Let's come together and pass bold action for climate justice. There's no time to waste.
Juan Carlos González represents Metro Council District 4, encompassing northern and western urban Washington County.
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