Inslee announces bold climate legislation as part of supplemental budget rollout

Gov. Jay Inslee proposed five pieces of climate legislation and a direct order to a state agency Thursday during his second day of rolling out his 2020 supplemental budget proposals.

“I am proud of the climate change progress we made in 2019,” Inslee said. “But the latest science says we have further to go before we bring emissions into a range that doesn’t threaten our economic future.

“Washingtonians deserve a choice for cleaner fuels and cleaner cars — and they’re going to get both.”

Gov. Jay Inslee announces climate change legislation in Olympia during the second day of his 2020 budget rollout. (Office of the Governor photo)

Today’s announcement follows the Washington State Department of Ecology’s latest report that cites international and national research that shows the world now faces a climate crisis. The reports states the climate crisis will create devastating impacts on Washington in the form of wildfires, drought, dwindling snowpack and ocean acidification.

Amy Snover, executive director of Climate Impacts Group and a scientist at University of Washington, said leadership on these issues is crucial.

“The science is unequivocal,” Snover said. “Climate change now touches our lives every day, threatening our water supply, our energy systems, the economies of our rural communities and the health of our most vulnerable populations. With a limited time to reduce emissions to ensure less dangerous degrees of warming, extraordinary leadership is required at every level of government.”

Inslee’s legislative and budget proposals would:

  • Limit statewide greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Establish a clean fuel standards.
  • Increase the availability of zero-emission vehicles.
  • Establish an emissions standard for rideshare fleets.
  • Install electric vehicle charging stations at state facilities.
  • Extend a tax incentive for community solar projects that benefit low-income customers.

Inslee proposed new legislation that will align Washington state emission targets with the latest science to ensure Washington does its part to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The proposed targets call for reducing human-caused emissions by:

  • 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030,
  • 70 percent below 1990 levels by 2040, and
  • 95 percent below 1990 levels, and achieving net zero emission by 2050.

To achieve net zero emissions by mid-century, the bill encourages greater carbon sequestration to reverse warming. Trees can easily remove and trap carbon dioxide (sequestration) from the atmosphere; Washington state’s extensive forests, agricultural and coastal areas act as a crucial part of the solution because they provide unique opportunities to store more carbon.

Gov. Jay Inslee talks about clean fuel standards, zero-emission vehicles, limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and community solar projects at Thursday’s event. (Office of the Governor photo)

The governor supports legislation that combats one of the largest contributors of state greenhouse gas emissions: transportation. The transportation sector is responsible for nearly 45 percent of all state emissions. This legislation (HB 1110 sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon) would establish a clean fuel program that will limit greenhouse gas emissions per unit of transportation fuel sold in the state.

The governor said it’s about making fuels cleaner. Other states already proved that this method can be very successful. With a clean fuels standard, Washington will join the rest of the West Coast states and British Columbia.

The governor supports a bill that requires rideshare companies to reduce their fleet greenhouse gas emissions, and legislation that increases the availability of zero-emission vehicles sold to Washington consumers (SB 5811, sponsored by Senator Joe Nguyen). Other states already adopted similar requirements.

Inslee said electric cars are a major part of Washington’s clean energy future. The governor set a goal to make 50 percent of the state’s vehicle fleet electric by 2020. To support the state’s transition to clean transportation, Inslee also proposes $4.1 million to install EV-charging stations at state facilities.

Inslee announced he’s supporting a $20 million extension of the renewable energy system tax incentive for community solar projects that benefit low-income customers. This will help the state meet the requirement established last legislative session to transition to 100 percent clean electricity.

The governor is also directing Ecology to establish new rules around climate change. These will strengthen and standardize how the state measures climate change risks, vulnerabilities, and how the state changes environmental reviews for major project permits.

Inslee proposed $600,000 to develop a comprehensive analysis of how Washington can reduce emissions to meet the statewide greenhouse gas limits. This money will support technical analysis to develop future policy proposals based on the new limits.

Gov. Jay Inslee talked about the importance of building on the climate change work the state did last year. (Office of the Governor photo)

Washington State Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon said she applauds the governor’s leadership on trusting the science behind climate change.

“Climate change threatens Washington’s water supplies, our coastlines, and our economy,” Bellon said. “Although we’ve made progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the latest research shows we need to do more and we need to do it faster.”

Combined, these actions will help Washington fight climate change and build on the work the states have already done.

“Given what we’ve learned and what is at stake — which is nothing less than our children and grandchildren’s future — we have an obligation to step up,” Inslee said. “We’ve seen these problems in our state firsthand. And they are going to get worse if we don’t act.

“We must do everything we can to ensure a secure and healthy climate future. That requires treating climate change like the crisis it is.”

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