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.