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Gov. Inslee Proposes Ambitious Climate Action Plan


Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s plan would attempt to tackle climate change by reducing carbon emissions, primarily by eliminating non-renewable energy use. (Source: Pixabay)

On Monday, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, alongside Democratic state legislators and climate change activists, unveiled a comprehensive plan to battle the increasing threat of climate change and meet pollution targets set by state lawmakers nearly a decade ago.

The move comes after the recent release of the federally mandated National Climate Assessment, an nonpartisan scientific study conducted by 13 federal agencies. The report found that climate change is already having widespread and occasionally fatal effects on Americans.

On a nation-scale, the report found that climate change partially explains the increasing impacts and frequency of natural disasters. The report also estimated that by the end of the century, climate change could deprive the US of 10% of its GDP.

Washington farmers and fishermen are also expected to be impacted. The salmon business alone could lose $3 billion by 2100. Unpredictable seasonal weather, expected to worsen in the future, has already caused $7 million in losses for Washington farmers in 2015 alone. Native American tribes are, according to the report, at the front line of these oncoming challenges. Summers with raging wildfires and unhealthy, smoke-filled air could become regular.

In October, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also warned of climate change’s dire effects and stressed immediate action. The UN report also concluded that the targets set by the 2015 Paris Accord – an agreement the United States did not sign onto but the State of Washington separately agreed to follow – are not enough to battle climate change and its growing threat.

After I-1631, the second attempt to implement a carbon tax in Washington, failed to pass despite widespread support from Democrats including Inslee, it has become of increasing political importance to Inslee, a possible future presidential candidate, to make concrete policy changes to address climate change.

Inslee’s proposal is based on five main goals he wants to achieve by 2035: a 100 percent clean energy grid, clean buildings, clean fuels, clean transportation, and the elimination of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) “super-pollutants.”

Located in Eastern Washington, the Grand Coulee Dam, pictured above, is one of the largest dams in the world. (Source: US Bureau of Reclamation)

While Washington boasts one of the cleanest electrical grids in the nation, backed by massive hydroelectric production capabilities, more than half of Washington’s energy consumption is from non-renewable sources, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Inslee’s proposal estimates that nearly a third of reduced emissions will come from shifting towards a cleaner energy grid.

The proposal allocates $59 million over the next two years towards clean energy, but a whole $39 million of that portion is designated for electric grid modernization and research. Nonprofits get another 12 million, and 4 million is to be put towards solar energy incentives.

The transportation sector, the largest polluter in the state, gets $129 million over the next two years. $117 million is devoted to making Washington State Ferries’ fleet partially electrically-powered. $3 million goes towards a possible ultra-high-speed rail that could connect Washington, Oregon and B.C. in the future. The rest of the money goes towards promoting electric vehicle use.

$83 million goes towards promoting cleaner buildings, most of which will be used to upgrade state facilities and make them more environmentally-friendly.

The report also includes simple, cheap, effective mechanisms to lowering carbon emissions.

One of these proposed mechanisms is to adopt a cleaner fuel standard that has proven effective in Oregon, California and B.C.

Another inexpensive method is to eliminate HFCs, so called “super pollutants,” that can be found in ACs, refrigerators, and other appliances. These super pollutants often have climate-friendly alternatives. In 2016, world leaders amended the famous Montreal Protocol, initially created to save the ozone layer, to include banning HFCs.

Eliminating HFCs and implementing clean fuel standards, both strategies that are already widely used, would have about the same impact as the money-intensive clean transportation initiatives.

Wind farms are becoming more common in the central and eastern parts of the state. Inslee’s plan argues that jobs associated with wind turbines, and the broader clean energy sector, are on a rise. (Source: Washington State Department of Commerce)

The report also emphasized the economic benefits of these climate control measures that have been portrayed by conservatives as negatively affecting the economy, citing the fact that clean energy jobs are the fastest-growing sector of the west coast economy and outnumber coal jobs two to one.

“A clean-energy revolution represents the jobs of the future,” remarked Inslee in his 2007 book Apollo’s Fire.

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