Washington Governor Jay Inslee has urged the state legislature to continue his ambitious agenda on climate change and other issues in his final year of office. In his 11th State of the State address on Tuesday, he highlighted the achievements and challenges of his climate leadership, as well as his plans for the remaining 60 days of the session.
Climate Commitment Act: A Key Policy for Washington’s Future
One of the most prominent policies that Inslee has championed is the Climate Commitment Act, which was passed by the legislature last year and took effect in January 2023. The act aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 95% by 2050, while generating revenue for clean energy investments and environmental justice programs.
The act works by capping and reducing pollution from various sources, such as power plants, transportation, industry, and agriculture. It also creates a market-based system where emission allowances are auctioned to businesses that need them to operate. The revenue from the auctions is used to fund projects that help low-income communities, Tribal nations, and other vulnerable groups adapt to climate impacts and transition to clean energy.
According to Inslee, the act has already raised $1.8 billion in 2023 through quarterly auctions, which he said will be used for various purposes. He said some of the funds will go to electric school buses, free transit rides for young people, public electric vehicle chargers, affordable multifamily housing with clean energy efficiency upgrades, community-led climate action plans, and environmental justice initiatives.
Inslee also defended the act against a conservative-backed initiative that is expected to appear on the November ballot. The initiative would repeal or amend several provisions of the act that affect oil companies and other polluters. Inslee said any delay or rollback of the act would be a betrayal of Washington’s children’s future and a setback for climate action.
Other Climate Policies: Decarbonizing Building Sector and Phasing Out Methane Gas
Besides focusing on emission reduction targets, Inslee also announced several other policies that aim to decarbonize different sectors of Washington’s economy and society. These include:
- A $626 million investment in a climate strategy that will decarbonize the building sector by retrofitting existing buildings with energy-efficient technologies and installing renewable energy systems.
- A phase-out plan for methane gas production from oil wells by requiring operators to install leak detection devices and pay fees for each unit of methane they emit.
- A ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure projects that would increase greenhouse gas emissions or harm public health or safety.
- A requirement for all new passenger vehicles sold in Washington to be electric or hybrid by 2030.
- A goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions from all state-owned buildings by 2035.
Inslee said these policies will not only help Washington meet its climate commitments but also create jobs, save money, improve public health, enhance air quality, reduce wildfire risk, protect wildlife habitats, and preserve natural resources.
Other Priorities: Increasing Transparency on Oil Prices; Helping Families with Energy Bills; Treating Opioid Use; Addressing Homelessness
In addition to his climate agenda, Inslee also addressed other issues that he considers important for Washington’s well-being. These include:
- Increasing transparency on oil prices by requiring oil companies to disclose their costs and revenues related to crude oil production in Washington state.
- Helping families with energy bills by providing rebates for low-income households who install solar panels or heat pumps; expanding access to electric vehicle charging stations; creating a statewide program for home energy audits; and supporting community-based solutions for energy efficiency.
- Treating opioid use by increasing funding for prevention programs; expanding access to medication-assisted treatment; supporting harm reduction services; enhancing data collection; improving coordination among providers; and addressing social determinants of health.
- Addressing homelessness by building more affordable housing units; connecting people with services such as mental health care or substance abuse treatment; providing rental assistance vouchers; creating supportive housing communities; enforcing anti-discrimination laws; and collaborating with Tribal nations.
Inslee said these priorities reflect his vision for a more equitable, prosperous, healthy, and sustainable future for Washingtonians. He urged lawmakers from both parties to work together across party lines to advance these goals before his term ends in January 2025.