The high cost of delay
Just one day after the Eugene City Council on Monday approved a landmark climate ordinance, the White House issued a report that underscores the importance of policymakers at the national, state and local levels acting to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. . . .
The report estimates the cost of mitigating the effects of climate change could rise by as much as 40 percent if action to reduce emissions is delayed 10 years. Such an increase would outweigh any potential savings of the delay urged by most Republicans and some Democrats, who argue that strong action now on climate change would hurt the economy and cost jobs.
Eugene's ordinance seeks to cut communitywide fossil fuel use by 50 percent by 2030, and it calls for city government operations to be entirely "carbon neutral" by 2020. It requires city officials to prepare detailed plans for achieving the emissions reductions, and mandates progress reviews and status reports. And it binds future councils and city managers to pursue the emissions-reduction goals.
By approving the ordinance, the city has committed itself to a sustained course of action to confront climate change. It has, to borrow an old Irish expression, "tossed its cap over the wall," leaving it with no legal choice but to find a way to get to the other side to retrieve it. . . .
On Monday, Eugene showed the way for other U.S. cities and local governments by turning those aspirational climate goals into law. It did so because council members understood, as the new federal report says, that postponing carbon cuts will ultimately lead to higher costs, both in terms of climate-related impacts and in more expensive emissions reductions.
The council also acted because it was the right thing to do. "Fighting climate change is one of the important and defining issues of our time," Councilor Alan Zelenka said Monday night. "Fortunately, Eugeneans get it."