A climate crisis on the West Coast requires interregional cooperation, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington and the premier of British Columbia said at last week’s Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference, where they shared a virtual dais.
“We know no borders when it comes to climate change and the consequences of a heating planet,” Premier John Horgan said. “All of us here on the West coast have experienced unprecedented drought, fires [and] floods. The consequences are catastrophic, and British Columbia has had its infrastructure bent and broken significantly over the past number of years.
“The only way forward is to put aside the national boundaries, to put aside the subnational boundaries that separate us, and go to the values that unite us,” he said.
This year’s conference — in Blaine, Wash, on the U.S.-Canada border and sponsored by Microsoft and Amazon, among others — highlighted climate change and the region’s “net-zero future.”
It featured a report saying the “Cascadia mega-region, running from Portland through Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, has become synonymous with building a better future. Home to so many natural assets and incredible innovation and talent, one of our greatest strengths is partnership. Now is the time to partner to address one of the greatest challenges of our time: the threat of climate change to the region and the world.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown agreed the “need for action could not be more urgent.”
“Climate change is something we’re no longer trying to avert. It is actually here,” Brown said. “And so, I think our strategies are going to have to evolve toward mitigation and adaptation.”
Last year’s June heat dome over Oregon, which killed 96 residents as it drove temperatures to 116 in Portland, disproportionately harmed “communities of color [and] families with low incomes in our rural communities,” Brown said.
“I think it’s so critically important as we move forward, as we continue to take action to develop policy” that Oregon focuses on historically underserved communities, she said.
“One of the simplest [means] is the legislation that we passed [last year] to ensure that families with low and moderate incomes could access our [electric vehicle] rebates, both on new and used vehicles. And we were the first state in the entire country to do that. I was pleased to see that Congress followed our lead in making that available at the national level” in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, she said.
Moderator Rachel Smith, CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, asked California Gov. Gavin Newsom to discuss his state’s most recent experience with extreme weather and a package of bills he sponsored in August.
“California is on the frontlines of the climate crisis with an unprecedented heatwave,” Smith said. “Just this past week saw record temperatures across the state. You also made a very big push with legislative partners on climate last month.”
Newsom started by thanking his colleagues for inviting him to the conference, which traditionally has involved mainly delegates from the Pacific Northwest, then segued to a talk on climate change globally and in the West.
Over a 10-day period this month, California and the Southwest broke 1,000 temperature records, and the heat stressed CAISO’s grid to near-blackouts, Newsom said. (See California Runs on Fumes but Avoids Blackouts.)
The bills that the legislature passed at the end of August, and which Newsom signed Friday, included measures to move the state more aggressively to achieve carbon neutrality and supply all retail customers with 100% zero-carbon energy by 2045, as required by previous legislative actions and executive orders.
The California Air Resources Board adopted regulations last month requiring all new cars sold in the state to be zero-emission or plug-in hybrids by 2035, firming up his similar executive order from September 2020, Newsom noted. (See Calif. Adopts Rule Banning Gas-power Car Sales in 2035.)
The state has devoted $54 billion toward fighting climate change in the next five years, more than all but a handful of nations, he said. Approximately $10 billion of that amount is intended to promote adoption of electric vehicles, a top priority in California, he said.
More than 50% of greenhouse gas emissions in California come from transportation, including 41% from tailpipe emissions and the rest from fossil fuel extraction and production.
“If we’re going to get serious about greenhouse gases, we have to get serious about decarbonizing the transportation sector,” Newsom said.
Ford and General Motors have decided to focus on producing electric vehicles, “so we’re moving markets internationally,” he said. “This is not about electric power. This is about economic power.”
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington also emphasized the economic benefits of a clean energy agenda.
“The West Coast has demonstrated that if you want to have a robust, dynamic, productive economy, get on the clean energy bandwagon,” Inslee said. “Because the No. 1 economy in the world today is the West Coast of the United States and British Columbia.
“And one of the reasons is we are growing jobs like crazy in the clean energy, high-tech, innovative economy. We demonstrated it. We have shown it. This is not a hypothetical. It's not a marketing bumper sticker. It's an economy that is zooming because we’ve embraced clean energy. And that’s what people want. They want jobs, and we are delivering jobs in clean energy.”
The federal government’s decision to devote $360 billion to “finally” fight climate change in the Inflation Reduction Act lags the West Coast states efforts but will accelerate them, he said.
The denial of climate change by many Republicans has delayed efforts to fight it by decades, Inslee said.
Horgan, however, said a bipartisan consensus has prevailed in British Columbia and other parts of Canada regarding the need to address climate change, including through forest management to prevent wildfires. He said he hopes the majority of the U.S. will come to recognize the reality of climate change in the near future.
“We are fortunate in Canada that the [climate change] deniers are diminishing by the day because of the obvious evidence that is right in front of us, but I do not doubt for a minute — Jay and Kate and Gavin — the challenges you face because of the fracture in your country right now. All of us on this side of the border are hoping and praying that sanity will prevail in the months ahead.”
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