This month, Audubon Washington was invited to participate in a private roundtable discussion with the region’s top climate leaders to discuss how action we take in the Pacific Northwest can have a national impact. Gail Gatton, Executive Director of Audubon Washington, joined two former Cabinet members - Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator and Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior - along with a select group of elected officials and senior leaders across business, academic, philanthropy, and NGO sectors for a facilitated discussion that focused on:
Identifying the best opportunities in the Northwest to make a difference on climate change and clean energy to make an impact here and beyond our borders;
Addressing the biggest barriers to progress on climate; and
Improving communications and public engagement around issues related to climate and success stories in our region.
Since Audubon’s own scientists reported on the impacts of climate change on birds, Audubon has been at the forefront of the climate conversation in our state. Through strategic advocacy and strong member support, we have solidified our reputation as a respected and influential voice on public policy issues related to climate. Having a seat at the table with this illustrious group reaffirmed that we must continue to be a force for change on climate. Our mission is clear: we support climate action that takes swift and effective action to reduce carbon pollution, the number one threat to birds.
The rapidly accelerating threat of climate change has catapulted the conversation to the top of many policy agendas. Yet shockingly, despite the urgency and calls for action from the Governor and other elected officials – along with many labor, business and environmental leaders – our state legislature has failed to take any meaningful action to reduce overall global warming emissions in the past ten years.
Case in point: during the 2018 legislative session, we advocated for passage of a policy would set the state on a path toward 100 percent clean energy by 2045, including the phasing out of coal from Washington’s utility rates by 2030. The measure had strong support from labor and business groups who recognized the potential for new investment in clean energy alternatives and economic and job growth. It also had strong constituent support with 66 percent of likely voters indicating they supported such a policy, and nearly half saying they would support legislators who voted for policies to address global warming. Against this backdrop, passage of the policy should have been a slam dunk. Instead, legislative action was thwarted by utilities who brought excessive influence to Olympia in opposition of the bill. Had our elected officials had the courage to stand up to these interests, they would have made Washington a true climate leader and the first state in the country to ban new gas for electricity generation.
A common theme heard during the roundtable is the need to take action in a variety of forums, working with a broad range of communities and stakeholders to find solutions that work for everyone. Government, private businesses, and individuals citizens all need to take responsibility to address this pressing crisis of our time. This very much echoes what we hear all the time from supporters and citizen activists, which is “climate change won’t wait.” What we do today, even if not a perfect policy or a perfect solution, will set us on a course for greater action in the future. We must start now.