Broad coalition calls for action on climate change in WA
Voices representing labor unions, businesses, public health advocates, diverse community organizations, and environmental organizations today announced the formation of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy calling for job creation and building the clean energy economy through cutting global warming pollution. Later, more than 240 attendees crowded into a hearing room (and three overflow rooms) to show support for the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act (HB 1314/ SB 5283).
Already, the state has felt ongoing impacts, including ocean acidification threatening the shellfish industry and the 2014 wildfire season in Washington State, which was the one of the most destructive and costly on record, with more than 363,000 acres burned and dozens of homes destroyed, as real costs from climate change.
“Our state is already experiencing economic assaults associated with global warming. As a business, Virginia Mason joins the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy both for the health of Washingtonians and our state’s economy,” said Brenna Davis, Director of Sustainability at Virginia Mason and Chair of Washington Businesses for Climate Action. “Legislative action addressing climate change could generate business opportunities in the clean-energy sector, creating jobs and expanding markets for established industries.”
In Washington, some communities face child poverty rates of 30 percent, and in these same communities – including those in proximity to the biggest sources of carbon pollution – that poverty is further exacerbated by higher rates of asthma and other health and developmental risks associated with poor air quality.
“We can address our inequity and climate challenges by developing a fair, responsible plan that drives toward a different future — a future that embraces racial and social equity, clean energy, greater security for all of Washington’s families, and new investments in initiatives and projects that will reduce pollution and create good jobs and build thriving communities,” said Rich Stolz, Executive Director of One America.
The burning of fossil fuels, especially coal and oil, created air and carbon pollution. Air pollution is a health hazard; 515,000 adults and 105,000 children in our state who have asthma. The asthma rate in Washington adults is among the highest per-capita in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The record-breaking Washington fires in 2014 created days of air quality that was “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” – meaning children, older adults and people with heart and lung disease were told to stay indoors.
“Cutting global warming pollution from our air and shifting from dirty fuels to clean energy provides a public health benefit and creates a healthier Washington,” stated Renee Klein, President & CEO of American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific. “We’re already paying the price in health care costs, lost productivity, and sadly lost lives. We can protect public health and have a strong economy. We are facing real health challenges from climate change now.”
Energy efficiency has demonstrated the proposition of job creation. Washington State has produced thousands of good local jobs and saves over $1 billion on our power bills annually through investments in the energy performance of our homes, businesses and industries over the past 20 years.
“As the economy comes back to life, it faces two great threats to broadly shared prosperity: extreme inequity and disruptive climate change. We can tackle both by tackling them together. The transition to a clean-energy based economy can create more family-wage union jobs and shared prosperity,” said Jeff Johnson, President of Washington State Labor Council, representing over 400,000 union workers across the state. “This is the most important bill [HB1314] I will ever testify on. Addressing climate change is an opportunity to create tens of thousands of family-wage jobs.”
After the launch, the House Environment Committee held its first hearing on HB 1314, the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act. In addition to the launch speakers, other members of the steering committee testified in support of the policy, including Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, SEIU 775, and Puget Sound Sage. If passed, it would create a new market-based program that limits carbon pollution and requires major polluters to pay for their emissions. It would decrease pollution limits gradually over time, allowing emitters time to transition to cleaner technology and improved operations. It also would generate about $1 billion annually to be reinvested by the state to promote further emissions reductions, expand transit and maintain transportation infrastructure, support public education, and assist families with lower-incomes transition to the clean energy economy.
“There’s nothing more important than protecting the people and the places we love in Washington. In Washington State, we are each doing our part for reducing pollution. We all follow the rules and do the right thing. We should expect major companies to show the same level of responsibility for reducing the global warming pollution they put into our air and ocean,” stated Becky Kelley, President of Washington Environmental Council. “Washington can lead. California and British Columbia have carbon policies in place and Oregon is considering action. These four jurisdictions would mean the 5th largest economy is accounting for the price of carbon.”
The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy is a coalition of individuals, organizations, and businesses dedicated to reducing global warming pollution and strengthening the state’s economy. Live tweets from the launch and hearing at #WACleanEnergy @jobscleanenergy. More info at jobscleanenergywa.com