OLYMPIA – The House passed the Climate Commitment Act, landmark legislation to reduce carbon emissions and set Washington on a path to meet its statutory goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, today with a vote of 54-43. Senate Bill 5126 establishes a cap and invest system that will steadily reduce carbon emissions and air pollution while investing in green infrastructure, multimodal transportation, and environmental justice. Amendments in the House strengthened the bill by adding stringent requirements to monitor air quality in communities that suffer disproportionate environmental and health impacts. The House version also ensures that at least 35% of revenues from the Climate Investment Account are invested in overburdened communities and another 10% benefit tribal lands. Additionally, the bill now designates the Environmental Justice Council, created by the HEAL Act, to recommend those investments.
“Washington has debated and considered programs to reduce carbon emissions for a generation,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-West Seattle), Chair of the House Environment & Energy Committee. “With today’s vote, we are finally moving towards securing a program that will ensure Washington reduces our emissions to the levels that scientists tell us are safe. With this law, we will cap pollution, invest in our communities, and improve health outcomes in overburdened communities. This policy can be a model for the rest of the nation as Washington leads the way into a clean energy future.”
The cap and invest (cap and trade) system established by the Climate Commitment Act will set an overall cap on greenhouse gas emissions with specific limits for individual businesses. Those businesses must purchase credits (allowances) for their allowed emissions, which they can then buy and sell. Businesses that emit fewer greenhouse gasses than their allotted credits can sell their credits to businesses that have not been able to reduce their emissions as quickly, allowing the economy to dynamically adapt while meeting the state’s overall carbon reduction goals. The overall pool of allowances will be steadily reduced to meet the state’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
“It has been an honor to work with Chair Joe Fitzgibbon on a climate change bill that combines the bests parts of the Governor’s Climate Commitment Act and Washington STRONG,” said said Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D-Bow), the only Native American currently serving in the Washington State Legislature. “In the past few days, we have worked hard to improve this bill, showing our strong commitment to protecting our most vulnerable communities, environmental justice, and honoring tribal treaty rights. Combatting climate change is an urgent priority and this bill will help achieve our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets while investing in critical projects for transportation, infrastructure, climate resiliency, and protection of natural resources. Washington State is taking our first steps to lead the nation in progressive climate policy that will help us better protect our environment for many generations to come.”
The cap on emissions only applies to businesses that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually (roughly 100 entities). As the pool of allowances is reduced over time, businesses will compete to buy allowances at auctions, generating revenue for the state. That money will be invested into the Climate Emission Reduction Account for transportation projects that reduce carbon emissions and the Climate Investment Account for green infrastructure projects, projects that increase resilience in natural and working lands, and assistance for affected workers and low income people to transition to a clean energy economy.
“Climate change is having more and more devastating consequences. Fires that used to be a rarity are becoming commonplace. At the same time, manufacturing jobs are the backbone of this state’s economy and the working class,” said Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) “This bill strikes the right balance between getting Washington to its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and supporting the industries that have built this state.”
Amendments in the House also addressed concerns from Emissions-Intensive, Trade-Exposed Industries. These industries, such as metals manufacturing, paper manufacturing, and aerospace product and parts manufacturing, among others, will receive no-cost allowances for the first twelve years of the program. Ensuring these industries are able to stay competitive keeps jobs in Washington and ensures that they do not move to a state with less restrictive emissions standards.
The bill now heads to the Senate for concurrence.