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The Statement of Cooperation between California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia is an agreement—a commitment—between bodies of power to proactively create a system that dampens contributions to climate change. This vow includes “accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy, investing in climate infrastructure like EV charging stations and a clean electric grid, and protecting communities from climate impacts like drought, wildfire, heat waves and sea-level changes” (State of Oregon Newsroom, 2022). Many of these actions involve structurally adjusting our carbon emissions in everyday life and better preparing landscapes for inevitable climate changes.
A key component of the SOC is the promise to ensure “equity is centered in [the policymakers’] decision-making” (Pacific Coast Collaborative, 2022). This means no community gets left behind, and implementation of the governors’ decisions is felt across all different demographics and landscapes. This is important within this context, for the policymakers in all four regions came in with highly ambitious agendas and interpretations of what climate action looks like. Policy change is often restricted by differing opinions. A collective decision on what change should look like between different bodies of power is an inspiring first step, demonstrating to other bodies that climate change should not be so divisive that change is impossible.
This collective approach presents itself in multiple ways throughout the SOC. Firstly, there is the direct counterargument to the idea of unemployment being synonymous with climate action. Big companies that largely contribute to climate change often shield themselves from criticism by claiming there will be a slew of unemployment within their sectors should climate action force them to go under. Governor of Oregon Kate Brown, hoping to mitigate this divisive opinion, says that their SOC will both address climate change and create good-paying jobs (State of Oregon Newsroom, 2022).
Furthermore, the rhetoric of the SOC crafts a unifying theme. The word “together” is worked into the piece numerous times. This emphasizes that the SOC is a representation of collective action—a representation of what people even beyond the West support. “The West will continue to lead the way toward a carbon-free future that supports our economy, our people and our planet,” says California Governor Newsom (State of Oregon Newsroom, 2022). The SOC is acting within a web of interactions, each commitment affecting bodies far beyond its jurisdiction and all over the world.
There are concerning things in such broad collectivity. For one thing, the goals they outline claim to bring us closer to 100% clean energy, which is a lofty goal and not something at all realistic within any time soon. Secondly, because there are so many governing bodies involved with different agendas, there is no measurability within their “implementation of actions”. For example, in the commitment to protect land and communities from climate-fueled natural disasters, one point of action is “Protect intact natural and working lands that store carbon, prevent land loss and conversion in high-risk areas, and embed climate in land-use planning decisions to better address changing impacts” (Pacific Coast Collaborative, 2022). This can mean any number of things. Of course, this ambiguity offers different governing bodies some flexibility in creating action specific to their jurisdiction, but it can easily be distorted to do the minimal amount of change occurring in their area.
The most concerning feature of this SOC is the “limitations” section, which only confirms the ambiguity of the text. It reads: “This document shall have no legal effect, impose no legally binding obligation enforceable in any court of law or other tribunal of any sort, nor create any funding expectation; nor shall Pacific Coast jurisdictions and cities be responsible for the actions of third parties or associates” (Pacific Coast Collaborative, 2022). Ultimately, this reaffirms that the SOC is a non-binding commitment, one which presents a desire for change but does not hold the governing bodies accountable in this desire. The only reassurance we have is that “Progress will be assessed and the agreement reevaluated in three years,” but there is no promise that reevaluation will not repeat the same ambiguous patterns (Pacific Coast Collaborative, 2022).
Pacific Coast Collaborative. (2022). Statement of Cooperation on Leading the Transition to an Equitable and Prosperous Low-Carbon, Climate-Resilient Future. https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/10.6.22-PCC-Statement-of-Cooperation.pdf?emrc=7eeeae
State of Oregon Newsroom : NewsDetail : State of Oregon. (n.d.). Www.oregon.gov. Retrieved December 17, 2022, from https://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/pages/newsdetail.aspx?newsid=76254