2017: The highlights were pretty bright

As the year comes to a close, I want to share my reflections on the year that was, and the opportunities for the year ahead.

I want to start with the obvious. 2017 was an awful year in many ways. We have endured cynical attacks on some of our country’s core values—truth, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, equality, and more. These attacks have been heartbreaking beyond words.

On climate change, too, there was bad news this year. Climate impacts continued to rage through the Northwest, the United States, and across the globe: wildfires, floods, ancient ice disintegrating into rising seas. Scientific reports confirmed, again and again, that the need for urgent action is only increasing.

But 2017 was also a year of transition for climate action, in which we and many others affirmed our ability to make progress at the speed and scale our climate crisis demands. As the U.S. government dropped the baton of international leadership on climate, an inspiringly broad set of climate leaders—American states and cities, countries around the globe, business of all sizes—proved themselves ready to pick it up and carry it forward. When President Trump announced his intention to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, new calls to accelerate climate action rose in response from across the country and around the world.

Here in the Northwest, 2017 proved to be a year for progress on the issues Climate Solutions cares about most directly. As 2017 began, we announced a new strategic plan and vision. Our vision for the region is simple. We believe the best leadership opportunity for the Northwest is to swiftly transition the Northwest electrical grid to 100% clean energy, faster than anywhere else in the nation, and to leverage our clean grid to electrify as many energy uses for the built environment, industry, and transportation that we can.

100% Clean Energy.

Electrify Everything.

All of our work this year stands atop these two pillars. In support of these core ideas, Climate Solutions and our many allies made a lot of progress this year. Recall these wins:

  • Portland and Multnomah County passed one of the most ambitious plans in the nation to commit to 100% clean energy and transportation;
  • King County made the biggest commitment to electric buses in the nation; 
  • PGE took a major step back in their plans to build a new fracked gas power plant;
  • The Washington State Legislature passed a bill to increase alternative fuels;
  • Puget Sound Energy, Washington’s largest utility, announced a tentative agreement that will help them begin the transition away from using dirty coal to power our homes and businesses in the next decade;
  • Communities rose to oppose a massive coal export facility in Longview, Washington, halting the project with a series of defeats. That’s seven out of seven coal export proposals defeated or headed towards defeat;
  • Also headed towards defeat, thanks to organized public opposition, is the proposal to build the largest oil terminal in North America in Vancouver, Washington.

That’s a lot of victories for clean energy and a future beyond fossil fuels; and we’re poised for more wins in 2018. As we look to the new year, we are focused on this next round of challenges:

  • Passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act in Oregon, establishing the state as a national leader in pricing pollution and growing clean energy jobs;
  • Passing major statewide policies in Washington, including a bill to commit Washington state to 100% clean electricity, and a policy to put a price on carbon pollution and invest in clean energy solutions and our communities;
  • Winning more local policies setting cities and counties on a path toward 100% clean energy, building on previous models like the 100% Clean resolutions pased by the City of Portland and Multnomah County, and King County’s commitment to electric buses.

We are not going to make this happen on our own. We are incredibly proud to partner with literally hundreds of organizations and businesses across the Northwest in pursuing these goals. The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, Renew Oregon, Front and Centered, The Nature Conservancy, Washington Businesses for Climate Action, the Oregon Business Alliance for Climate, The Audubon Society, Power Past Coal, Stand up to Oil. The list goes on and on.

And this list represents another of the welcome transitions that accelerated in 2017. For a long time, much of the most visible advocacy and action on climate change and clean energy was led by environmental organizations. No more. Today, the movement and drive for climate action takes leadership from a truly diverse and increasingly powerful set of players. Amazing organizations like Front and Centered are demonstrating the power of communities of color in demanding action, and working to design policies that place equity in their center. Businesses from corporate titans like Apple and Microsoft to smaller businesses are demanding clean energy, and lobbying lawmakers for policies to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. Working people and labor organizations, including the Washington State Labor Council, are on the front lines.

This growing chorus, demanding and taking action on climate and clean energy, is what gives me hope that we can act at the scale and speed that the climate crisis requires.

I want to leave you with this.

2017 was a year that saw horrific extreme weather events across the globe. We should remember the names of the disasters that struck, disasters that were made tragically worse by climate change. Harvey. Maria. We should never forget those names.

But there are other names that we should never forget. Alexander Kwoksum Sung. Travis Lynn Callihan. Keisha Monique Williams. Jill Renick. These are just a few of the thousands of people that lost their lives in climate-impacted disasters. People are dying. Today. From climate change.

2017 was a hard year, but one that was also marked by significant accomplishments and real victories.

I look forward to working with our entire community in 2018 as we pursue and win more victories on the road to 100% Clean.

And finally, as we look forward to the new year, I'm happy to announce that Meredith Connolly has taken the position of Oregon Director with Climate Solutions. Meredith previously served as Oregon Policy Manager, and we are very pleased to be headed into 2018 with her valuable leadership in Oregon.

Author Bio

Gregg Small
Gregg Small

Executive Director, Climate Solutions

Gregg brings nearly 30 years of experience working on climate, environmental, and public policy issues, including 25 as an Executive Director. At Climate Solutions, Gregg oversees a staff of more than two dozen policy experts, campaigners, innovators, and researchers across Washington and Oregon, providing strategic direction for one of the most effective regional climate and clean economy organizations in the nation. Under his leadership, Climate Solutions and our many allies have successfully passed some of the best climate policies in the United States. 

Prior to coming to Climate Solutions, Gregg served as the Executive Director of the Washington Toxics Coalition for 7 years and as the Executive Director of the California-based Pesticide Watch for 5 years. During that time, he played a leadership role in creating and developing a number of leading coalitions working on environmental health issues, including the Toxic Free Legacy Coalition,Californians for Pesticide Reform, and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Bodies. At Climate Solutions, he helped to found the Washington-based Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy and Renew Oregon.

Gregg began his professional career as an organizer for Green Corps, working in Washington, DC, Vermont, and California. He received his B.A. in Political Science from Dickinson College.

When not at work, Gregg spends time with his family and raising awareness about Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that his son Jude has and that he is passionate about finding a cure for.