We know that the most important thing we can do to reduce the future impacts of climate change is to reduce our climate pollution and transition off fossil fuels and towards renewable technologies for our energy needs. 16 of the earth’s 17 hottest years on record have occurred in the 21st century. It’s no coincidence that Washington’s weather is getting stranger and more extreme. 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.
But 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.
Our work is guided by the principles of effectiveness – basing our fossil fuel reduction goals on science and equity, ensuring the policies we fight for are fair for communities disproportionately impacted by air pollution and workers who need support in the transition from a dirty to a clean energy economy. To achieve our goals we use legislation, agency rulemakings, ballot measures, and legal action.
We are honored and excited to be partnering with organizations championing Environmental Justice, specifically those communities of color and people of lower incomes who are acutely dealing with the impacts of climate change. We are working to remove barriers to participation in order to build a just and sustainable climate movement.
Policies to limit carbon pollution
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. 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
- We have the opportunity here in Washington make consequential change to rely on clean sources of electricity. This is the energy that runs our homes, businesses, vehicles and more. Yet even with substantial hydro resources and an increasing amount of wind and solar, Washington state still depends on fossil fuels like natural gas and coal as a source for electricity. While most of the coal plants will retire in the next decade, coal plant retirements may lead to the building of new natural gas plants. WEC is working with partners across the state to adopt a policy for 100% clean energy that results in both reductions in our state’s air pollution and regional pollution by ensuring that reductions here in Washington don’t shift the pollution burden elsewhere.
- 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 and supporting the ongoing good work by the Sierra Club to close down coal plants in other states owned by Washington utilities. President Trump’s reckless and determined approach to use every tool available to the federal government to keep dirty and expensive coal plants running makes our work even more urgent. WEC is an integral part of this work to move past fossil fuels.
- Transportation has a vital role in shaping Washington’s quality of life. It affects public health, our spending money, the length of our commutes, and even our visibility in highly polluted areas. Transportation is also the largest source of air and climate pollution in Washington. Burning petroleum to operate cars, trucks, planes, trains, ships, and ground equipment produces carbon dioxide exhaust, the main climate pollutant. Vehicle air conditioning systems also release hydrofluorocarbons, which is a class of climate pollutants that trap even more heat than CO2. WEC is working hard to create long-term solutions that steadily lower and eventually eliminate transportation pollution. This requires encouraging investment in alternative fuels and vehicles that do not need petroleum and prioritizing their use in pollution hot spots such as in Port Districts and manufacturing centers. It also requires updating our land use codes and making smart transit investments to help move people, freight, and goods efficiently.
Economy wide programs
- WEC is currently working with our partners at the Yes on 1631 campaign to pass Initiative 1631 in the November 2018 ballot. This initiative would put in place a fee on climate pollution that generates the necessary funds to invest in a clean energy economy, healthy forests and clean water, community health, and a just transition away from fossil fuels. The initiative would administer a climate pollution fee on the large energy companies that choose to use and sell fossil fuels in Washington. The funds would be allocated according to boards that reflect the diversity of the impact. Key areas of investment are in clean air and clean energy, communities, healthy forests and clean water, and job training. Projects that support high quality labor standards and benefit communities suffering the most from pollution and poverty would be prioritized for the grant funding. The initiative would ensure Washington does its part to reduce global warming and protect its natural and human-made infrastructure from future climate destruction. The prioritization of the funding makes sure that every Washingtonian stands to benefit from the resulting healthier environment, modern technology, and job creation.