Initiative 1631 has a straightforward goal: reduce carbon emissions in Washington. Yet put into action, this broad objective takes on an amazing variety of real-life benefits.
For example, in rural areas, providing more ways to access online medical support, telecommute for jobs and get online job-training would all reduce emissions from driving. To accomplish this, revenue from I-1631 could help fund better broadband internet in rural areas. Rural areas will also reap the benefits of jobs in new clean-energy infrastructure like wind farms and solar energy.
In addition, I-1631 will fund tried and true improvements like weatherization for homes and energy-efficiency retrofits for businesses, upgrading irrigation systems so less water is lost to leakage and evaporation, and bill assistance for low-income households
Meanwhile, coastal communities like Taholah, a tribal village of the Quinault Indian Nation, face profound climate change impacts from sea level rise and increased flooding. “We need to move our entire village. Our jails, our schools, our elders,” Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, told The Seattle Times on Sept. 16.
Taholah has plenty of company. Statewide, communities of color—both rural and urban—take more of the brunt of pollution because of location, jobs, health care and other factors. Taholah will also have more financial support for relocation from rising sea levels and other climate-change effects. Other vulnerable communities will benefit from programs like energy affordability programs and renewable energy projects.
“This initiative places our communities’ health and well-being front and center in the face of climate change and pollution,” writes Aiko Schaefer, Director of Coordination for Front and Center, a coalition of communities of color dedicated to climate justice and reducing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on their communities.
In urban communities, whether rich or poor, vehicle emissions are a significant source of pollution. I-1631 jumps aboard solutions by funding more electric buses and electric-vehicle charging stations. It will increase the amount of affordable housing easily accessible by public transit. Architects, construction companies and developers will be able to apply for support to develop energy efficient and clean energy homes and businesses. Neighborhoods can enjoy more green development, which naturally filters air and urban runoff for a healthier, cleaner environment. And in both rural and urban areas, the initiative also helps fund modular, energy-efficient housing, reducing energy costs for low-income residents.
Whether we live in urban or rural areas, air connects us all. With drier, hotter summers and less persistent snowpack, climate change has increased forest fires in Washington. Around the Puget Sound region, our clear August mornings have been replaced, during the last two summers, by a smoky haze that chokes our lungs and sends ash drifting down from a brown sky.
And while urban areas have felt the impact of smoke, rural communities experience even more dire threats from wild fires: evacuations, decreased recreation income, property loss and direct health impacts. With 25 percent of proceeds earmarked for natural resources, Initiative 1631 will help put a damper on forest fires with more thinning, prescribed burning and other management tactics that make forests more resilient to fire.
At the Nature Conservancy, we couldn’t be more excited about this groundbreaking, precedent-shattering opportunity. Urban or rural, economically challenged or affluent, I-1631 is going to be good news for all of us.
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