Eugene Sustainability Commission recommends new fund to fund the city’s climate change plans

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Eugene’s Climate Policy Advisory Council suggests that the city set up a special fund to fund underfunded projects, such as those aimed at reducing fossil fuel consumption.

At its meeting on February 17th, the Sustainability Commission recommended that the city councils set up a climate protection fund and fill it with new income specifically for the achievement of the goals of the Climate Action Plan 2.0. The recommendation included opportunities for mechanisms to fill the fund, including city fees, carbon pricing and an elective measure.

“We have tried to do some of the groundwork for the city by examining some of the mechanisms we could use,” Commissioner Art Farley said at the meeting. “We cannot hope for an effective outcome from the CAP if there are no funds to support the action.”

The climate protection plan calls for the fulfillment of various environmental goals, such as achieving CO2 neutrality by 2020 and in the following years and increasing the canopy cover throughout the city. But Eugene did not provide any special means to achieve them.

“Do it. I agree. We don’t have all the money to do this stuff,” Councilor Emily Semple told the commissioners. “I fully support this and can hardly wait for it to come to the council.”

Urban arborist Sean O'Brien of the City of Eugene attaches an information sign to a freshly planted red chestnut tree along Praslin Street in Eugene.  The tree is one of more than 150 trees the crew will plant along the driveway this month.

The Sustainability Commission examined and considered options that other cities have implemented to fund such goals. Some options sent to the council include:

CO2 prices: Essentially taxes on greenhouse gas emissions, this option requires manufacturers and consumers to bear the costs associated with fossil fuel use. The commission cited cities that use carbon pricing programs, such as Boulder, Colorado.

As travel is a source of emissions, the Commission included the option of carbon pricing to charge a per-ticket fee. Based on operations prior to the Eugene Airport pandemic, the commission said a $ 2 per ticket fee would raise about $ 1 million in a year.

The commission included the option of a direct carbon excise tax, suggesting that a tax of $ 1 on every ton of greenhouse gases emitted would generate $ 856,000 a year.

Commissioners cited Portland as an example of a “healthy climate fee” that would be levied on companies that emit more than 2,500 tons of greenhouse gases annually. A similar fee in Eugene would affect 12 companies, such as the facility of JH Baxter and Co ..

Property tax reconciliation measure: This option includes a tax that is not based on direct carbon usage and would be a broad means of generating revenue for the climate protection fund.

“The advantage of this funding mechanism is that it would create a secure and long-term source of money, although it takes a lot of effort and resources to get a measure on the ballot,” reported the Sustainability Commission in its proposal for the climate protection fund.

A tax of 6 cents per $ 1,000 appraised would bring in around $ 1 million per year, given that Eugenes’ estimated property value is about $ 17 billion, according to the proposal for the Climate Action Fund. That’s $ 30 a year for a $ 500,000 home.

Green / climate bonds: Infrastructure bond issuance, similar to traditional US Treasury-style bonds, could attract private investment in local projects, the commission said in its proposal. The commission cited Portland’s sale of Green Bonds in 2016, providing that city with $ 18.5 million to convert streetlights to energy-efficient LED lamps.

Green Revolving Loan Fund: Over time, this option establishes an ongoing funding instrument for sustainability projects. The US Department of Energy operates such a fund.

Grants: The commission included grants from organizations such as the Urban Sustainability Directors Network’s Innovation Fund as a way to fill the local fund.

Transport Fees and Taxes: With the city not on track to complete its 20-year bicycle and pedestrian projects with current funding, the commission included options such as road bonds, gasoline taxes, vehicle registration fees, and other road funds and grants.

“We’re not making recommendations on anything, we just want the Council to be aware of all of these different mechanisms,” Commissioner Laura Allen told The Register-Guard. “I think it’s going to take money from different directions. So if we have a fund that can flow anything into, everyone will know how we’re going to achieve those goals.”

The Commission’s recommendation to set up a climate protection fund will finally be presented to the political decision-makers in the city council of von Eugen. Sustainability manager Chelsea Clinton said city councils need to decide if and how to fill the fund.

“If you look through them, they’re great ideas, but they can be challenging to implement. You have to look at the legality first,” Clinton said. “This is a great place to start. It’s an extensive list and a lot for the community and city council to consider.”

Contact reporter Adam Duvernay at [email protected] Follow @DuvernayOR on Twitter.

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