Advocacy

Washington Legislature Ends with Mixed Climate Victories and More Work Ahead for Comprehensive Climate Action

Policy discussions on a clean fuels standard, carbon pricing, and other economy-wide approaches to carbon reduction lays groundwork for substantive climate action in 2021.

Seattle, WA – With high expectations to follow up last year’s passage of the Clean Energy Transformation Act , the Washington State legislature ended its session today by making progress on some fronts regarding climate, but failing to pass aggressive transportation emissions reduction policies. The Clean Fuel Standard, the most effective policy on the table to reduce emissions from the most polluting sector in the state, failed to pass. However, a number of important bills did make it to the governor’s desk. These included Sustainable Farms and Fields (SB 5947), a Zero Emissions Vehicles bill (SB 5811), and a bill that sets new, ambitious net-zero greenhouse gas emissions limits (HB 2311)

“While some progress was made in this short legislative session, there is now pressure on the legislature to take more meaningful action next year,” said Adam Maxwell, Government Relations Director with Audubon Washington.  “We must keep up the momentum to address more far-reaching policies, such as clean fuels and carbon pricing, which will have a clear and measureable impact on carbon reduction.”

Last year, the National Audubon Society released a report showing that up to two-thirds of bird species will be vulnerable to extinction, including in Washington state, unless emissions are reduced and rising global temperatures are not halted. “Unless we take more far-reaching measures, birds and people will face increasingly dire threats,” said Maxwell. “But with more comprehensive climate action, we can save the vast majority of vulnerable birds threatened by climate change.”

Passage of Key Audubon Priorities

Sustainable Farms and Fields

The legislature passed the Sustainable Farms and Fields bill (SB 5947), which helps farmers access funding to voluntarily adopt more efficient and effective emissions reduction and sequestration practices aimed at increasing the quantity of carbon stored in the land. It also has the potential to help some farmers become producers and suppliers of the clean fuels Washington needs to reach its emissions goals.

This bill provides $225K over the next year to launch the grant program. Audubon Washington will continue its efforts to build support for increased funding required to create significant impact in the agricultural sector of the state. With support from Carbon Washington, the Washington Farm Bureau and other key stakeholders, SB 5947 is an example of effective coalition building and strong bipartisan cooperation.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Limits

This bill (HB 2311) requires state agencies to set a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050 and includes other emissions reduction targets. This legislation also makes carbon sequestration the policy of the state and requires state agencies to consider carbon sequestration potential in all contracting and grant making activities further supporting partnerships around natural climate solutions

Smart Solar Siting

The 2021 supplemental budget includes a $500K budget proviso to fund a least-conflict solar siting project at Washington State University’s Energy Program. The project will focus on understanding and mapping potential conflict areas in Washington’s sunny Columbia Basin with the goal of helping clean energy developers identify the best places to develop utility scale solar projects. The proviso, spearheaded by Audubon, had support from American Farmland Trust, Renewable Northwest, and state and local elected officials from both sides of the aisle. As we develop a 100% clean energy grid, stakeholder-driven processes like this will play a key role in helping to responsibly and efficiently site the clean energy we need.

Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV)

The passage of the Zero Emissions Vehicles bill (SB 5811) will require automakers to make more electric or other zero-emission vehicles available for sale in Washington. Washington joins 11 other states currently participating in the ZEV program, which requires that a minimum percentage of the passenger vehicles supplied by automakers be electric.

More Work Ahead

While Audubon Washington supported updating Washington state’s emissions reduction targets (HB 2311), setting targets is simply not enough. For the second year in a row the House of Representatives passed a Clean Fuel Standard and the Senate failed to act. The Clean Fuel Standard would set clear emissions reductions targets, reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels 25% by 2035. It would create a market place for cleaner transportation fuels and aid electric utilities in supporting the transition to electric vehicles. Looking ahead to the 2021 legislative session, it’s imperative that the state legislature adopt the policies necessary to reach Washington’s ambitious new targets for emissions reduction while continuing to enhance the capacity of our natural landscapes to absorb carbon emissions.

 

About Audubon
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

Established in 1981, Audubon Washington works statewide with its 25 independent chapters and 35,000 members on the conservation of the sagebrush shrub steppe ecosystem in Eastern Washington, protection of coastal estuaries, and actions that address climate change, the number one threat to birds today. Through the Seward Park Audubon Center, we provide science, nature and environmental education programs for youth and families. Learn more at http://wa.audubon.org/, @audubonWA.

Media Contact: Robyn Shepherd, robyn.shepherd@audubon.org, 212-979-3193

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