Inslee climate change

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee with a chart at a press conference Dec. 19 in Olympia showing how much he recommends the state cut carbon emissions by 2050 to combat climate change. The blue line shows the state's current goal, and the orange line is the more-ambitious path Inslee recommends.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee outlined his new climate-change agenda Dec. 19, proposing the state aim to slash its carbon emissions to nearly zero by mid-century.

By 2050, the state's carbon output should be 5% of what it was in 1990, Inslee said, to help keep the earth from warming more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit from pre-industrial levels.

"We are waking up to the science in Washington state," he said. "The cost of inaction is too high too bear."

Inslee said he will ask the Legislature to pass several bills to cut emissions, including one that lowers carbon emissions from transportation fuels. California and Oregon have adopted the policy, commonly known as a low-carbon fuel standard.

Inslee also directed the Department of Ecology to write a rule mandating that future industrial and energy projects be evaluated for their potential effect on climate change.

Inslee said he wanted to follow up on legislation passed during the 2019 session, including law that will require all electricity used in Washington to be "carbon-free" by 2045.

"What we've done is good, but it's not enough," he said. "We've had substantial momentum. We've got to keep the ball rolling."

Washington emitted 90.4 million metric tons of carbon in 1990. Washington lawmakers in 2008 set a goal of cutting emissions to the 1990 level by 2020 and by 50% by 2050.

Inslee proposes a 95% reduction by 2050.

Such a reduction would equal 4.52 million metric tons. Livestock and decomposing manure emit about 4.25 million metric tons annually in Washington, according to Ecology.

Ecology recently estimated total statewide emissions in 2017 were 97.5 million metric tons, or about 8% higher than the 2020 goal. 

"To redefine a goal you're currently not hitting is not about reality, it's about politics," said Todd Myers, an environmental policy analyst for the conservative Washington Policy Center.

Myers called the 95%-reduction goal "wildly destructive." It could lead to expensive policies that don't do much to cut carbon, but take money away from everything from traffic safety to health care for the poor.

"It hurts everybody," he said.

Washington's Democratic-controlled House passed a low-carbon fuel standard last year, but the measure didn't move in the Senate.

The policy would be intended to encourage energy sources such as as ethanol, electricity, hydrogen, biodiesel and renewable natural gas to power vehicles.

Agriculture would be collateral damage for "environmental grandstanding," Washington Farm Bureau associate director of government relations Breanne Elsey said in an email.

"Proposals like low carbon fuel standard are incredibly costly to industries, like agriculture, that operate without electric alternatives," she said. "In an industry that cannot adjust their prices to match increases in input costs, a change like this would be crippling."

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