When it comes to regional climate policy, things are not moving as fast as we’d like. But as my colleague Eric de Place pointed out last week, the regional conversation about energy policy—and cap and trade in particular—has leapt forward at an astonishing pace.
A year ago—even a few months ago—cap and trade was a relatively unfamiliar concept among NW legislators and journalists. Today, a range of leaders—from faith organizations to ed boards and top NW businesses to utilities and legislators—truly get it.
Of course there are those who aren’t yet on board, and the legislative roadblocks have been frustrating, but the fact is, we’ve witnessed (and been part of) a major shift in the conversation.
Let’s stop and take stock of some of the ground that’s been gained—especially in WA and OR. Here it is from NW leaders and journalists themselves. (Of course, you might say we’re cherry-picking here, but the fact is, this isn’t even an exhaustive list—there are plenty more examples of NW opinion leaders calling for cap and trade. Too many to list here.)
So, in no particular order; emphasis mine:
Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial board, January 30, 2009:
Lawmakers and the governor should look beyond the painful necessities involved with budget tightening to the opportunity to put the state in position for a robust recovery that is environmentally and socially healthy.
There are encouraging signs. Two bills that [Gregoire] requested, HB1819 and SB5735, would move the state ahead significantly on creating a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Christine Gregoire, March 17, 2009:
President Obama has made it clear that he will work with Congress to develop a national cap-and-trade program. At the federal level, a greenhouse gas program is coming. If Washington leads, we are at the table shaping the program.
Find this article interesting? Support more research like this with a gift!
The Olympian Editorial Board, February 19, 2009:
Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, [WA,] sponsor of the House bill is absolutely right when he says cap and trade is as much an economic issue as it is an environmental issue. Washington has the ability to be at the forefront creating green jobs to kickstart a green economy. Cap and trade is a significant first step in that direction.
Everett Herald editorial board, March 15, 2009:
Contrary to the apparent fears of most state senators, it is in our state’s economic interest to be a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
House members should consider that as they take up a Senate bill that severely weakened the governor’s proposal to implement a cap-and-trade system in 2012.
A cap-and-trade system would mandate those reductions, and create a market where polluters who stay under emission targets could trade allowances to those who have exceeded them.
Now is the time to be setting the stage for a strong economic recovery, not for sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone else to lead. Lawmakers should be doing everything they can to encourage green businesses to locate here. One way is to send a clear signal that Washington is committed to doing two things at the same time: reducing its carbon footprint and fueling its economy.
Oregon Global Warming Commission report to the Oregon Legislature, March 13, 2009:
In our Commission deliberations, we recruited dozens of other Oregonians, from business, industry, labor, local government, state agencies, nonprofits and others, to help Commission Members evaluate opportunities and recommend the policy choices we transmit to you today.
The Commission recommends that Oregon continue to move “forward with development of the Western Climate Initiative’s (WCI) proposed framework for establishing a … regional greenhouse gas (GHG) cap and trade mechanism and complementary programmatic and regulatory measures.
Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman, February 18, 2009:
Society is going to have to turn away from economies based in greenhouse gases and quick. But as we turn into the transformation there are going to be trade offs. We will have to take risks…A comprehensive program such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade pollution market will be far more efficient that the use of individual environmental laws.
Deanna Smith, public affairs director, TRIDEC speaking on behalf of a coalition of Tri-City business, science and technology leaders to a Washington State joint house committee on energy, February 5, 2009:
Working together with industry and public power companies, you can ensure that Washington leads the way for clean energy for the nation, and help create an energy-secure economy that creates the family wage jobs required for our success and prosperity in the 21st century.
The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel, Episcopal Bishop of Olympia, and The Rt. Rev. James E. Waggoner Jr., Episcopal Bishop of Spokane, special to the Spokane, WA, Spokesman-Review, March 7, 2009:
Our economy has been pummeled by unstable food and fuel prices, and is struggling to remake itself for a healthier and more sustainable future. The recent photos of the flooding on Interstate 5 illustrate vividly how disruption in our climate has far-reaching consequences on every aspect of our lives. Taking action is a moral imperative, and it’s the smart thing to do.
The Washington Legislature is considering “cap and invest” legislation (HB 1819 and SB 5735). This will create a fair and effective program by setting a cap on the amount of climate pollution allowed, and then selling permits for pollution.
By gradually reducing the amount of permits available, the amount of pollution is reduced. Selling the permits generates revenue, which can be used to stimulate investment in a new, clean-energy economy and train people for green jobs.
We are especially supportive of the aspect of this bill that prioritizes help for low-income families with high energy costs.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial board, February 13, 2009:
States and countries that use the economic downturn as an excuse for inaction will find themselves even bigger losers as the economy revives. Worse, the overall scale of problems with higher temperatures, wildfires, changing precipitation and rising human health challenges will be worse for everyone if efforts to moderate climate change stall.
It was farsighted of the Legislature to order the study during the 2007 session, a step that fit well with initiatives by Gov. Chris Gregoire, lawmakers and many businesses to keep
pace with the
latest science on global warming. It’s vital for the Legislature to show just as much vision this year by passing the governor’s proposal for limiting global warming emissions through a cap and trade system.
Michael Butler, chairman and CEO of Cascadia Capital, a national investment-banking firm, special to the Seattle Times, February 23, 2009
Forward-looking business leaders in Washington should support Gov. Chris Gregoire’s cap and invest bill. This legislation tackles three critical issues – our economy, our national security and our environment – all in ways that will benefit the business community. First, green energy and clean technology present an unprecedented growth opportunity for our local economy…
Passing the cap and invest bill would erect a big, neon sign in front of this burgeoning subsector of venture and growth capital: Invest in Washington! …Less reliance on oil means lower input-cost volatility for many businesses, as well as less money lost to funding unstable dictatorships… Cap and invest will keep more of our energy dollars in-state.
The old economy has left us in dire straits. The transition to a new, cleaner energy system is the largest global trend of the 21st century, and the cap and invest bill is our greatest opportunity to lead the transformation. The end result will be a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous Washington.
Oregon governor (D) Ted Kulongoski, guest opinion, the Oregonian, February 14, 2009:
Oregon must cap greenhouse gas emissions and continue to advance renewable energy production and energy efficiency, both for our environment and for our economy.
I agree with the majority of economists who have looked carefully at the issue and concluded that a large trading market is a tool that helps to achieve lower-cost emissions reductions.
Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-WA, guest commentary, Everett Herald, March 1, 2009:
Conservatives thought up cap-and-trade years ago as an alternative to the state passing laws and mandates. Instead, unleash the power of the free market. Let private enterprise drive down pollution. Don’t punish people for polluting. Reward those who find smart ways to cut pollution and they will find ways of doing just that.
There’s also a nice little byproduct of all that free marketing and innovation. It creates jobs.
I was resisting the temptation to say this the whole time but what the hell: We’ve come a long way, baby. Send us more examples of this shift if you have ’em.
Anna, you’re right, a lot of people do get it. Unfortunately, most of the American public doesn’t, because they don’t see how it directly impacts their lives or those of their children. Talking about rising oceans is great if you’re talking to people who live in areas likely to be inundated. However, most of us won’t be impacted that directly. Instead, for those of us not living in low lying areas, rising seas will likely signal rising food costs, along with insurance costs and taxes, as governments try to fix, more or modify public infrastructure. It means more instability and conflict around the world, as civil authority breaks down in the face of drought, flooding and food shortages, all of which will call for larger militaries (and all the related costs).It’s no secret that americans aren’t very good about dealing now with problems that appear to be several years or decades down the road. And with the country in a recession, how do we get people’s attention when all they can think about is trying to keep their job? At the same time, we’ve got to make sure that our message isn’t so frightening that they either panic or write the messenger off as a fringe lunatic. It’s a tough challenge and there’s certainly no single answer. Casting climate change as a moral imperative may work with some (though it can be counterproductive if it creates a smug sense of moral superiority). However, it seems like the key is to personalize it for people, so they can see how it’s relevant to their lives today and their aspirations for tomorrow. How that looks will vary from person to person, but we might start with asking ourselves how climate changes is/has directly/indirectly impacted our lives and how we expect it will impact our lives in the future? If we really think about that, then maybe we’ve got the means to start talking with our friends, families and acquaintances.
Brad, you’re right on so many points. I think one thing that happened—one of the places where we can say we gained some major ground—is that people are making the connection between the climate and energy and energy and the economy. What ed boards and leaders across the NW have been saying is that to get out of this recession and stay out, we have to get off fossil fuels and we have to build up our clean energy economy—or get left in the dust. Happily, the gloom and doom messages about climate impacts are secondary to the optimistic, solutions-oriented messages about a clean energy future. What we need to stress is not that we want to change the way we live drastically but that to keep living about the same way we are, we have to make some changes. I think the energy-economy factor does just what you say—making it personal for everyone.