As we enter 2019 and new legislative sessions in both Oregon and Washington, I wanted to share some of what’s ahead for major climate and clean energy action in the Pacific Northwest this year... and what it’s going to take to get there.
I start this year with as much hope about our opportunities for progress in state capitols as I have had in a very long time. In both states, we are positioned for major victories that will accelerate needed solutions and build the broader movement calling for action. In Salem, after more than a decade of work, the Oregon Legislature is poised to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act, establishing that state as one of the first in the nation to put a price on carbon pollution and invest in clean energy solutions. In Olympia, we have great opportunities to pass bills to establish Washington as one of the first states in the nation to make a firm commitment to producing 100% of our electricity with clean and efficient energy, and joining British Columbia, Oregon and California in establishing a West Coast bloc of states with a Clean Fuel Standard designed to significantly reduce carbon pollution from transportation.
Each of these victories are within reach, for several reasons. The recent elections in both states produced exciting new groups of legislators deeply committed to action on climate change. Climate advocates in both states are fueling a growing movement with more organizations and coalitions working hard together to create an irresistible groundswell. And mounting impacts of climate change—from raging wildfires to epic storms—have increased public sense of urgency for taking bold action now.
While we are well positioned for these groundbreaking victories, it will not be easy to cross the finish line. We face deep-pocketed opposition from a fossil fuel industry that spends freely to thwart change. Most recently, the oil industry spent over $31 million to defeat Washington’s Initiative 1631, the climate and clean energy ballot measure.
So, what will it take?
You, me, all of us, creating more public pressure and accountability. Quite simply, if we can effectively channel the strong public support that we know exists for each of our policy proposals and for strong climate action, we can and will beat the money and power of the fossil fuel industry. Momentum is on our side; there is legislative support for these bills. But the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying will ramp up dramatically in the coming weeks and months. Legislators will face intense pressure from oil, gas, and coal to vote no, or to weaken our bills and limit their effectiveness.
We need to make sure that thousands of people contact their elected leaders—not just once, but often. We need to show up for hearings at our state capitols, but also in our communities—at forums, engaging online with our neighbors and friends, and more.
And while we all need to show up more in more places, we also need more people showing up. We need to explore and learn together; there are many more folks out there concerned about the climate crisis, yet not convinced we can solve it. With your help, we can reach out and connect with these folks so they can see that there are still opportunities for positive change. Together we can create more social demand for political action.
While we are focusing heavily on our legislatures in the coming months, that’s not the only work we will be doing in our drive to establish the Pacific Northwest as the first region in the nation to transition away from fossil fuels and towards 100% Clean.
This year we will continue working with local elected officials to support community strategies such as passing resolutions to have cities and counties make the transition to 100% clean energy. We are strengthening our partnerships with front line communities to ensure that the clean energy transition supports climate justice, and a just transition for workers and those most impacted by pollution. And we are building on our powerful alliances to create the political and organizing strength and movement building necessary to act at the scale and speed that science requires, and to defend the progress we make long term.
None of this will happen on its own. As you make your resolutions and look at the year ahead, please join me in committing to climate action this year and reaching out to someone who might not be that active to see if they want to join in. We have a window of time—but it’s a window that is closing fast. We have a chance to take on the biggest challenge of our time, and to do it together. We will approach the challenge with listening and care, and we will move all communities forward together toward our clean energy future.
The Pacific Northwest can lead in driving the transition toward 100% clean energy. We are determined to achieve our vision of a thriving, equitable Northwest, powered by clean energy, inspiring the transition to sustainable prosperity across the nation and beyond.
We know it will take many efforts and system changes working together to expand solutions faster, and thus address the climate crisis in time. Yet given how the fossil fuel industry has been blocking progress in our region recently, we also know this will be the year for our state legislatures and elected leaders to get serious about taking climate action. The people want it, the planet and our economy need it, and our legislatures can do it. For the Pacific northwest, this will be year. Spread the word!