Washington’s elected officials held a forum to discuss some of the pressing environmental issues ahead of the coming legislative session, which convened Monday, Jan. 13.
Representative Derek Kilmer, State Senator Christine Rolfes, and Bainbridge Island City Councilman Joe Deets were all on hand to discuss legislation at the federal, state, and local levels in 2020. A surprise appearance was also made by Gov. Jay Inslee, who popped into the overcrowded room at the Bainbridge Island Public Library to give a few brief comments.
“I am so very heartened by the presence of so many friends and people who care about what’s going on right now,” Inslee said. “I’m so thrilled about the leadership here that I’m standing with and get to work with. He [Kilmer] is one of the most stalwart advocates for all things that are now under attack by Donald Trump and I just want to thank him for his leadership.”
Inslee first addressed the homeless crisis in Washington, which he said will be one of his top priorities, before talking about some of the climate change plans for the session ahead.
The governor emphasized the need to search for ways to reduce carbon pollution from the transportation sector, citing targets set by the legislature in 2008.
“Despite the best efforts of all of us, we’re going to fall short of those targets,” he said. “I’m proposing a clean fuel standard this year.”
The clean fuel standard is currently in place in British Columbia, Oregon, and California. Inslee wants to make sure that Washington, which he dubbed the “greenest state in the country,” is added to that list.
“It’s been very successful. We believe this will remove the carbon pollution equivalent to taking four million cars off the road in Washington.”
As Inslee’s remarks came to a close, he reiterated the importance of acting now on climate change.
“This isn’t something we can wait on. The planet won’t wait, this is our last chance. I believe Washington state ought to do what it’s always done, which is to lead in innovation, both in policy and technology.”
When Kilmer took the microphone to address those in attendance, he also mentioned how Congress is playing defense against many of President Trump’s climate change policies, citing the removal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, repeal of new standards to methane emissions from oil and gas industries, and auto emissions.
“We have to take big, bold action to address the existential threat of climate change,” Kilmer said. “I would argue we have a moral obligation to act.”
Kilmer listed out a couple of principles for the legislature to consider regarding climate change. One was that combatting climate change requires global action to reduce emissions, which he argued the U.S. needs to be leading the way on, rather than spectating from the sidelines. Kilmer has endorsed the Climate Action Now Act (H.R.9), which would have the U.S. re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement and sign up to meet goals for emissions reduction.
Another bill Kilmer said he was endorsing was the 100 Percent Clean Economy Act, which sets national goals of achieving 100 percent zero-net greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050. Kilmer also stressed the importance of transitioning to a climate-forward economy as an opportunity to mobilize the economy and create high-quality jobs.
“Other nations have recognized that stepping up to this climate challenge is not just a global threat for us but an economic opportunity,” Kilmer said. “We need to use every decarbonization tool in our toolbox. We also have to look at things like deforestation, [agricultural] sector, wetlands to sequester carbon, and we need to look at innovation to come up with new things we haven’t thought of yet.”
When Rolfes addressed her constituents, she noted previous success from the legislative session related to climate change and what’s on tap for the coming session.
“The last session was the first full legislative session in years that the democrats had clear majority of the Senate and the House,” she said. “I think every single bill that the governor put forward as part of his climate change agenda, we passed with the exception of clean fuels. It was the first year in decades that the state invested fully in the Department of Natural Resources’ fire suppression and prevention budget.”
The Washington state legislature will be in session from Jan. 13 through March 12.