We know that the most important thing we can do to reduce the future impacts of climate change is to reduce our carbon pollution and turn away from reliance on fossil fuels and towards renewable technologies for our energy needs. One of the most important steps forward is to limit and reduce our carbon pollution.
In Washington, our weather is getting stranger and more extreme. We experienced the hottest summer on record. Bigger forest fires threaten our state – leaving charred communities, air pollution and local economies struggling to recover. Ocean acidification is destroying the livelihoods of fourth-generation fishermen and oyster farmers on Puget Sound. More global warming pollution is making asthma and lung diseases worse – especially for our kids. Hotter, drier weather threatens our water supply, leaving farmers in eastern Washington without water for crops. We can still turn this ship around and take on this challenge. We need to account for the cost of carbon pollution and cut fossil fuel emissions from the largest emitters.
There are several ways to approach limiting carbon emissions, but most of them fall in to one of two categories – sector specific or economy wide policies. Sector specific policies are focused on one sector, or portion of the emissions, while an economy wide policy impacts all sectors of the economy by limiting and/or pricing carbon emissions (this usually looks like a cap and trade system or a carbon tax). All covered sectors would be required to comply with this type of policy.
Both economy wide and sector specific policies have a place in reducing carbon pollution, though an economy wide policy has a broader reach. Here are some examples of economy wide and sector specific programs WEC has worked on.
Sector Specific programs:
- One example of this policy is law that limits emissions from the electricity sector by requiring investment by utilities in renewable energy and energy efficiency. To do this, WEC was part of the team that helped pass I-937 at the ballot in 2006. To date Washington state has had more emissions reductions from this policy than any other. Despite its success, anti-environmental opponents consistently attempt to weaken this program and every year WEC and our partners work in the legislature to help defend it. It also needs extension beyond 2020 and expansion past current targets to ensure that we move completely away from fossil fuels for our electricity needs. To learn more about WEC’s legislative agenda and I-937 defense, visit our climate legislation page.
- Our work on eliminating in state and imported coal electricity or “coal by wire” is ongoing. WEC has engaged in this work over several years – helping get to an agreement on closing Washington’s last coal fired electricity plant in Centralia, supporting the ongoing good work by the Sierra Club to close down coal plants in other states owned by Washington utilities, and supporting a strong Washington plan to meet the requirements of President Obama’s new “Clean Power Plan”. WEC is an integral part of this work to move past fossil fuels and towards 100% carbon-free electricity in Washington.
Economy Wide programs:
- WEC is currently working with our partners at the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy to implement a cap on carbon which would require carbon emissions throughout the state to be held below a specific limit that would then ratchet down over time. Additionally this policy would require emitters of carbon and other greenhouse gasses to pay for each ton of pollution they emit and that money would then be reinvested in continuing to reduce emissions.
- The Department of Ecology is currently developing a Clean Air Rule (CAR) to help Washington meet our statutory greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limits – WEC is actively involved in advocating for a strong rule which will help effectively and equitably reduce GHG emissions from on-road transportation fuel and industrial sources.