It’s Tuesday, April 27, and Washington state just passed a major climate bill.
For more than a decade, Washington state has been trying — and failing — to put a price on carbon. That changed this weekend, when the state legislature finally managed to pass a cap-and-trade bill.
If Governor Jay Inslee signs the bill as expected, Washington will become the second state after California with a comprehensive cap-and-trade system. The state’s plan would go into effect in January 2023, provided that, as the bill stipulates, the legislature approves a new transportation-spending package by then.
The cap-and-trade program would require Washington to set a statewide “cap” on greenhouse gas emissions that steadily lowers over time. It also creates a market for businesses to buy and “trade” pollution allowances that will become increasingly expensive — an incentive to cut emissions. The revenue raised will go toward renewable energy projects, reducing emissions from buildings and transportation, and adapting to climate change. To meet justice advocates’ demands, the bill also establishes a program to reduce air pollution in vulnerable communities.
So why did cap and trade finally succeed now? Proponents of the bill chalk it up to Washington’s decade of efforts — a “practice-makes-perfect” mentality — as well as the growing urgency of the climate crisis.
“It’s the political moment,” said David Mendoza, the director of advocacy and engagement for The Nature Conservancy. “There’s been a building crescendo of the need for immediate climate action.”
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