If our elected leaders won’t lead on reducing carbon dioxide pollution, then the people will.
Originally published August 10, 2015 on The Seattle Times.
By Rebecca Saldaña, Jeffrey Johnson, Brenna Davis - Special to The Times
THE dust has settled on a frustrating legislative session. Time and again, oil interests blocked broadly supported steps to encourage the transition to clean energy and cut global-warming pollution.
There is a lot of individual blame to go around, but we see this as a broad failure of our state’s political institutions. Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to use his executive authority to enforce existing limits on carbon pollution illustrates how seriously he takes the issue — yet it further underscores our lack of legislative progress. Washingtonians demand urgent action on climate. If our elected leaders won’t lead us forward, then the people will.
Washington already is seeing the impacts of climate change: Bigger and more destructive wildfires put our communities at risk; drought — currently affecting 98 percent of the state — threatens our farmers’ crops, our multibillion-dollar outdoor industry and our reliance on hydropower; declining air quality hurts kids with asthma; seniors suffer from the effects of heat waves. This is having a real, immediate impact on our economy and the health of our families.
We believe Washington can invest in our shared prosperity by accounting for the impact carbon pollution already has on our economy and communities. Left unchecked, global warming will disrupt supply and distribution chains, make power delivery more unreliable, increase food costs, threaten water resources and lead to uncertainty in the marketplace.
The solutions to climate change — transitioning to clean energy, ensuring we have a resilient food system, making our current energy and building stock more efficient, expanding access to sustainable, affordable transportation options, and repairing our outdated infrastructure — are opportunities to lift people out of poverty, create stable jobs in a resilient economy, protect our communities from extreme weather and invest in clean air for our families.
The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy is Washington state’s coalition of individuals, organizations and businesses dedicated to reducing global-warming pollution and strengthening our economy. We represent more than 125 organizations and businesses, thousands of members, and leaders from a broad diversity of constituencies — including our state’s environmental, faith, health, labor, clean-energy and business communities, and communities of color.
Throughout the summer, the alliance will continue to explore possible climate ballot measures with the goal to file and qualify an initiative to the people in 2016. Our priority is to develop a policy that is effective, viable and representative of the diverse breadth of our coalition.
Washington has long been a national leader on technology innovation, from airplanes and software, to energy efficiency and renewable energy. As we transition to a low-carbon economy, Washington businesses have the opportunity to lead the way: creating jobs and wealth by developing, deploying and exporting new low-carbon technologies, services and solutions.
Unleashing this creative potential requires a new policy framework. The place to start is to accurately reflect the real price of our energy choices, which would send a signal to the market to accelerate the pace of investments in clean energy and energy efficiency.
Equity must be at the heart of any policy we develop, ensuring fair access to the opportunities and benefits associated with transitioning to a clean-energy economy. That means investing in communities disproportionately impacted by climate change, predominantly communities of color and low-income communities, and the protection and support of workers dependent for their livelihoods on fossil-fuel industries.
We know fossil-fuel interests will fight us every step of the way. Yet we refuse to accept legislative inaction on this issue, which strikes at the heart of the security, stability and safety of our communities. By joining together, we believe the people of Washington can and will lead our state forward on global warming and clean energy. Join us.
Brenna Davis is chair of Washington Businesses for Climate Action. Jeffrey Johnson is president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Rebecca Saldaña is executive director of Puget Sound Sage.