Continuing a month marked by urgent yet hopeful climate policy announcements, Governor Inslee yesterday accepted final recommendations from his Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce (CERT). The group's report backs carbon pricing as a key strategy for reducing climate-damaging carbon emissions in Washington State.
By revealing the true cost of carbon pollution, we can all avoid having to pay the price.
Everywhere we look, signs point to increasing pressure for action on climate change. A couple weeks ago, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their most forceful report yet, announcing that without immediate action to reduce carbon pollution, irreversible impacts are “virtually certain.” Then, last week the United States and China pledged to reduce emissions, a bilateral pact with major implications for international action. Heading into the G20 summit in Australian, President Obama upped the ante by pledging over $2.5 billion to help make developing countries more resilient to climate impacts.
Though lacking much in the way of pageantry, yesterday's announcement with Governor Inslee was an important milestone for Washington’s economic and environmental future. Charged with considering how Washington can best address climate change so that all members of society benefit, the CERT group concluded its months of discussion with a relatively simple message: by revealing the true cost of carbon pollution, we can all avoid having to pay the price. CERT represented a diverse set of Washington constituencies, including business, labor, public health, utilities, agriculture and social welfare organizations (Climate Solutions' KC Golden is a CERT member).
The Taskforce's purpose was to discern the most critical principles that should guide lawmakers in crafting climate policy. As with all meaningful legislation, the details matter. CERT's work moves beyond policy partisanship to highlight the need to end free carbon dumping while prioritizing economic and social equity and maximizing job creation. Any carbon pricing policy, when designed thoughtfully, can accomplish those principles.
Although the bulk of the Taskforce’s work centered on how to best recognize the cost of carbon pollution across our economy (and thus how to best avoid needing to pay it), the final report makes special note of what it terms "complementary policies." Carbon pricing alone will not support the energy shifts needed to effectively address climate change. The Taskforce therefore recommends “a well harmonized set of complimentary policies” that target specific sectors to more efficiently and effectively create carbon free prosperity. Policies like a clean fuels standard for transportation fuel, or efficiency standards for buildings, are essential building blocks of a clean economy and are made cheaper and easier when paired with carbon pricing.
The urgency for climate action could not be more evident than the fossil-fueled public health crisis in South Park, WA. Immediately following yesterday's discussion with members of CERT, Governor Inslee met with public health and community leaders at the South Park Community Center. Asthma incidence, cancer risk, and respiratory disease are dangerously high in South Seattle due to pollution from diesel and gasoline. Climate change is making these threats worse. When the Taskforce report urges action and equity, it means to improve the lives of the families and kids in South Park, and others across the state that are disproportionally at risk from pollution and global warming.
The children in South Park show the urgency of creating a fossil fuel free future and the report from the Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce provides a map for how to get there. Right now it’s time for Washington’s leadership to heed them both.
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