Unless you were deep into global climate-action issues in late 2015, you may not realize just how important city, state and regional efforts were in the final United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — or the “Paris Agreement,” as it’s often called.
The Paris Agreement aims to limit global temperature increases to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. It’s an ambitious goal to which 196 countries have committed. But in the face of a challenging federal environment for climate action in the coming years, states (and cities) may be better poised to take urgent action.
Before the Paris Agreement, mayors and governors from around the world, including Washington's Gov. Jay Inslee, had already set a standard for global action through local, forward-thinking partnerships, such as the Pacific Coast Collaborative. Such innovation at the highest levels of local government reflects the appetite for action among Washington’s residents.
As The Nature Conservancy’s Washington State Director Mike Stevens and Washington Business for Climate Action Chair Brenna Davis wrote in a recent Seattle Times op-ed:
“The people of Washington know climate change is happening and want our leaders to act. ... Washingtonians understand the science of climate change. More than 80 percent believe the planet is warming. More than 60 percent understand the incontrovertible science that shows climate change is caused largely by human activities.”
Washington State on the Global Leading Edge
Washington residents and businesses are backing up this perspective with real-world solutions. Here are a few indicators of our state’s potential in making a difference:
Our collaborative influence: Washington leadership is particularly bright when it comes to collaboration on climate action. Gov. Inslee’s involvement in the regional directive on climate in the Pacific Coast Collaborative, with governors of California and Oregon as well as British Columbia’s premier, recognizes that we cannot go it alone — and in fact are much stronger when working with our neighbors. Washington has stepped out early and often to address today’s urgent climate problems.
Our 'clean tech' innovation: Washington state may be commonly known for its technology industry, and big and bold innovators are emerging in the “clean tech” arena. Bill Gates and more than 20 global billionaires, including Amazon's Jeff Bezos, have established the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which just announced its new Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund to support game-changing projects backed by scientific evidence to benefit the planet’s future climate.
Our natural capital: Washingtonians take great pride in our state’s incredible natural resources. By maintaining and wisely managing our “natural capital,” we are investing in a stronger, more sustainable and vibrant future — and leaving a legacy for future generations. As the Natural Capital Forum states:
“It is from this Natural Capital that humans derive a wide range of services, often called ecosystem services, which make human life possible. With such visible natural resources … Washington state has the opportunity to truly demonstrate and then share its stories of beauty and conservation.”
As a climate-aware Washington state citizen, there is much to be proud of. While action begins at home, it also strongly involves our collective membership in the community of aligned cities and states that are all committed to a low-carbon future. Our support of Washington state’s role in valuing natural resources, advancing clean technology innovations and forming regional government alliances around climate action is where the people build their power in shaping our future. Will you join us?