Action 44. Thank our Governor, with caveats, for passing Climate Change Legislation.

Yesterday our governor signed into law a bill that aims to understand how, where, and to what extent Washington can reduce our GHG emissions. In his previous incarnation as US Representative, Inslee was a tireless champion of alternative energy and climate change solutions (his 2007 book Apollo’s Fire, gives insight to the extent to which he has been a major leader on this issue for several years now).

This bill is designed to prepare a roadmap for our state as to how we can meet the targets set by our state legislature in 2008, which included:

  • Ÿ  by 2020, reduce overall emissions of GHG in the state to 1990 levels;
  • Ÿ  by 2035, reduce overall emissions of GHG in the state to 25 percent below 1990

    levels; and

  • Ÿ  by 2050, the state will do its part to reach global climate stabilization levels by

    reducing overall emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels, or 70 percent below the state’s expected emissions that year.

Passing this bill was a strong signal from Governor Inslee about his commitment to moving forward on climate change, and its no small feat that this legislation passed through a Republican Senate (with a notable amendment, which stayed in through passage, by a Republican Senator to remove the language in the bill that stated that greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to human health and the environment. Really??).

However, also notable is the fact that folks, we’ve been here before. This bill essentially says that the State will go hire a consultant and put together a workgroup to evaluate other states’ and countries GHG programs and do a cost-benefit analysis of the various ways that our state might be able to achieve the above targets. I’m feeling a bit deja vu of the 2009 directive of our last Governor to establish emission reduction targets within our state agencies. I will grant you that prior Governor Gregoire turned to this approach because she specifically could not get climate change regulations through the legislature, and Inslee’s bill is likely to be a more comprehensive look across economic sectors. But I also cringe a bit at the fact that this feels like studying the problem for the sake of studying the problem rather than acting on the problem.
There are resources already out there for taking sensible steps towards emissions reductions, both in terms of broadening the goals Gregoire already set and in terms of 3rd party resources that provide guidance on greenhouse gas emissions, e.g., WRI’s “Using Existing Federal Laws and State Action to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Making meaningful reductions in GHGs is incredibly time critical; we don’t have the time, or money, to turn this into a dissertation, or reinvent the wheel ten times over. The silver lining may be the fast turnaround this bill demands, asking for a report by the end of this year, so this may help preclude studying the issue to death and kick the results over to the workgroup where we might actually see implementation start to occur. I’m hoping so; in the meantime, I sent a thanks to Governor Inslee, but with a plea to keep up the momentum and meaningful action.
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