The audience may have been smaller, but the message was largely the same: take action.
Hours after climate activist Greta Thunberg scolded world leaders at the United Nations, several of Spokane’s youth lined up at the microphone in Spokane City Hall to urge City Council to support cleaner fuel standards in Washington state.
The council listened.
It ultimately adopted, by a 6-to-1 vote, a nonbinding resolution urging the state Legislature to pass a clean fuel standard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, similar to laws already in place in California and Oregon.
“Just because we are privileged enough to not have felt too strongly the effects of climate change, that doesn’t mean we won’t,” said Hope Henning, a junior at North Central High School who implored the council to back the resolution – and do more.
The resolution calls for legislation that would force refineries and fuel importers to reduce the “carbon intensity” of their products by at least 20% by 2035, primarily through transitioning to biofuels and electricity instead of traditional gasoline and diesel fuel.
The council’s action does not set any fuel standards for Spokane, it only calls for the Legislature to take action.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will “help our climate, help protect us from wildfires, floods and other changing weather in this community,” said Councilman Breean Beggs.
Monday’s action occurred as the international debate over climate change intensifies. Last week, Washington announced that it would join a legal fight against President Donald Trump’s plan to rescind California’s right to set strict vehicle emission standards.
Prior to coming to the council for a vote, the resolution won strong support from the city’s Sustainability Action Subcommittee.
The Legislature considered a clean fuel standard bill this year but failed to adopt it. Oil and gas industry representatives have lobbied against the legislation, warning that it could increase fuel costs.
According to the council resolution, 40% of Spokane’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector.
Councilman Mike Fagan, who has publicly expressed doubt that human activity is the cause of climate change, voted against the resolution but did not comment on it.
Council President Ben Stuckart lauded those who spoke publicly on Monday and who participated in the climate strike last Friday, which drew hundreds of people.
“That was absolutely incredible, to see that many people out,” Stuckart said.