The age of consequences
Our successes over the past year and over the past 15 years demonstrate that our region has the political clout, the economic power, and the technical expertise to achieve our goals.
By Gregg Small
This year marks the 15th anniversary of Climate Solutions, co-founded by Rhys Roth. Rhys recognized the incredible challenge of climate change and saw that solving the climate crisis and building economic prosperity go hand in hand. Since 1998, he and others here at Climate Solutions have worked tirelessly to create programs and partnerships that bridge divides to prove that point. Our DNA is imprinted with his vision.
The work that Rhys and our partners inspired has never been more important than it is now. We have entered what we call the Age of Consequences.
Climate change is no longer something that we will leave to our kids, and whose impact will be felt by future generations. It is here now. We see it in the increased extreme weather, the decreased snowpacks, the raging wildfires, and the devastating droughts. We see it on our shores, where ocean acidification is having serious impacts on the Northwest’s vital shellfish industry.
As Governor Inslee has said, "Once we had the canary in the coal mine; now we have the oyster in the ocean."
That means now is the time to take the proven solutions that our businesses, our cities, and our states have pioneered and deploy them, at scale, to power one of the world’s great regions: the West Coast. I am talking about a strategy that unleashes the political will, the technical knowledge, the market power, and the environmental passion of the people and institutions of Washington, Oregon, and California in a concerted and committed effort.
The West Coast has already shown it can lead the federal government to take action on global warming: Washington and Oregon passed landmark Clean Car legislation in 2005, building off of a similar California law. These policies led directly to President Obama adopting new national standards in 2012 that will double the fuel efficiency of new cars by 2025. This is one of the most significant policies in created U.S. history to reduce global warming pollution.
Our region is also playing a vital role in determining the outcome of the single most important piece of the global climate challenge—Asia’s energy future. If Asia’s expanding demand for energy is met by hundreds of new coal-fired power plants, nothing we do here will stabilize the climate. But we all need jobs and access to affordable energy.
If we can prove now that we can build a healthy economy that runs on clean energy, we must support China, India, and other emerging economies to do the same. And to do that, we must refuse to allow our shorelines, freight corridors, and communities to be used as delivery system for cheap coal.
Just recently Kinder-Morgan, an international fossil fuel giant, announced that they were pulling out of their proposed plan to operate a large coal export facility at the Port of St. Helens in Oregon. This move was a direct result of an incredible campaign run by Climate Solutions and a host of partner organizations. Of the six coal export facilities that have been proposed in Washington and Oregon, not one has been permitted. And three of the six proposals are dead or are on deep life support.
Our successes over the past year and over the past 15 years demonstrate that our region has the political clout, the economic power, and the technical expertise to achieve our goals. We have many of the right elements for making the West Coast strategy work, including the most committed governor in the nation in Jay Inslee, visionaries and bold leaders like Tom Steyer, and a host of amazing people in our community who are doing the hard work needed to win through activism, governing, building clean energy businesses, and supporting groups like Climate Solutions.
The building blocks for success are here.