Washingtonians have a historic opportunity to act on the issue of our time – climate change. A groundswell of citizen support has put in front of legislators Initiative 732, a revenue neutral carbon tax that will leave our children and future generations a cleaner, healthier and safer world. It demonstrates what a pro-business and pro-environment approach to climate change can accomplish. But we must work together, and we must act now. This initiative is a great first step toward taking action on climate change. Here’s why:
We can reduce dirty fossil fuel pollution without increasing taxes. Today, fossil fuels account for about 85 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Economists agree the best way reduce fossil fuel use is to put a solid price on carbon. The revenue-neutral approach proposed by I-732 ensures that every dollar of tax on pollution is matched by a dollar of reduction in the state sales tax and other taxes. The average Washington resident will pay the same total amount of taxes as before. I-732 is based on a carbon tax program passed in British Columbia in 2008 that many economists consider to be the best climate policy in the world. Fossil fuel pollution is down by as much as 16 percent, and the B.C. economy is doing as well, if not better, than Canada as a whole.
We can increase the strength and competitiveness of our economy. I-732 accelerates the switch to affordable, clean energy sources like the sun and wind that we produce right here in our local communities. This measure will create thousands of good local jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new economic activity in building and deploying clean energy across the state. Washington is the first state to put forward a carbon tax ballot measure. By working together, we have an opportunity to lead the country and pass climate change legislation right now that works for our state and our economy.
We can start hedging against the risks of climate change. The headlines are clear. Last month, scientists reported that 2015 was the hottest year on record. Our climate is changing, and it is happening faster than many expected, at tremendous cost. According to the Washington Department of Ecology, the cost to our state from climate change impacts are projected to reach nearly $10 billion per year by 2020 and $16 billion per year by 2040. This includes increased coastal and storm damage costs, increased energy-related costs, increased wildfire costs, increased health-related costs, costs associated with reduced water availability – and the list goes on. Regardless of your political affiliation, given the known risks of a changing climate, we must act now to reduce our economic dependence on dirty and polluting fossil fuels and lower the long-term costs of climate change.
Each of us has a moral responsibility to protect our children and future generations, leaving them a cleaner, healthier and safer world. Let’s not allow this legislative session to go by without taking action on climate change.
Ed Mahlum is an executive in the global renewable energy sector and a campaign volunteer. Joe Ryan is co-chair of Carbon Washington/Yes on I-732.