In 2008, Washington enacted legislation (RCW 70.235) that set a series of limits on the emission of greenhouse gases within the state: quote:
- By 2020, reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases in the state to 1990 levels;
- By 2035, reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases in the state to twenty-five percent below 1990 levels;
- By 2050, the state will do its part to reach global climate stabilization levels by reducing overall emissions to fifty percent below 1990 levels, or seventy percent below the state’s expected emissions that year. End quote.
In 2019, HB 2311 was introduced to modify these state greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets to
- 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030,
- 70 percent below 1990 levels by 2040, and
- 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, with the goal of net zero emissions. This would mean that any remaining emissions would be offset by sequestration.
The bill has passed the House and the Senate , and is now awaiting signature by the governor. It is one of the two priorities of environmental groups that passed this session. (The other is 5811, the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) bill. See separate post on this.)
Arguments for and against the bill are summarized below.
Rep. Vandana Slatter (D, Bellevue, sponsor), said that it is vital that our limits be scientifically sound. We need to update them even though we are falling short.
University of Washington Climate Impacts Group summarized IPCC 2018 findings and 2019 IPCC and NCA findings: human-caused climate change is accelerating and WA has warmed 1 degree, snowpack is reduced, and the sea level is up. Globally 2 billion more people are exposed to heat, and climate adds $15 trillion additional costs to the world economy. We need steep near-term reductions before 2030, net zero by 2050, through emissions reductions and sequestration. The Department of Ecology supports 2311, and recognizes the climate threat and need for update of standards. Science tells us that these reductions are absolutely necessary. WA is not alone, other state and local governments are also working on ambitious goals. Goals are achievable. The Department of Natural Resources supports 2311, noting that climate change poses threats to DNR mission of forest health, deploying clean energy, and protecting shorelines. Wildfire emissions must be inventoried, and sequestration must be addressed through the DNR carbon sequestration work group.
The Association of Washington Business opposes 2311 because it is not the best way to achieve goals of RCW 70.235. 45% by 2030 not feasible, remove every car, truck, train, ship, and airplane. 2311 does not allow for new technologies. AWB suggestions: make goals aspirational, need oversight by legislature. Washington business community supports emissions reductions. Pushing reductions too rapidly will create problems for business. Avista Corporation opposes 2311, because its regulatory atmosphere would be counterproductive, resulting in exporting jobs and business outside the state. Adding emissions from wildfire is ambiguous, perhaps we should only address anthropogenic emissions.
Washington Environmental Council stated that 2311 is one of the highest priorities of the Environmental Priorities Coalition. The emissions limits need to be updated by 2311. Climate Solutions argued that the targets in RCW 70.235 need to be updated and 2311 updates them. WA emits 1.5 times emissions of Sweden even though Sweden has larger population and has a goal of zero net emissions by 2045. We need to match Sweden. Nature Conservancy stated that sequestration by land use can be a valuable contribution to emissions reductions. Washington Blue/Green Alliance argued that emissions reductions should not put an additional burden on workers, and that we should not outsource our pollution but bring production-based emissions into our calculation. King County staff supports 2311 as a part of K4C (King County Cities Climate Collaborative) efforts. Carbon WA supports the science-based targets and enhancement of reporting in 2311, and noted that sequestration is an important part of 2311.
Amendments to 2311: Representatives agreed to:
- limit emissions definitions to anthropogenic, including wildfires;
- limit some regulatory authority of state agencies;
Most of these amendments did not weaken the bill; the amendments by minority members that would weaken the bill were defeated. The bill was approved by committee on January 23.
UW Climate Impacts Group provided scientific context for Dept. of Ecology in its report that led to the drafting of the bill. Rapid and profound decarbonization is required in all sectors. Our Climate said that we need sharp reductions in emissions informed by science. Climate Solutions said 6272 would rectify outdated limits in RCW 70.235; WA has 1.5 times the emissions of Sweden but has less population. WCV and EPC (Environmental Priorities Coalition) commended bill for recognized role of land for sequestration. Front and Centered said that 6272 will update emissions but suggested full inventory including consumption.
Department of Ecology noted the need for deeper and faster cuts, as indicated by science. King County said that reducing emissions is a top priority through K4C plans. Burien City Council is working on limiting emissions and will work with limits in 6272. League of Women Voters advocates measures to reduce emissions to the level indicated by science, as in 6272, given the urgency of the climate crisis. Carbon Washington advocated aggressive targets and full reporting as embodied in the bill, and commended the inclusion sequestration. Nature Conservancy also emphasized science-based targets, and supported the sequestration provisions in bill. Washington Public Ports Association balances economic and environmental goals, supports section 2 (net zero language). Washington State Labor Council commented on the increase in jobs from programs to reduce emissions, and advocates just transition of workers in fossil fuels jobs.
Association of Washington Business criticized differences in start dates, between RCW 70.235 and 6272, and questioned the sequestration language.