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From Bend to Paris

Local organizers say climate action can't wait



In conjunction with the 21st United Nations Conference on Climate Change, Bend organizations are teaming up for the People's Climate March on Nov. 29. The Bend march was scheduled to occur simultaneously with the Paris climate march, but all events that were set to take place on public streets have been cancelled due to increased security following the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks that claimed 128 lives. The Paris Climate Conference is still scheduled to take place from Nov. 29 through Dec. 11.

The goal of the 21st Conference of Parties talks is to reach an agreement that will hold U.N. member states accountable for adhering to a carbon emissions reductions goal—with a tentative five-year review—to check their progress. The earth's projected temperature rise is fueling the need for change, according to the COP21 website, and studies and reports submitted by countries showing their current emissions indicate if current carbon rates continue, the earth's average temperature could rise by as little as 2 degrees or as many as 6 degrees in the next 100 years.

In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change recognized human-caused climate change, but no comprehensive international agreement has been established and enforced to help reduce carbon emissions. Since then, the consensus among 97 percent of scientists publishing studies in peer-reviewed journals concur the earth's rising temperature is likely human caused, according to NASA.

But the Bend People's Climate March organizers say this global problem can be addressed with smaller steps, beginning with state and city laws and actions down to small habits people can implement in their homes on a daily basis to be more climate conscious.

Bend march organizer Joanne Richter is a watershed scientist who decided to form a steering committee to make climate change action a priority.

"There are several things that I would like to see happen to raise awareness about climate change," she says. "It's real, it's human caused, and we're experiencing climate change in Bend with our snowpack, higher freezing level, and we're not getting snow at lower elevations."

The steering committee is composed of 350 Deschutes, Central Oregon Landwatch, Bend YouCAN, The Environmental Center, the Citizen's Climate Lobby, the Oregon Natural Desert Association, and the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal club. Richter says the purpose of the event is to bring attention to the climate talks.

"We want to educate folks and let them know what they can personally do to combat climate change," she says. Richter recommends replacing light bulbs with LEDs, making sure your home is properly insulated, keeping an eye on your thermostat, and being mindful of turning off your car instead of idling, she says. "Every little small action like that adds up to help reduced greenhouse gas." She adds that the committee is also "advocating to keep fossil fuels in the ground"—especially the ones under public lands. Richter says fossil fuel extraction "has to stop."

Diane Hodiak with 350 Deschutes, the local chapter of a national grassroots climate group, says many people feel the Paris Climate Conference may be the last opportunity to make a significant commitment to reducing carbon emissions in order avoid what scientists are calling the catastrophic tipping point.

"The United Nations has realized for very long [time] that it's not only nations it's cities, too, and cities provide 70 to 80 percent of the carbon emissions," Hodiak says. If climate change becomes a legislative priority, Oregon can get ahead of what could potentially affect its agriculture and outdoor jobs. "The main thing is for us in Central Oregon is we are facing a lot of risk...and that's why we're asking our lawmakers to move forward on this in order to protect our citizens and our businesses because Oregon farmers, beer makers, ranchers, wineries, and retail businesses are forecast to have projected losses and risks from climate change."

While the City has some policies in place, Hodiak is concerned that Bend doesn't have a comprehensive climate plan like Eugene, Ashland, Corvallis, and Portland. She says this specific plan incorporates policies addressing everything from infrastructure—like eco-roofs and green streets—to clean air, transportation, and waste reduction encompassing protection for citizens' health and economic well being.

Senior Policy Analyst Gillian Ockner with the City of Bend explains what actions the City has taken.

"We have a Strategic Energy Management Plan with energy use reduction goals, a commute trip reduction program, and plans for reduction of vehicle miles traveled through the MPO," she says. In 2007, the City adopted the Mayor's Climate Protections Agreement, which urged state and federal governments to reduce the fossil fuel dependence and develop clean energy resources. Today, Ockner says the City has "initiated actions on almost all of the items listed in the 2007 Council Resolution. We are on track to meet our goal of reducing electrical and natural gas consumption of City-owned facilities by 15 percent from baseline by the end of 2016."

Ockner says Bend has a number of energy reducing policies in place that include installing solar panels on its parking garage, and using LED bulbs, replacing motors and pumps within the utilities systems with smaller and more efficiently operating motors. All City of Bend employees are also encouraged to walk, bike, take the bus, or carpool to work.

Bend City Councilor Nathan Boddie will speak at the Climate March. He says climate change is important to him and the City is in need of a comprehensive climate plan. "I think it would be hard to find anybody who doesn't find climate change threatening," he says. "It's threatening from a natural resources perspective, habitat loss, fisheries, wildlife, and economics." Boddie says that this Council recognizes the need to work on addressing climate change "particularly since the City gets a lot of its drinking water from snow melt. We don't have big reservoirs; we have a big snowpack or we don't—in the case of last year—and then we could be in trouble."

Hodiak says the list of things people can do to reduce climate change is endless. She says eating meat largely contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

"Animals and livestock predominately contribute a minimum of 15 to 20 percent of carbon emissions on the planet, and the UN has pretty much said that eating meat is unsustainable," she explains. Other smaller steps people can take are simple things like biking, walking, and taking the bus more. "Vote for climate policy, it brings economic benefits, jobs, and [a better] quality of life to Bend."

Councilor Boddie says, "The other thing that we can do locally is support the regional efforts that do start to chip away at that more global problem." He adds that two thirds of energy in Bend comes from coal. "This is [from] the industrial revolution era and it's a really nasty way to make energy. It's bad for health, it's expensive and...all this coal imported from Idaho, Montana, Wyoming."

At the Bend Climate March, Boddie will be talking about why he's supporting a ballot imitative for Nov. 2016 that he says "will get Pacific Power and Oregon off of coal fired power in a sort of sustained, thoughtful way over the next 20 to 30 years, which will actually improve the economic viability of pacific power and our rate payer." He adds, "And it also brings people together from different parts of the economic, environmental business world in the community and the more those people in groups come together and talk to each other, the more likely we are to be able to work together."

The March will begin at Riverfront Plaza and will include speakers and music by iChiringa! March participants will travel along Wall Street, Greenwood Avenue, Bond Street, and Franklin Avenue.

Organizing the March is not only important for Richter; she understands the problem will continue to get worse for younger generations.

"As a scientist and mom, I felt compelled to build steering committee, but as my daughter's generation has to deal with it, it's a moral imperative to do something about this now."

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