The Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club has adopted a “Do Not Support” position on Initiative 732, a proposed carbon tax on the November 2016 ballot. Since taking this position the board members of the Seattle group of the Sierra Club have been hearing some reasonable questions about the reasons for this position.
We stand with Climate Solutions, OneAmerica, Washington Conservation Voters, 350,org, and numerous other environmental, climate, labor, progressive, and community organizations in taking our position that we do not support Initiative 732. The following issues led to the Sierra Club’s decision to take a “do not support” position:
● Revenues from its carbon tax would not be invested in ramping up jobs in clean fuels infrastructure or energy efficiency. Nor would they be invested in aiding communities impacted by polluting facilities or workers who will be caught in the transition process. I-732 misses the opportunity to enact a statewide price on carbon and use that to transition to a more equitable, sustainable clean energy economy.
In order to effectively combat climate change, we need to build infrastructure that allows people to choose ways to live and work that do not require emitting carbon. Governments in Washington State currently do not spend enough money to achieve this goal, as additional public sector funding is needed to help build that clean, green infrastructure. Because I-732 is revenue-negative and would not be investing carbon tax revenues in new infrastructure, or investing in communities hurt by pollution, we are concerned that I-732 would not be an effective tool to address the climate crisis.
● While the stated intent was to be revenue neutral, the State Department of Revenue predicts I-732 will result in $200 million dollars of lost revenue each year, putting already under-funded budgets for education, social services, and the environment at greater risk.
Recently, the Sightline Institute has argued that the budget hole created by I-732 will not be as large. They estimate a blow to the state budget of $80 million each year. While we believe the State Department of Revenue prediction remains accurate, even if Sightline’s analysis is the correct one, I-732 still represents a significant risk to funding for education, social services, and the environment.
In sum, Sierra Club has chosen not to support I-732 because it does not meet key tests for an effective and equitable climate policy. 350.org’s Seattle branch has made the same point about I-732. They recently wrote that “we want to support our allies in people-of-color-led climate justice groups that represent those on the frontlines of climate change.”
This is an important point. As Front and Centered, a statewide coalition of more than 60 organizations and groups rooted in communities of color and people with lower incomes wrote, “Communities of color, people with lower incomes, and indigenous people are on the frontlines of climate and environmental change. We are hit FIRST by extraction, pollution, and climate change, which makes existing health and economic disparities WORSE. Yet frontline communities are often LEFT OUT of or are the last to be included in the transition to healthy, resilient and sustainable future.”
The Sierra Club will be hard at work as part of the kind of broad, inclusive coalition that can succeed at building public support to address climate change in ways that will benefit all communities in our state. This includes communities of color, low income, environmental justice, and labor. Without this coalition, we will fail in our efforts to successfully address climate change.
Sierra Club will continue working on many important clean energy and climate efforts, such as Governor Inslee’s proposed cap on carbon, support for more mass transit funding, stopping exports of greenhouse gas fuels, and replacing dirty coal-generated electricity with clean renewable energy throughout the Northwest.
Sierra Club will be very busy working for Washington’s clean energy future, but not for ballot initiative I-732.