I am writing to encourage support for Initiative 1631 on the November general-election ballot. This initiative would reduce air pollution and invest in clean air and water programs.
I have had the opportunity as co-chair of the Edmonds Mayors’ Climate Protection Committee to learn a great deal about factors leading to global warming and the actions we can take as community members to either increase Green House Gases (GHG) or to reduce them. Carbon pricing, such as found in this initiative, has been found to be a successful way to reduce GHG.
According to the Third National Climate Assessment the warming influence of GHG in the atmosphere has been increasing significantly over the last several decades. Long-lived GHG in the atmosphere increased their warming influence by 34 percent between 1990 and 2013. In the Pacific Northwest we can expect to experience increasing wildfire, insect outbreaks, and tree diseases that even now are causing widespread tree die-off and will probably cause additional forest mortality by the 2040s as a result GHG increases.
Because of increasing warming experts predict an increase in precipitation, also, for winter, spring, and fall, but a decrease in almost all parts of the region for summer.
Other countries have enacted carbon pricing systems successfully and had their GHG emissions drop. For instance, countries in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme saw their GHG emissions drop by 8 percent over five years and Canada is planning to start a national carbon pricing system this year.
Initiative 1631 is a practical and affordable next step in ensuring a safe and clean environment in Washington State for our children and grandchildren. I find it consistent with both the Climate Change Acton Plan adopted by the Edmonds City Council and with Washington State’s clean air goals.
I-1631 has many of the key elements recommended for any carbon pricing system. It would:
• Enact a $15 per metric ton fee on carbon emissions by the largest polluters
• Invest the proceeds in efficiency upgrades for homes and businesses so they produce less GHG as well as save money on utility bills
• Invest the proceeds, also, in clean energy programs such as solar and wind energy, water-quality improvements, air quality, and forest health
• Have a fee increase of $2 per ton annually until the state achieves the 2035 goal of reducing overall GHG to 25 percent below 1990 levels. This would show substantial progress toward the goal of reducing GHG to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050
• Include a 5 percent investment in local communities to prepare for future challenges caused by pollution and changing climate
• Require that federally-recognized tribes be consulted on any projects affecting tribal lands. And 10 percent of investments must have formal support from a tribal government
• Incorporate accountability by setting up a public board to:
o Oversee investments
o Ensure that at least 35 percent of those investments benefit communities hardest hit by pollution and poverty
o Put 15 percent of all clean energy investments towards assisting low-income communities to transition to a clean energy economy
This initiative is needed because, while successful in setting ambitious goals, the legislature has been unable to pass legislation to accomplish those goals. It is for that reason a broad spectrum of organizations interested in environmental and public health have come together in support of this initiative. Over 250 organizations support I-1631 including those that represent scientists, environmental and clean energy advocates, working families, communities of color, health professionals, businesses, faith leaders, and tribal nations.
I know that the opponents criticize this initiative as a regressive tax. However, the initiative takes specific steps to be fair to residents of Washington state, specifically workers in carbon producing industries and low-income communities. As the organizers point out, this is a fee rather than a tax because funds collected go directly towards solving the problem of pollution and the fee is paid by the biggest corporate polluters.
Is it perfect? Probably not. But the time for delay has long passed.
Climate change is the challenge of our generation. It is incumbent on us to start to heal the impacts of years of industrialization so that we can pass along to the next generations a world they can live and flourish in.
Support for the initiative is one way for each of us to commit to reducing our GHG. It is action we can take personally and encourage our friends and family to do. I ask you, with all urgency, to support this initiative and urge others around you to do so also.