The Pacific Northwest is one of the best-prepared regions to spearhead the transition to 100 percent clean energy. Washington’s natural resources, historic clean energy achievements, technology leadership, and emphasis on sustainable prosperity make our region a natural leader in the transition to a clean energy future.
Our reliance on fossil fuels has begun to destabilize our climate, leading to many impacts including frequent and fiercer wildfires and economic loss to our homegrown agricultural and timber industries. Water supplies for drinking, irrigation and fish, sea level rise harming our roads and bridges and more intense flood events all are the new realities caused by climate pollution effecting our health, homes and businesses. And while global warming impacts all of us, lower income communities and communities of color are hit first and worst by climate change.
Local elected leaders from around Washington State have been digging into real challenges our communities face like reliable and clean transportation, affordable housing, local job creation and more making our cities more resilient and prosperous.
We also need to look at the many ways cities in Washington can “move the needle” faster toward 100 percent clean energy and to how local elected officials can lead, including:
- Supporting Initiative 1631. We encourage our peers and voters across the state to endorse I-1631 – a statewide ballot initiative to reduce the pollution we know harms our health and instead invests in family wage clean energy jobs and protecting our state’s air and water with a fee on Washington’s largest polluters. We can also lean in during the state legislative session to call for the adoption of cleaner fuels and powering our electricity grid with 100 percent fossil free electricity by 2045.
- Accelerating electrification of our local transportation systems: Washington cities are getting more and more crunched by congestion and choked by pollution, but there are ways that communities can cut pollution and accelerate transit solutions for all. For example, the City of Tacoma’s public power utility is pursuing opportunities to make it cheaper and easier to own and operate an electric vehicle (EV) and the City is now undergoing an innovative EV mapping project to prioritize public charging stations in areas, especially lower income ones, to help get more people off of their reliance on oil to power their vehicles – it’s cheaper, cleaner, and more dependable.
- Incentivizing more home-grown renewable energy projects, like communities that want to advance solar energy and energy efficiency. The City of Yakima Waste Wastewater Division has implemented low energy technology and started capturing methane for heating demands. Yakima has many local solar installers that employ people in the clean energy sector, create more locally generated clean energy to power our grid and lower our utility bills.
- Passing local policies like resolutions to commit to 100 percent renewable energy with a plan to match the commitment – the cities of Edmonds and Bellingham have already led Washington in doing so, and more cities can follow their lead. Tacoma is said to have passed some of the most ambitious and far-reaching Clean Energy and Clean Air legislative agendas in the state – supporting aggressive action by the Legislature this session.
As local elected leaders, we know there is still a window of time to take urgent action and cities offer one of the last real opportunities to make a difference. We can ensure we use our energy efficiently, generate and store far more from renewable sources like wind and solar, electrify just about everything we can and power everything that cannot be electrified with far cleaner sources that are not fossil fuels.
Most immediately: voters and other local elected please join us say yes to more clean air and clean energy by November 6th and voting yes on 1631. And let’s all collectively continue to work to move the needle to a 100 percent clean energy vision for all of our communities.
This work is not partisan. It is not east vs. west. It is not urban vs. rural. These actions will improve every corner of Washington State with more jobs, more stable energy prices and a healthier future.
Ryan Mello is a Tacoma City Councilmember and board member of the Association of Washington Cities. Carmen Mendez is a Yakima City Councilmember and board member of the Association of Washington Cities.