Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday joined with state lawmakers to announce his proposed climate initiatives, which total $626 million worth of programs to cut carbon from buildings, transportation and energy production.
“This is an ambitious proposal, but one that is necessitated by the urgency of the moment and a tremendous opportunity for job creation,” Inslee said from Olympia.
This past year, the Pacific Northwest experienced devastating flooding, wildfires and a record-setting heat wave — events that many scientists say were exacerbated by climate change.
Over 2021, the region has also seen more than $1 billion of investment flowing into companies that are working to decarbonize the state, including big checks for fusion power, batteries, electric bikes and green construction. Tech behemoths such as Microsoft and Amazon have increased their support for climate tech innovation and Microsoft President Brad Smith participated in Monday’s event by video.
In November, some of the state’s elected officials and business leaders attended the United Nation’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
When it comes to climate action, “what we learned from that journey is that states like Washington and the Pacific coast — British Columbia and Oregon and California — are the gold standard of what’s possible,” said Sen. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle.
Inslee’s proposed climate package include four key areas:
- Developing building codes to move away from natural gas in new buildings.
- Implementing stronger energy efficiency standards for buildings measuring 20,000 square feet or more, including residential and commercial spaces.
- Expanding incentive programs for residents to move from gas and oil fuel to heat pumps and other clean sources.
Creating customer rebates for new and used zero-emissions vehicles, in addition to existing state sales tax exemptions. The rebates would be available to households earning $250,000 or less for individual tax filers, or $500,000 for joint. They apply to cars priced under $55,000, and under $80,000 for vans, SUVs and trucks.
- $7,500 rebate for new electric vehicles
- $5,000 for used vehicles
- $1,000 for zero-emission motorcycles and e-bikes
- Households with an income below $61,000 (60% of state median income) would receive an additional $5,000 rebate
Measures include funding for other clean transit, such as electric-hybrid ferries, EV-charging infrastructure, purchase of clean buses, and improved biking and pedestrian routes.
Actions include creating the Office of Climate Commitment Accountability to support the implementation of the Climate Commitment Act, a law passed earlier this year to reduce Washington’s carbon emissions.
Decarbonized power and manufacturing
- Support for opening a clean aluminum manufacturing plant and a solar manufacturing facility.
- Grants supporting solar installations.
- Funding for improved battery testing at the University of Washington Clean Energy Institute.
Inslee said the funding would come from existing revenue sources and would not require new taxes. The proposals are essentially the governor’s wish list for lawmakers, who begin meeting in January to hash out new legislation. The half-dozen representatives and senators on hand for Monday’s event offered their support.
“We know that communities of color, immigrant communities and low income communities suffer disproportionately from the impacts of climate change,” said Rep. David Hackney of Tukwila, located south of Seattle.
Hackney, whose district is more racially diverse than many in the state, emphasized the need to make sure funding and programs benefit his hard-hit communities.
Mark Riker, executive secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, also spoke at the event. He said that his sector is continually evolving to decarbonize and that workers are being trained to do the jobs.
Riker said the council generally supports climate efforts, but could not back the proposals as currently written due to concerns for fossil fuel sector workers. He pledged to work with lawmakers to find solutions to these challenges.
Washington has established itself as a leader in climate policy, including its Climate Commitment Act, which puts a cap on carbon pollution in Washington, and Inslee recently announced plans to switch the state’s fleet of cars and trucks to electric vehicles over coming years.
Carlyle noted that Washington has a population on par with other climate standouts including Norway, Sweden and Israel and is taking action that puts the state on the global stage.
“We are showing that you can decarbonize and move away from fossil fuels,” he said, “while building a sustainable 21st century economy.”
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