Climate Change photo identifier

Climate Change

What we're doing about it:

Map of Washington and other state's climate action
Details of states' climate action

Washington state is taking a variety of important steps to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change and to prepare our state for a changing climate:

  • Policies and Partners – setting direction and finding the help we need to make it work
  • Assistance and Incentives – helping Washingtonians take action to address climate change
  • Walking the Talk – including climate change action and considerations in basic day-to-day work for government, business and our communities
  • Looking for Answers – researching climate science, climate change impacts, solutions and economic opportunities related to climate, energy and green jobs.

Policies and Partners

In 2007, Governor Gregoire and the Legislature established targets to reduce Washington's greenhouse gas emissions, and to grow the clean energy economy, increase jobs, and move Washington toward energy independence.


Policies that support these targets include:


Across Washington, partners are working to create local, regional, and national solutions to climate change issues:

  • Our Governor initiated and led the Western Climate Initiative, with the leaders of six other states and four Canadian provinces to set a regional target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This includes over 70 percent of the Canadian economy and 20 percent of the U.S. economy.
  • Washington is a member of The Climate Registry, a multi-state registry to track, manage, and credit entities that reduce their GHG emissions. Washington and British Columbia are working together to cap and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to collaborate on the innovation and implementation of clean technologies.
  • Led by the Washington Departments of Ecology and Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED), the 2008 Washington Climate Action Team engaged top-level business, community, and environmental leaders to draft policies and strategies to achieve Washington's climate change goals. This built on the diverse 2007 Washington Climate Advisory Team climate strategies in all sectors of the state's economy.
  • Representatives from agencies, cities, counties, utilities, associations, and non-profits joined forces in The Electrify Transportation in Washington Group (ETWG) to reduce our dependence on oil and curb global warming through the electrification of the transportation sector. Read the ETWG's Briefing book and a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory study on the grid impacts of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
  • Many cities in Washington have joined the Seattle-inspired US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement to slow climate change with better energy, water, waste, and transport management. More than 900 city mayors across the U.S. are acting on global warming at home, without waiting for someone else to act first. More than 81 million people live in these 900 cities.

Assistance and Incentives

Agencies, businesses, and universities offer assistance and incentives to help Washingtonians take action to address climate change.

Washington Homeowner Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency - Local utilities offer rebates and assistance for solar, wind, energyefficient appliances, weatherizing homes, heat pumps, and more.

Washington incentives for renewable energy extend beyond homeowners to include renewable energy producers, schools, production incentives and more, offered by government, utilities and businesses.

WSU Extension Energy Program assists industrial plants, private consulting firms, businesses, government agencies, and utilities with technical assistance, research, design and support for: motor and drive systems, steam, compressed air, pumping, heating and cooling, lighting, building envelopes, and renewable energy.

Walking the Talk

Washington State Government

State agencies are incorporating climate change issues into their basic work and administration:

  • More than 2,700 fuel-saving hybrid vehicles are used by Washington state agencies, college/ universities, and subdivisions of state government.
  • Solar panels on Washington’s Legislative Building produce 20,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year, which is used to light the Capitol dome and lantern. Even under cloudy conditions, the panels generate electricity.
  • Washington Department of Ecology's headquarters building in Lacey has been named an "Energy Star,” and was built to LEEDS* silver standards several years ago. Now, new state buildings over 5,000 square feet, such as the State Light Industrial Park in Tumwater, also must meet the silver standard. (*Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design: U.S. Green Building Council national design guidelines)
  • The Department of Ecology offers grants to replace school buses and retrofit local government diesel-engine vehicles to reduce toxic diesel emissions. For example, Ecology is helping several school districts buy new, less-polluting school buses. The presidents of Washington’s four-year state colleges and universities, plus those in many of Washington’s community and technical colleges, have signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment to serve their students and society by reducing greenhouse gas emissions on their own campuses and incorporating climate research and education into their curriculum.
  • Transportation, forests, communities, and economies are key subjects in the climate change discussion. Agencies dealing with these areas working on issues related to climate change. Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (currently the Department of Commerce), Department of Ecology, and Department of Employment Security.
  • Washington state and local governments increasingly use their purchasing power to buy products that are safer for the environment and human health, verifying claims based on independent third party certification programs. As they consider new contracts, most agency Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP) programs are focusing on a product’s climate and toxicity impacts over its lifecycle. The Department of Ecology provides EPP technical assistance to state and local agencies.
  • State agency sustainability teams are also working at their facilities to reduce waste, reuse materials, and boost recycling of everything from paper to electronics. This saves the energy of creating new products from raw materials. Sustainability teams also educate their own agency staff on best practices including water and energy conservation.

Washington Communities

Beyond government, it takes all of us “Walking the Talk” to slow climate change. These communities, businesses, utilities and citizens are responding with action:

  • Washington currently ranks fifth in U.S. wind power. As of October 2008, eight wind projects were operating in Washington. These projects can produce more than 1,300 megawatts (MW) of power. Other projects totaling more than 250 MW are in the planning stage.
  • Washington voters say ‘yes' to I-937 for clean energy. In 2006, Washington joined 20 other states and the District of Columbia that have a renewable energy portfolio standard or goal. Under current Washington law, utilities are already required to offer customers the option of investing in renewable energy by paying extra on their monthly bill. Under Initiative 937, large utilities with more than 25,000 customers have to meet 15 percent of their annual load with renewable energy resources such as wind power, solar energy, or sewage gas by 2020. (Excerpted from Rachel La Corte, Associated Press Writer, 11/2006) A statute for clean, renewable energy followed citizen approval of Initiative I-937, increasing energy conservation and the use of appropriately sited renewable energy facilities.
  • Seattle City Light is the only electric utility in the country to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Puget Sound Energy provides energy audits and energy efficiency assistance for some residential, commercial and industrial customers in its gas and electric service area to help customers conserve power rather than to build expensive new natural gas-burning power plants. The PSE grant program is paid for with a fraction of its fees, and in 2008 helped save the utility 100 million megawatts. PSE also runs Wild Horse Wind farm and is adding more wind generation capacity.
  • Watershed Planning Units across the state are developing recommendations for solving in-stream flow needs, which could be significantly affected by climate change. Options include: assessment of current groundwater use, water conservation, leak detection programs, implementing an efficiency rate structure through local utilities, summer surcharge on water rates to reduce outdoor water use, and water reuse projects.
  • The Evergreen State College students voted to offset their campus' electricity use with energy from renewable sources. A student fee of $1 per credit pays for the purchase of Green Tags (renewable energy certificates) equal to the amount of electricity used by the campus each year. Students proposed that 10 percent of the revenue collected from the student green energy fee be invested into a fund for campus projects advancing renewable energy. The students overwhelmingly supported the initiative by a vote of 1,102 to 11.
  • Climate Solutions – A Washington-based non-profit pioneer for renewable energy, accelerating practical and profitable solutions to global warming by galvanizing leadership, growing investment and bridging divides.
  • Solar homes all around Washington state are showcased in Solar Home Tours in October. The Olympia Solar Home Tours 2006 joined more than 40 Washington communities on both the east and west side of the Cascades, with annual fall solar home shows.

Local Governments

  • Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, a member of the state’s Climate Advisory Team, created the Snohomish County Climate Change Committee made up of county experts on alternative fuels, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, county energy and water use, plus adoption of green building design and construction standards for county facilities. Policy recommendations expected by December 2008.
  • As of February 2009, more than 34 local governments in Washington state have joined the US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement to slow climate change with better energy, water, waste and transport management. Fighting global warming begins at home, as these city leaders believe.
  • Seattle – A Pioneer in Climate Action
    • Seattle Mayor Nickels launched and led the US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement in February 2005. More than 900 mayors, representing 81 million American citizens, have signed on to the 12-step program for their own cities to meet or beat Kyoto's original target for the U.S. – cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
    • Seattle Mayor's Green Ribbon Commission on Climate & Climate Action Plan describes a suite of climate protection actions that will allow Seattle to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal.
    • Seattle City Government has already reduced greenhouse gas emission by more than 60 percent with green buildings and alternative fuel vehicles.
    • Seattle banned commercial logging in the Cedar River watershed and is committed to restoring 2,500 acres of urban forests by 2024. Forests absorb and store carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.
  • City of Tacoma - In ways big and small, Tacoma is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the environment.
  • The City of Bellingham unanimously decided to green 100 percent of the electricity used in city operations, making Bellingham the sixth-largest local government purchaser of renewable energy in the country in 2007. The clean power purchase is part of the city's Green Power Community Challenge, a community-wide campaign to promote renewable energy and reduce the community's dependence on fossil fuels and its vulnerability to rising energy costs.
  • The Whatcom County government also decided to begin buying 100 percent of its electricity from green sources. Nearly 60 businesses and several hundred residential customers are doing the same, and the numbers are growing.
  • Sustainable Ballard fosters new awareness of the importance of community connections and meaningful sustainability due to excess energy dependence and consumption, and the depletion of key resources. They hold workshops and public events, research reports, and provide design and planning services for the community of Ballard.
  • Officials at Anacortes and Puget Sound Energy upgraded lighting at five municipal buildings as part of the city’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and save some cash. Estimated savings for 2009 in lighting alone equals $16,716. Just in City Hall, the upgrade will reduce the municipality’s kilowatt-hour usage by almost 38 percent. It started off being about carbon footprint but Russ Pittis, Anacortes city facilities manager, says, “It’s taxpayers’ money we’re saving.” In addition to lighting automatic shut-offs and dimmers plus changing to more compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs, Anacortes is also purchasing hybrid vehicles, implementing a no-idling vehicle policy, switching to biodiesel to burn sewage at the city’s waste water treatment plant, and fine-tuning the sewage incinerator to reduce fuel consumption. (Excerpted from Skagit Valley Herald, 1/3/09 Marta Murvosh)
  • Bainbridge High School's new 200 Building uses 25 percent less energy than similar size buildings, with windows for natural light, radiant floor heating, re-circulated hot water in perimeter walls and motion sensors to turn off unused lights. It even has a fully planted green roof to insulate and reduce stormwater runoff. (Excerpted from Kitsap Sun 1/17/09)


  • A super efficient airplane, Boeing's new "Dreamliner," had the most successful launch in Boeing's history at its Everett facility near Seattle. Higher operating efficiency, less weight at the same speed and 20 percent more fuel-efficient than existing planes, the 787 Dreamliner will bring big-jet ranges to mid-size airplanes.
  • Microplanet is a Northwest global pioneer in least-cost power planning and is marketing its voltage reduction products internationally. MicroPlanet's products improve an electrical grid's reliability, prevent capital intensive infrastructure upgrades, and save businesses money.
  • REC SGS Moses Lake plant is the world's first dedicated solar silicon manufacturing facility, employing 200. In 2007, the world's only dedicated producer of polycrystalline silicon for solar cells, REC SGS is located in Moses Lake, Washington.
  • The SolarWorld Vancouver plant reprocesses electronics industry silicon for photovoltaic use for solar energy. The Northwest is one of America's major areas for processing silicon due to clean water, a skilled workforce, and low hydroelectric rates.
  • Much of the Northwest's $2 billion share in the $15 billion global smart energy sector is based in Washington, including energy metering by Spokane-based Itron and Schweitzer Labs of Pullman.
  • Cascade Power Group provides co-generation, resource conservation, and energy/climate change regulatory strategies
  • McKinstry Company in Seattle is adding 500 jobs in 2009, growing its business in retrofitting schools and office buildings to make them more energy efficient, save money, and reduce carbon emissions.

Looking for Answers

Partners in Washington's Climate Change Challenge need solid, science-based information as they develop solutions. Local and regional research is particularly valuable.

The University of Washington Climate Impacts Group (CIG) researches climate science in the public interest, working to understand the consequences of climate variability and climate change for the US Pacific Northwest (PNW). CIG's assessment examines climate impacts on four diverse, yet connected natural systems of the PNW - water, forests, salmon, and coasts - and the human socioeconomic and/or political systems associated with each. CIG works to provide regional planners, decision-makers, and natural resource managers with valuable knowledge about the ways in which crucial regional resources are vulnerable to changes in climate, and how this vulnerability could best be reduced. See the February 2009 Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment report.

Impacts of Climate Change on Washington's Economy - In 2006 and again in 2009, a team of scientists and economists from Pacific Northwest universities conducted an economic analysis of climate change for the state of Washington. They reached three conclusions about the effects of climate change on the state's economy: Climate change impacts are visible today, and the economic effects are becoming apparent. The costs of climate change will grow as temperatures and sea levels rise. Climate change will also provide economic opportunities.

In 2007, Washington's Climate Advisory Team (CAT) explored climate strategies in all sectors of the state's economy. Through five Technical Working Groups, the CAT conducted significant analysis of potential policy options for specific sectors of the economy. An outside economic consulting group analyzed the net present-value costs and benefits for many of the CAT strategies.

The analysis showed that the CAT strategies (along with the recent policies and initiatives already undertaken by state government in the past few years) could, if fully implemented, provide an overall economic benefit to Washington residents and businesses. The net cumulative benefit for the quantified CAT strategies and recent actions is estimated to be over $900 million by 2020 (Net Present Value 2008–2020, in 2006 dollars).

In 2008, a second Climate Action Team (CAT) was appointed to review the strategies from the original CAT and recommend the most promising strategies for the Governor and Legislature to pursue. The group's recommendations focused on those with the greatest likelihood to be economically viable in helping to achieve Washington's GHG reduction goals. These recommendations formed the basis for the Governor's 2009 legislative package on green jobs and climate action.

Washington State Employment Security Department conducted a 2008 Green job survey of existing and potential new jobs in conservation and energy efficiency, manufacturing, design and construction, operations and maintenance, research and development, information technology and consulting or technical services.

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