Washington Business for Climate Action was looking forward to an active 2020, when like everyone, our plans ground to a halt. We had planned to host quarterly Climate Innovation Salons in a packed cocktail bar in Downtown Seattle. That didn't happen. We found ourselves redefining what it meant to meet up, share ideas and even find new ways to network. When COVID hit, climate change was still accelerating, so we could not rest either.
Transcending the pandemic and still continuing our work was a great accomplishment. We worked together as a network to advance climate policy and action in our state. We are especially proud of four events we held in 2020 that kept the ball rolling:
Climate Innovation Happy Hour with Microsoft and UW Climate Impacts Group
Originally an in-person cocktail hour, we hosted a fun Zoom Happy Hour in March, before they became common-place. We weren't sure how we were going to pull it off, frankly. But it all worked out thanks to our talented, knowledgeable and interesting speakers. Elizabeth Willmott and Katie Ross of Microsoft shared their inspiring path to carbon negative by 2030. Dr. Amy Snover from the UW Climate Impacts Group gave us a sobering update on the latest climate science. It felt good to get back to work, in defiance of the pandemic.
Building Back Better with Kevin Tempest
Most of our members were swept up in COVID response, so once that had settled, we began to hold Lunch & Learns. In August, we hosted Kevin Tempest of the Low Carbon Prosperity Institute to present the result of their new report: Building Back Better: Investing in Resilient Recovery for Washington State. The report found that investing in clean transportation, forest conservation and ecosystem restoration, clean energy, water and energy efficiency, low carbon agriculture and sustainable industries could build a green economy while creating new jobs. The presentation left us with a sense of optimism that as we rebuilt our economy, we could build back better.
Fall Washington State Legislative Preview
The legislative session was upon us, so we continued our annual tradition of a climate policy legislative preview in October. Vlad Gutman-Britten, Washington Director of Climate Solutions, briefed the group on the many policies headed to the legislature. With a record budget deficit and the desire to "build back better", the legislative session was an important one. We walked away with some actionable steps that businesses could take to support climate policy in the 2020/2021 legislative session.
How to Talk to the Other Side
We wrapped up our year of events with a lunch and learn by sustainability expert Kevin Wilhelm, the CEO of Sustainable Business Consulting. Kevin is an author of many books, and recently published How to Talk to the Other Side: Finding Common Ground in the Age of Coronavirus, Recession and Climate Change. Kevin shared practical actions and strategies for finding common ground with others who might not agree with us. As we came off of a divisive election and sought to advance smart climate policies, we were well positioned with Kevin's advice.
2020 was not the year we expected, but our network was resilient. We weathered the COVID storm with our eye to continuing to advance our business climate leadership. And that we, as business leaders, are the folks to solve this crisis. Climate salons turned to Zoom. In the face of a pandemic, our dedication to climate leadership never wavered.
Washington businesses are making some big shifts in their business operations to reduce their impact on climate. We found this out for certain last month when a group of about twenty business leaders from the tech, healthcare, services, manufacturing, retail and energy sectors came together to envision next year’s steps for the Washington Business for Climate Action network. Over the last five years, we have worked together to advance climate literacy in the business world and engage businesses on smart climate policy. We are proud of that work. And happy to say there's more to come in 2020.
At our recent meeting, the business leaders in the room reaffirmed our dedication to addressing climate change. Many folks shared their work around climate policy engagement. But just as powerfully, we were all inspired as we shared concrete steps our businesses were taking to reduce carbon emissions, like:
All of these steps taken by Washington business are worthy of amplification and sharing. That’s why this year we have developed three main goals for our network:
We hope we will see you in this exciting year ahead. Join us, and receive invitations to our events, by signing the Climate Declaration!
I couldn’t be more excited about a vision that’s gaining momentum across the Northwest: achieving 100% clean and efficient energy across all sectors, in the Northwest by 2050.
The idea makes sense, since Washington businesses are on the climate change front lines, as climate change impacts threaten to diminish our natural areas, our communities and our ability to do business. Over the last five years, business has been impacted from reduced snow pack, over-heated rivers, wildfires, air quality and ocean acidification. Most recognize that ‘climate vulnerable’ businesses like ski resorts, hop farmers, forest managers or fisherman are already impacted and will continue to be highly impacted in the future. But businesses that rely on global, interconnected supply chains will also suffer in a changing climate.
While many major business understand these impacts and have already made a commitment to go “100% renewable” including Apple, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Nestle, eBay, Facebook, Google, Johnson and Johnson, Microsoft, Nike, and Starbucks – the opportunity to transition our entire region to 100% clean and efficient energy in every sector is a proposition that would clearly be an incredible game changer for all Northwest businesses, our region and the nation.
Not only is it possible to do this in the Northwest, but we’re in a position to both lead and do so faster than anywhere else in the nation. Why? We are home to a diverse base of technology leaders which provides an incredible platform for continued renewable and low carbon technology innovation. We have also long been blessed with abundant hydro power, are a large wind producer and home to many other clean energy developments. Finally, our region has long relied on and values our natural environment and we have become leaders in sustainability.
To achieve this bold vision, however, a number of key elements will need to be embraced:
Go Coal Free: Washington will need to completely remove coal from the Northwest’s power grid. Oregon’s already done so. Both states should also embrace additional energy efficiency, phase out gas-fired power, and increase renewable energy.
Embrace Clean Electric and Phase Out Oil: Electrifying the transportation sector which produces nearly half of Washington’s carbon pollution (along with as many other areas as possible) will help us phase out fossil fuels. We can join California’s commitment to cut petroleum consumption in half by 2030 and then phase out fossil fuels for surface transportation by 2050.
Build and Invest in Clean Energy Jobs and the Economy: We’ve just started to scratch the surface on the economic opportunity that comes from clean energy. One success story is solar. In a very short period of time, the solar industry has grown to employ twice as many workers as the coal industry, almost five times as many as nuclear power, and nearly as many workers as the natural gas industry. While the clean energy economy is expanding, the opportunity to spur economic development by growing investments in innovative renewable and low-carbon technologies will only serve to help ‘homegrown’ jobs flourish, along with our economy.
Target Urban Decarbonization: 70% of global carbon emissions come from cities. It’s essential that we create deep carbon reduction strategies – that include focusing on buildings, transportation, and energy supplies.
Support a Sustainable Transition As we transition to clean energy economy we need to support business and communities by offering broadly shared economic opportunity.
Washington businesses are just beginning to understand the importance of going 100 percent clean energy and what they have to gain. We’ll continue to explore this idea and share information as this continues to move forward.
Lisa McCrummen is on the Washington Business for Climate Action Leadership Team and owns CreativeThink.
Nobody ever said tackling a climate policy would be easy.
How could it be, given that our nation’s entire infrastructure has, for so long, been dependent on fossil fuels. But the tsunami of wrong-headed actions this climate-science-denying, pro-fossil-fuel US administration has issued, may have been instrumental in giving all of us permission and space to step up to the challenge.
President Trump set the stage by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement - helping to catalyze some 2,500 business, university, organizational and political leaders via the ‘We are still in’ campaign; it’s the broadest cross-section of the U.S. economy ever assembled in pursuit of climate action. With each new edict, like the recently proposed sweeping plan to open nearly all waters off our nation’s coastlines to oil and gas drilling (including Washington), newly committed climate leaders, businesses and organizations continue to emerge (and become more visible, and more vocal).
This a logical reaction. These leaders recognize the profound effects that climate change is already having on our world and recognize how much worse it will be if it’s not addressed. They also are concerned about an alternate future which doesn’t allow US business to fully participate in the growing $50 trillion dollar global clean energy economy.
So, it’s no surprise that Washington businesses like Microsoft and REI were part of the national and international business chorus on climate. Now, they and a wide range of Washington state-based businesses are turning their attention back home. Washington businesses are experiencing devastating climate affects from wildfires, drought, ocean acidification and more. But climate change poses risks to all businesses not just fisheries, timber and agriculture. Businesses want a smart state climate policy that offers up a healthy and economically viable future.
WBCA has been instrumental in helping the business community move forward on climate action. For nearly three years the Washington Business for Climate Action has been quietly bringing together a wide variety of business to support state-wide climate policy – and to determine what matters most to them in order to actually pass a climate policy and carbon fee. With guidance from businesses across the state we developed key climate policy principles.
At the core of the policy, we believe that there must be a fee on carbon and that business must pay the lowest fee needed to meet the State’s established carbon reduction targets. Any plan must fund new, innovative solutions that work – including the creation of a market-based carbon reduction fund that is technology neutral, cost effective and performance based. The plan should invest in clean water, forest management, and marine environments to protect and build the resilience of the natural resources that are impacted by climate change. Finally, we must protect energy intensive and trade exposed businesses, like our steel industry, by rewarding their achievements in energy efficiency and lower carbon performance.
This hard work has paid off. We’re now seeing these ideas being incorporated into legislative proposals.
Governor Inslee is calling for a climate policy and carbon fee through SB 6203 which largely incorporates our policy principles. Ultimately, it will reduce pollution and support clean air and water; it will also reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, accelerate the transition to clean and affordable renewable resources, stimulate our state’s growing clean energy economy while also supporting business and others affected as the state moves away from fossil fuels. This is the first time a bill has been crafted that meets WBCA priorities, though there’s a need to work out additional details to ensure it is not regressive and better satisfies requirements of highly impacted communities.
Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon’s HB 2338, also meshes with our policy principles by focusing on a low carbon fuel standard, to help reduce air pollution, spur clean fuel technologies and carbon emissions from the transportation sector, which accounts for the largest share of the state's total greenhouse gas emissions.
We are also impressed with Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz for outlining her priorities to address climate change, including tackling carbon pollution and investing in the resilience of Washington’s lands, waters and communities – which also follows our core climate policy principles.
It’s clear that businesses across the state are ready to take on the mantle of climate leadership by recognizing that it’s time to roll up their collective sleeves to make a state-wide climate policy reality.
WBCA co-chairs Stacy Severn of Skanska USA and Perry Miller of MacDonald-Miller recently testified in support of the SB 6203; they shared WBCA climate policy principles along with specific company and industry suggestions. They were joined by Microsoft, REI, Taylor Shellfish and Puget Sound Energy to name a few others. In an important departure from its past stance, to only focus on climate at the national level, Microsoft stated: "We believe the time has come for Washington state to accelerate its efforts to address climate change and we stand ready to work with you all to get that done."
We’re extremely optimistic about Washington state’s opportunity to enact a climate policy that will help business and our communities embrace a clean energy economy while supporting a more resilient natural environment.
Nobody ever said tackling climate policy would be easy but with business at the table, Washington state may just be able to pass legislation that offers a new path forward with a robust model for climate policy in the United States. Not only can this offer hope and guidance for other states but it is imperative to seed a great future for all of us who live here.
Lisa McCrummen is a strategic communications consultant focused on climate, conservation and sustainability issues.
Why Does the Clean Energy Economy Keep Winning Business Hearts and Minds?
Despite the Trump Administration's efforts to undermine the Clean Energy Economy, amazing progress continues to be made.
Right now we’re in the midst of a national campaign intended to roll back the clean energy economy, along with over three million plus existing jobs in this industry and the climate protection that comes with it. This push by the Trump administration seems intent on diverting America’s path from leader in the clean economy to laggard.
This diversion is not in America’s best interests. The rest of the world continues to invest in and embrace clean energy because of significant health benefits, the need to lower carbon emissions, job creation, low energy costs, national security and political stability. The Trump administration has chosen to ignore this opportunity and is attempting to handicap this industry in order to stay the fossil fuel course. This not only ignores market forces but it is actively hurting what American business does best – inventing the future and capitalizing on the global opportunity.
China is clearly profiting on the administration’s mis-steps. In order to reduce carbon pollution and to become the global clean energy leader they’re moving quickly; already some 2.5 million Chinese people work in the solar power sector. They intend to spend more than $360 billion through 2020 on renewable power sources like solar and wind. This will employ some 10 million people.
According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, wind, solar and energy efficiency employs more than 3.3 million in the US and employment in this area will continue to grow as the clean-energy sector continues to expand. However, Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry isn’t interested. Perry says, “I would do away with the incentives that we give to wind and solar.” (While also supporting coal and nuclear to the tune of $10.6bn, including propping up some of the oldest and dirtiest power plants in the country.) The current Senate tax bill is also attacking renewables, set to undermine both current and past projects, by looking to end the “the principal financing mechanism that has fostered growth of the renewable energy sector since the 1990s.”
HOWEVER, even against this backdrop the clean energy economy continues to win over business (and other) hearts and minds:
At the end of the day it’s clear that the declining costs of renewable energy, along with growing commitment by businesses, states, cities, universities and citizens to stay on a low carbon path continues just keeps building momentum. In our state and across the country, we’ve got incredible leadership that understands that there’s a clear market (and environmental) case for the clean energy economy. We must continue to move forward by enacting carbon pricing in our state and to nurture collaborative opportunities that encourage national efforts that build upon this momentum. This is an economic opportunity that’s ours to take.
Lisa McCrummen is a strategic communications consultant.
World-Changing Clean Energy Ideas Begin Here: