Department of Ecology News Release - February 7, 2011

11-040

State agencies submit climate action reports to Governor and Legislature

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) and other state agencies today submitted reports to the Legislature on actions our state is taking in response to climate change.

A report card on the work done under the Executive Order, as well as the strategies the state has adopted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to date and the updated emissions inventory, are included in a report to the Governor titled: “Path to a Low-Carbon Economy: An Interim Plan to Address Washington’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Many of the strategies the state has adopted were recommended by the Governor’s Climate Advisory Team in its 2008 report entitled “Leading the Way on Climate Change: The Challenge of Our Time.”

Additionally, Ecology also has submitted a companion report: “Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Washington State Government.” This document summarizes emissions for 2005, 2008 and 2009 as reported by 120 state agencies. It includes emissions and reduction actions from administrative, judicial, elected offices, commissions, boards, universities and community colleges.

The Interim Plan itemizes tasks that Ecology and the state Department of Transportation have completed as required in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s May 2009 executive order on climate action. Several more tasks are on track to be finished in 2011.

Although the state has adopted a number of policies that have and will continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is unlikely to achieve the greenhouse gas reduction targets adopted by the Legislature in 2008.

The 2008 law calls for Washington to reduce climate-altering greenhouse gases – often referred to as “GHG” or simply as “carbon” – emissions according to this timeline:

Ecology also has updated the state’s multi-sector greenhouse gas emissions inventory as required by state law (RCW 70.235.020), incorporating data from 2006-08. According to the inventory, total GHG emissions in Washington for 2008 were 101.1 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) -- 9 percent more than 1990 emissions.

Ecology now projects that the policies already being implemented in Washington will limit emissions growth to 3 percent between now and 2020. However, the state isn’t on track to meet its statutory reduction limit for 2020 or beyond.

Washington’s Legislature and Congress haven’t adopted an economy-wide price on carbon, which experts consider to be the centerpiece of a comprehensive strategy for reducing emissions that contribute to climate change in the Pacific Northwest and around the globe.

In releasing the pair of climate action reports, Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant said: “Washington state agencies have taken significant actions to reduce their own energy use and carbon emissions; to work with businesses and others on carbon reductions; to develop a program for reporting greenhouse gas emissions; and to implement the federal program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the federal Clean Air Act.” “However, the actions that nations and states are taking now aren’t enough to forestall the impacts of climate change. So we in Washington are building a plan to help prepare our coastal communities and vital infrastructure, ensure water supply in water-short areas, and provide emergency relief for people in prolonged heat waves. It will take all of us working together to be ready for the changes that already are affecting our state.”

Washington is already feeling the impacts from increased concentrations of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. As the concentration of greenhouse gases grow, so will the impacts on our forests, agriculture, snowpack, rivers, coastal waterways and other natural resources.

More than a third of Washington’s economy is directly supported by natural resources activities, which are vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate.

In addition, much of the state’s infrastructure is located in places vulnerable to sea level rise – for example, sewage treatment plants, docks and harbors, and roads and bridges. Future state budgets could be impacted by repair and replacement costs.

Ecology continues to work with six other Western states and four Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative to develop a portfolio of climate actions and to advance the transition to a low-carbon economy. Next year, Ecology, working with other state agencies, will present to the Legislature a comprehensive plan for how the state should respond to our changing climate.

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Media Contacts:

For more climate change information:

Ecology's climate change website (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/index.htm)

Transportation's climate change website (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/environment/climatechange/)