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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Guest Opinion: Cities are leading state on climate change

Cynthia Pratt

Summer is usually the time for backyard barbecues, afternoon swims and easy living. Unfortunately, we’re now at a time of anticipating wildfire and smoke season, increasingly dangerous heatwaves and drought. These impacts are directly related to climate change. Each year, we feel and see climate change more and more – from the smoke across the state, to the increasing heat in my home city of Lacey.

Most cities worldwide are already in the throes of dealing with climate change – whether resourcing storm cleanup, planning for water shortages and sea-level rise or dealing with intense forest fires. The impacts on our cities’ finances will become increasingly debilitating and could lead to major disruptions in our economy as well as city budgets and services.

All of this influences our ability to thrive and sustain healthy communities.

Our mayors and city councils are on the frontline of efforts to prepare our cities and communities for the realities of climate change. And many, like Lacey, are committed to strong greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Our mayors, city councils and other local elected officials are directly accountable to you, our constituents, and we can often be more nimble and responsive to our collective needs. Our cities can be incubators of innovative solutions for better public transportation, cleaner and healthier buildings, smarter land-use planning, and commitments to renewable energy. Here in Washington, many of our cities are already leading the nation, and we are here in Spokane this week for the Association of Washington Cities conference to continue to collaborate, network and share action ideas.

Many Washington cities are innovating. Spokane and Edmonds committed to 100% clean energy by 2030 and 2025, respectively. Many of us partnered with the state Legislature this year to pass groundbreaking policies committing the state to 100% clean electricity by 2045, setting a performance standard for large commercial buildings, and increasing air quality by reducing super pollutants. We need to continue to work together to encourage Olympia to take strong climate action by empowering our cities to do more and by requiring oil companies and producers to provide cleaner transportation fuels in 2020.

In my home region, the cities of Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater, along with Thurston County, have entered into a Regional Climate Mitigation Plan that will set limits on global warming pollution and goals of reducing 85% of emissions by 2050. Lacey is investing in electric vehicle charging stations and solar. We have partnered with Puget Sound Energy and other cities and businesses to support a wind project that will make our city operations net zero.

We’re also thinking broadly about our impacts and looking at businesses and office spaces as places to address climate and energy use. The Utility and Transportation Commission just had a ribbon-cutting at a renovated office building in Lacey that has all LED lighting; a solar roof; extremely energy-efficient HVAC; air-sealed walls and ceilings; and a stormwater system that incorporates roof runoff into porous swales that recharges groundwater.

Addressing climate change in our city planning is not just good for the environment, it’s good for our health and budgets. Greater energy efficiency in our buildings means lower costs and promoting renewable energy decreases emissions from power plants statewide. Our cities will continue to deal with the challenges of sustainable growth, social mobility, economic development and climate change. I look forward to many discussions this week sharing ideas and solutions that improve the quality of life for folks not just in one city, but also in all our cities across Washington state so we can all continue to celebrate our summers and enjoy time with our families.

Cynthia Pratt is deputy mayor of Lacey and a board member of the Association of Washington Cities, which is holding its annual conference through today in Spokane.

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