Council unanimously approved a resolution today committing the City of Seattle to uphold its portion of the United States’ former commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, and reaffirming Seattle’s target to reduce City greenhouse gas emissions 58 percent below 2008 levels by 2030. After President Trump announced his intentions to withdraw from the Paris Accords earlier this month, Mayor Murray announced Seattle’s intention to meet or exceed Seattle’s target, joining with hundreds of cities and several states in the effort.
The resolution also calls on Puget Sound Energy (PSE), a private Seattle utility to cease using coal in its operations by 2025 and instead use 100% renewable energy. Currently, PSE uses the Colstrip coal fired power plant in Montana, which is the 3rd largest carbon polluter in the United States and is currently considering lease renewal of the facility.
“If a private utility operating in Seattle’s backyard needs to rely on burning coal, then we have much bigger challenges than we thought,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6, Northwest Seattle). “If the United States Government and Donald Trump aren’t going to take climate change seriously, then cities and states will join together at a sub-national level to step up. The City will do its part, and I’m asking Puget Sound Energy to do the same.”
Officials further requested the City begin developing regulations which would prohibit new fossil fuel infrastructure in Seattle, to the extent the City is lawfully able. For Washington State, officials called on state leaders to act on climate-related efforts and deny permits for all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Washington, including the proposed nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, WA. Leaders expressed outrage over the just-approved Kalama, WA-based largest fracked gas-to-methanol refinery on the planet.
The resolution also elevated current actions undertaken by the City of Seattle to address the global climate threat, including establishing the goal of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Members also reiterated their request that the Seattle City Employees Retirement Board continue their review to divest pensions from fossil fuels, and committed the City to creating more equitable access to green careers, “challenging the false dichotomy between supporting good jobs and protecting the planet.”
Doug Howell, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign said, “With fossil fuel executives in charge of the federal government, it’s up to states and cities to be leaders in saving our children from the worst effects of climate change. This threat should inform our decision making at every level of government from the bottom up. The Pacific Northwest can be a leader by getting rid of coal-fired power once and for all and stopping fossil fuel export projects that put our air, water and climate at risk.”
“With this resolution opening the door to aligning the City’s climate targets with a 1.5 degree scenario, banning all new fossil fuel infrastructure and supporting the Green Climate Fund, it is an important step towards Seattle becoming a true leader on climate. Now we’ll need to see what happens next,” says Alec Connon of 350 Seattle.
195 nations signed the Paris Climate Accords, including the United States which had committed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Countries developed climate reduction goals with the target of keeping global warming below 2° C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing the need for limiting warming to 1.5° C to prevent irreversible and catastrophic global warming.
The legislation adopted today was developed collaboratively between the resolution’s sponsor, Councilmember Mike O’Brien, Mayor Ed Murray, the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE), the Sierra Club, and 350 Seattle. OSE will now begin identifying the key climate actions necessary to meet or exceed the goals ratified by the Paris Agreement and will report back to Council with recommendations by December 30, 2017.