After President Trump announced his intentions to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord earlier this month, Mayor Murray announced Seattle’s intention to meet or exceed Seattle’s target of the federal Clean Power Plan, joining with dozens of cities and several states in the effort. If the United States Government and Donald Trump aren’t going to take climate change seriously, then cities and states will come together at a sub-national level to step up.
Last week, I sponsored a Resolution that was unanimously adopted by Council to affirm our commitments to the Paris Climate Accord, including the potential to go beyond Seattle’s already ambitious Climate Action Plan, and also calls upon Puget Sound Energy to demonstrate leadership by rejecting fossil fuel infrastructure.
More than half the world’s population lives in urban areas. By 2050 cities will likely be bursting with almost 70% of the people on the planet. We also know that cities account almost 2/3 of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Cities can also be incubators for the solutions to climate change, and we must act now.
Seattle is no stranger to taking on local issues with regional – or national – significance. So it makes sense that our city officials continue to tackle climate change head on by reducing pollution, improving aging infrastructure, and making walking, biking, and transit more attractive to residents, no matter who occupies the White House.
We embarked on this mission under Mayor Greg Nickels, when he led our city’s involvement in global agreements like the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and tried to tackle these problems head on. We continued that tradition last year when many local leaders and I had a chance to go to Paris to be a part of the global climate conference there. It was incredible to see what cities are doing around the world to make meaningful strides towards ending our dependence on fossil fuels, and many of them were efforts we’re already undertaking in Seattle.
The most important thing we can do locally is to create viable alternatives for people to get around without the use of fossil fuels. That’s where my passions for expanding transit access and improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure, making land use decisions to create denser cities, and ending our addiction to fossil fuels, come from. I am also firmly committed to our City’s Equity and Environment Initiative, which works to ensure that those most disproportionately experiencing the impacts of climate change – people of color, immigrants, refugees, people with low income and people with limited-English proficiency – can be the leading voices and beneficiaries in our efforts to fight climate change. We will continue and expand these efforts, no matter who occupies the White House.
We must also call upon other local leaders to step up their efforts if we are going to fill the gap in leadership at the federal level. In particular, Puget Sound Energy continues to rely on coal power, and is the owner of a plant that is the 3rd largest carbon polluter in the US. It is time for PSE to walk its talk and retire the entire Colstrip coal plant by 2025 and publicly commit to replacing the plant with 100% renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions.
We also call on state leaders to act on climate-related efforts and deny permits for all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Washington, including the proposed nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, WA. I’m disappointed, and frankly outraged, that the final permits went through for the world’s largest methanol refinery in Kalama, WA. The expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and the export of fossil fuels significantly undermines the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement; it puts us backwards on the path towards saving the planet; and contradicts Inslee’s previous commitment to fulfill the Paris Climate Accords that he made just a couple weeks ago.
The future of the human race depends on decisions we make in the present, and in response to choices we’ve made in the past. In the absence of federal leadership, we have a moral imperative to take bold action the City, State, and Regional level to fight for our future existence.