Act on Climate: A call to action
Act on Climate: A call to action (Graphic by Conservation Colorado)

The pas­sage of the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act in 2021 was a his­toric moment in Washington’s efforts to address the dev­as­tat­ing effects of cli­mate dam­age. It sent a loud and clear mes­sage to those who have pol­lut­ed our air and water for far too long: enough is enough. It is time for pol­luters to be held account­able for their actions and for us to take bold steps toward a clean­er, more sus­tain­able future.

Our cap-and-invest sys­tem makes sure that those who have prof­it­ed from pol­lu­tion for years begin to pay what they owe.

Set­ting a lim­it on over­all CO2 emis­sions and requir­ing top pol­luters to obtain allowances to cov­er their emis­sions fast-tracks us to a pol­lu­tion-neu­tral future.

What sets this leg­is­la­tion apart is its forth­right com­mit­ment to pri­or­i­tiz­ing equi­ty in our cli­mate action response. For too long, our most mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties have been left out of the con­ver­sa­tion, bear­ing the brunt of the dam­age caused by cli­mate dam­age. We will not allow this injus­tice to con­tin­ue any longer.

Here in Wash­ing­ton, we are lead­ing the way in ensur­ing that every­one – regard­less of their race, gen­der iden­ti­ty, or socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus – is not only pro­tect­ed from the effects of cli­mate dam­age but giv­en equal access to resources and oppor­tu­ni­ties to ben­e­fit from a clean envi­ron­ment. By gen­er­at­ing funds that will be rein­vest­ed in the most over­bur­dened com­mu­ni­ties, we will cre­ate more resilient and sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties that ben­e­fit everyone.

The 2023 leg­isla­tive ses­sion marked the first oppor­tu­ni­ty for Wash­ing­ton to invest funds gen­er­at­ed from the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act (CCA) towards our goals. Across the oper­at­ing, cap­i­tal, and trans­porta­tion bud­gets, a total of just over $2 bil­lion of pro­ject­ed CCA rev­enues are appro­pri­at­ed for the 2023–25 biennium.

The CCA, in tan­dem with the 2021 HEAL Act, man­dates that a min­i­mum of 35% of invest­ments go direct­ly to over­bur­dened com­mu­ni­ties and a min­i­mum of 10% will go to projects sup­port­ed by fed­er­al­ly rec­og­nized trib­al nations.

This rev­enue is going toward elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and clean-ener­gy projects, while ensur­ing com­mu­ni­ties that are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect­ed by cli­mate dam­age and air pol­lu­tion receive state assis­tance to build cli­mate resilience.

Most impor­tant­ly, the mon­ey we’re rais­ing will be used while ensur­ing new cli­mate poli­cies do not shift pol­lu­tion into these communities.

This ses­sion, we direct­ed over $430 mil­lion to advanc­ing ener­gy effi­cien­cy and clean ener­gy pro­duc­tion. These funds will go toward util­i­ty bill assis­tance for low-income house­holds and ener­gy effi­cien­cy upgrades for homes, school dis­tricts, busi­ness­es and tribes. Funds will also be invest­ed in inno­v­a­tive solar projects, clean ener­gy sit­ing, and trans­mis­sion planning.

Over $1 bil­lion will go toward improv­ing air qual­i­ty and reduc­ing the amounts of green­house gas emis­sions across the state by pro­mot­ing active trans­porta­tion and improv­ing urban infra­struc­ture so that it is safe for all users.

Our bien­ni­al bud­gets also pro­vide $340 mil­lion toward restor­ing habi­tats, pro­tect­ing ecosys­tems, and strength­en­ing work­ing lands.

Invest­ing in com­mu­ni­ty health and safe­ty was at the fore­front of our minds when craft­ing how we would spend these CCA dol­lars. The Leg­is­la­ture has rec­og­nized that impacts of cli­mate pol­lu­tion are uneven­ly dis­trib­uted across the state, and we are work­ing to address those lega­cies while build­ing more resilient communities.

That is why we are invest­ing $200 mil­lion from the CCA accounts to build cli­mate resilience plans, improve health out­comes and mit­i­gate air pol­lu­tion in over­bur­dened com­mu­ni­ties, and sup­port adap­tive strate­gies to address the impacts of cli­mate dam­age on trib­al communities.

Our efforts are noth­ing if they are not root­ed in a com­mit­ment to equi­ty. Our focus on mak­ing sure every com­mu­ni­ty has the resources they need to thrive helped us as we appro­pri­at­ed these funds.

We are mak­ing sure that no one is left behind and that we not only act bold­ly, but inclu­sive­ly for the ben­e­fit of our plan­et and all its inhabitants.

About the authors

Sen­a­tor Joe Nguyễn (D‑34th Dis­trict: White Cen­ter) rep­re­sents the 34th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict and is chair of the Sen­ate Envi­ron­ment, Ener­gy and Tech­nol­o­gy Com­mit­tee. The son of Viet­namese refugees, he is a pas­sion­ate advo­cate in the fight against cli­mate change and advanc­ing social jus­tice reform.

Sen­a­tor Rebec­ca Sal­daña (D‑37th Dis­trict: Seat­tle) rep­re­sents the 37th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict in Wash­ing­ton. She is a proud Chi­cana of Mex­i­can and Ger­man­ic roots who advo­cates for racial, social and eco­nom­ic jus­tice for his­tor­i­cal­ly oppressed communities.

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