The growing threat of climate change is among the top policy, business and moral issues of our time. Human activities have caused current levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases to exceed all levels measured for at least the past 800,000 years – and we are witnessing the effects here in Washington.
Dangerous air quality from worse and more frequent wildfires, depleted snowpacks in the Cascades, alarming reports of species and habitat loss, threats to critical infrastructure and vulnerable communities – these warning signs require us to act quickly. Experts believe it may not be too late to avoid catastrophe, but our time is running out. This year the Legislature passed several landmark pieces of legislation, making our state one of the leaders in the fight against climate change.
100% Clean Energy
Electricity comprises about 20% of Washington’s carbon footprint, and almost a third of our electricity comes from coal and natural gas. SB 5116 will require electric utilities to drop coal-fired power from their supply to customers by 2025. Utilities must become “carbon neutral” by 2030, meaning 80% of power must come from non-carbon-emitting sources; the remainder can be offset by emission reduction measures. By 2045, utilities must supply Washington customers entirely with power from carbon-free sources. Investing resources into clean energy will spur the growth of renewable energy, supporting local industry and creating sustainable jobs, businesses and infrastructure.
Increasing energy efficiency
- Buildings are the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington, accounting for about 20% of total emissions. They are also assets that last for a very long time, so it is essential to construct new buildings to be as efficient as possible and to make old buildings more efficient. HB 1257 will require the state Commerce Department to establish an energy performance standard for existing large commercial buildings, beginning with the largest buildings in 2026.
- Increased efficiency in the appliances we use every day to cook or wash our clothes has the potential to reduce emissions and save consumers money. HB 1444 is part of a multi-state effort – organized by Washington under the umbrella of the U.S. Climate Alliance – to help move the market to modern, lower-energy technologies. As new products required by the bill come to market, Washington will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consumers will save $2 billion in energy and water costs over the next 15 years.
Super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), heavily used in appliances and autos as a substitute for ozone-depleting substances banned in the late 1980s, are a class of chemicals thousands of times more damaging than carbon dioxide as atmospheric warming agents. In Washington, they are responsible for more carbon pollution than all marine vessels combined. HB 1112 will phase out HFCs in new products from 2020-24, with the Department of Ecology authorized to delay or modify standards to ensure the new products meet safety requirements.
Over the next several weeks, I’ll continue to share updates on important issues the Legislature addressed this year. If you missed my previous updates on health care, gun safety, civil rights, or consumer debt, you can read those here.
Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District