Why we cannot support Initiative 732, but will not actively oppose it

In Washington State, the debate is no longer whether we should address global warming but how best to address the challenge. That shows progress.

We know a policy cannot be a quest – rather it’s a tool to get us to where we need to go.  And yet, not all tools are right to do the job effectively. Well-crafted, strong policy can be one of several important tools to propel us fast enough to a clean energy future.

Climate Solutions believes that to reduce emissions fast enough to stabilize our climate and create broadly shared prosperity powered by clean energy, effective and meaningful climate policy will:

  • Account for the cost of carbon pollution. Carbon pollution contributes to droughts, more frequent and fiercer forest fires, and ocean acidification, and aggravates lung disease and other public health problems. We need to put a price on the pollution that accurately reflects the true cost of burning fossil fuels, as that market signal will help drive consumer and business behavior towards cleaner and more efficient solutions.
  • Invest the proceeds raised from putting a price on pollution into new technologies and projects that accelerate the growth of the clean energy economy. After decades of reliance on and subsidies for fossil fuels, we need to level the playing field for sustainable, clean and efficient energy and commit to robust investments in clean technology that will create tens of thousands of new jobs. A price alone will not advance the clean energy economy fast enough to end our reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Address the needs of those most impacted by fossil fuel pollution. Pollution sources like emissions from refineries and vehicles on highways impact the communities located closest to them. More often than not, these communities are low-income and communities of color, exposing already disadvantaged populations to more pollution. And as droughts and forest fires become more common, farm workers and low-income residents in rural and agricultural areas feel those impacts first and worst. We must address the human impacts of these realities.
  • Drive more than just a transition; drive a just transition. We need to create a means for businesses, workers, and communities to shift off of fossil fuels to a cleaner, more resilient economy. And we need to build in carefully tailored compliance flexibility to ensure we don’t just push carbon pollution and businesses across our borders.

With climate activists gathering over 365,000 signatures to qualify an initiative for the ballot that puts a price on carbon pollution, Initiative 732 demonstrates the intense interest of Washingtonians in solving the climate crisis.  This in itself is a landmark achievement.

With that achievement taken to heart, Climate Solutions will not actively oppose I-732. Yet Climate Solutions cannot support it.

While no one policy can do everything, we believe Initiative I-732 has significant flaws which combined would make it harder to achieve the goals of effectively and equitably tackling climate change and rapidly transitioning to clean energy:

  1. It is revenue negative: Rather than being revenue neutral as intended, I-732 would create nearly a $1 billion hole in the state budget over the next four years. This deficit threatens to pit funding for climate against public education, social services, and other vital government services. The passage of I-732 could lead to reduced public services, deepening the challenges for vulnerable people.
  2. It fails to invest any proceeds in accelerating our clean energy economy:  Aggressive new investments are essential to accelerate the deployment at scale of energy efficiency, solar, wind, electric vehicles, and other forms of low-carbon and carbon-free energy. While I-732 would create a significant price signal to assist in that transition, that signal alone is not enough to achieve the deep cuts in emissions or catalyze the clean energy business development we need to get us to a stable climate fast enough.
  3. It does not directly reinvest in the transition:  I-732 does not address the needs of communities hit hardest by pollution and the workers, energy-intensive businesses and others that will be most affected by the transition off of fossil fuels. These communities and sectors need investment in both infrastructure and services to address the health and environmental impacts of fossil fuel pollution and to enable them to benefit equitably from the transition to clean energy.

For these very important reasons Climate Solutions cannot support I 732.

If I-732 passes, we will work with partners and stakeholders to preserve its stronger features and to correct its shortcomings. If I-732 fails, we will redouble our efforts to maximize the means for the clean economy to flourish. Regardless of the outcome of I-732 at the ballot this fall, Climate Solutions will continue to pursue effective and equitable clean energy solutions, build broad coalitions and deep partnerships, and stop investments in big fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

Long-term success in reducing emissions and achieving a just transition will require building a broad and powerful movement that includes many voices – businesses, unions, communities of color, environmental activists, faith leaders, rural communities, and people of many political persuasions. We must come together with a common purpose and deep collaboration to address this existential threat to our health, well-being, and future generations. 

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, Climate Solutions

The article was written by Climate Solutions staff. Our individual bios can be found here.