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Auditing for Climate Change

The Secretary of State can do more to respond to the increasing danger of climate change. Sadly, Oregon is falling behind on this front.

In March, Governor Kate Brown issued a historic executive order committing Oregon to a serious climate action by requiring corporate producers to lower carbon emissions. Speaker Tina Kotek and President Peter Courtney have promised that the legislature will address climate change in future sessions.

But the Secretary of State’s office must play a larger role in what my kids tell me is the fight of their lives.

Here is how I would do it:

My Proposal

It’s up to the Secretary of State and the Audits Division to hold state agency’s accountable.

The Oregon Constitution enshrines the Secretary of State as the state's auditor. This year, the state Audits Division’s 2020-21 Audit Plan currently lists one performance audit on climate change: Climate Change Risk Management Strategy. This is a good first step, but we are years behind where we need to be to effectively fight climate change.

As Secretary of State, one my top priorities will be to ensure Oregon has a statewide strategic plan for climate change. The Audits Division is in the best position to assess statewide coordination and prioritization of strategic priorities for climate change. I will task auditors with evaluating how agencies can more effectively work together to address climate change. Where applicable, each audit will include an evaluation of an agency or program’s climate change impacts, and more audits will focus on broad evaluations of the state’s preparation for climate change and mitigation of its effects.

These audits would focus on four questions:

  1. Are agencies evaluating the effects of climate change on their services?
  2. Are they developing and executing mitigation strategies?
  3. Are they reducing the effects of their own operations on carbon emissions, including contractor impacts?
  4. Most importantly, are agencies collaborating on a statewide level to effectively consolidate strategic priorities around climate change?

These questions are critical. Oregon’s department of Human Services has 10,000 employees. Do they all drive to work? What are private contractors asked to do to lessen their carbon footprint. The Oregon Department of Transportation has 5,000 employees. Same questions: how are employees and contractors working on plans to cut greenhouse emissions?

Climate change is one of the most daunting issues of our time, and we are far behind schedule in crafting an effective response to it. The Secretary of State’s office can and should do more to play a role in climate change response strategy.

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