States and local communities are committed to carbon reduction
What: Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy Forum
When: 6 pm Tue., Jun. 20
Where: Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, 1207 Ellsworth St.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Several states have decided to chart their own course in responding to the existential threat of climate change by forming the United States Climate Alliance. Washington, not surprisingly, is a leader of the pack.
In response to President Trump’s decision earlier this month to withdraw from the Paris Accord, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. formed the Alliance to convene U.S. states committed to achieving the goal of reducing emissions by as much as 28 percent from 2005 levels. In doing so, they will meet or exceed the targets set forth in the Clean Power Plan put in place by the Obama administration.
In the past ten days, the U.S. Climate Alliance added Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia to the coalition, which is committed to upholding the Paris Accord and taking aggressive action on climate change.
With input from all participants, the U.S. Climate Alliance will also act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy. Primarily, its intent is to assure world leaders that the population centers of the nation are committed to reaching target goals to reduce carbon pollution.
“Those of us who understand science and feel the urgency of protecting our children’s air and water are as united as ever in confronting one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime,” Inslee said. “Our collective efforts to act on climate will ensure we maintain the United State’s commitment to curb carbon pollution while advancing a clean energy economy that will bring good-paying jobs to America’s workers.”
Drilling down, local groups are at work to ensure that clean energy policy also has a strong social justice component. Pollution and waste has far too long been concentrated in areas of reduced incomes and economic disadvantage, these groups assert.
“In Washington state, we have a tremendous opportunity to fulfill the vision of a robust and just green economy. We can take on big challenges like climate change and improve the lives of ordinary people in the process,” said Sameer Ranade, who helps coordinate the Clean Energy Campaign with Washington Environmental Council. The WEC is a nonprofit, statewide advocacy group that has been helping to pass some of the state’s most critical environmental legislation, including the State Environmental Policy Act and the Growth Management Act.
The WEC is one contributor to the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a statewide coalition of individuals, organizations and businesses dedicated to reducing global warming pollution, strengthening the economy, and making sure all families have a better future. Local supporter organizations also include RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, the Washington BlueGreen Alliance, and Community to Community Development. The alliance feeds into state initiatives, which in turn inform the larger growing cooperation among states.
“The President has said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” California Gov. Brown said, approving a broad swath of policy proposals in the nation’s largest single economy. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy—not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”
“The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy is advancing a statewide policy initiative for 2018 to reduce carbon emissions and build a clean energy future,” according to Eddy Ury, Clean Energy Program manager at RE Sources. “The initiative would invest in clean energy, clean water and healthy forests, by implementing a performance-based tax on major polluters, while providing investment for disproportionately impacted communities and a just transition for workers.”
Lawmakers themselves have put forward a proposed policy to lower carbon pollution and tackle climate change.
House Bill 1646, introduced by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-West Seattle) raises the bar on climate policy by reducing emissions and holding big emitters accountable, substantially growing the clean energy economy, and fully investing in the transition for frontline workers and communities. Environmental groups, leaders from communities of color, labor, health advocates and faith groups support the bill, which is intended to address social justice issues that were glossed in an earlier attempt to price carbon. Initiative 732 was designed to drive down global warming emissions by reducing demand for high-carbon fuels, but failed at the polls last year in part because it did not garner broad support from the coalition of blue-green stakeholders.
If passed in the Legislature, HB 1646 would attempt to create jobs in communities across the state by investing in clean energy, clean water and healthy forests to reduce carbon pollution and address the impacts of climate change. By targeting a share of investments to communities most burdened by pollution, climate threats and poverty, the policy intends to spur an equitable shift to a clean energy economy, supporters said. The bill creates an innovative, performance-based carbon tax that scales in response to progress in reducing emissions. Proceeds from the carbon tax fund the investments in reducing carbon pollution.
“Through creating good jobs and supporting workers and households with lower incomes, it ensures no one is left behind,” Fitzgibbons said of his bill. “The bill creates direct oversight from business, consumers, workers, environmental groups, disproportionately impacted communities and other stakeholders.”
If it does not survive a contentious overtime session in the Legislature, Fitzgibbon’s bill will likely serve as a template for a ballot initiative in 2018.
“As the federal government turns its back on the environment, communities across the country are picking up the mantle of climate leadership and showing the world it’s possible to address climate change while also creating good-paying careers,” New York Gov. Cuomo said. “We all look forward to collaborating and maintaining the momentum in the global effort to protect our planet, while jumpstarting the clean energy economy.”
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