Q&A: Senator Reuven Carlyle on climate policy
Senator Reuven Carlyle chairs the Senate for Environment, Energy and Technology and has been instrumental in passing a number of climate bills in recent years, most notably as main sponsor of Climate commitment law. Carlyle will speak at United Nations Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow, which begins October 31.
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We spoke with Carlyle to see what’s next for climate policy and its implementation in Washington state.
Aaron Kunkler: In recent years, a number of important climate legislation has been passed by the legislature. What happens next?
Senator Reuven Carlyle: I think, first and foremost, that it is extremely important to recognize and understand and recognize that we as a state have adopted net zero goals, science-based, level goals. the Paris Agreement. And in doing so, it signifies an incredibly serious recognition that our 2020 updated statutory emission limits are incredibly serious. We need to reach 95%, below 1990 levels, to achieve net zero emissions. So to put that into practice, in 2018 we emitted just under 100 million metric tonnes of emissions. And by 2050, we must continue to grow our economy, build our economy, build our quality of life, but emit 5 million metric tons. So the cold, harsh reality of this trip is an important guiding principle.
Having said that, we do know that about 45% of these emissions are associated with transportation, about 16% with electricity, about 23% with residential, commercial and industrial heating, and everything else is about 15% and more. Thus, each sector needs an in-depth decarbonisation strategy and plan.
In our state, we have a deep decarbonisation plan for electricity. This is the 100% clean energy law that we adopted a few years ago. We probably have a very strong and convincing transport strategy with a combination of the clean fuel standard and investments in electrification. We have a strong building strategy with up-to-date commercial building standards and all the work we do on natural gas. We have an economy-wide pricing mechanism in the cap and investment trading program that ensures that the 125 largest issuers have a trading mechanism that has an actual cap for a mission. . Thus, the basic political, political and strategic strategic approach here is both a sector strategy and an economy-wide strategy.
We need to focus on effective implementation. We have passed many bills, including, of course, the HEAL Act regarding principles of environmental justice, to be incorporated into the work of all of our state agencies associated with this work. Implementation is not a department down the hall, it goes to the heart of our responsibility to ensure that we not only have a chance to reach net zero and be one of the most effective nation, but to ensure that we are also focused on the quality of life for real people, living real lives. As we decarbonize, we need to be deeply aware of the implications for all of these industries and sectors. So implementation is the first task, effective monitoring and management, and for me this is essential to our success.
AK: The HEAL Act and the integration of environmental justice into clean energy transmission is something state departments are looking to implement. Do you have an idea of the progress of this work?
RC: In the end, we designed the big market strategy, and a lot of people laughed at it. But it was really a very important foundation of all this work. The four elements of the big market were the Climate Commitment Act, the clean fuel standard, the HEAL Act and Forward Washington, the transport package. Three of the four crossed the line. I cannot say enough about the essential role that the HEAL Act has played. Environmental justice and fairness are at the heart of DNA, the essence of all this work, and I think that has been a big difference.
The implementation and the mechanics of the works are in progress. But it is a work of structure and system, it is deep and it is authentic. It requires government agencies to understand disproportionate impact data, review the mapping we have designed, and examine how their rules and regulations and policies actually affect disproportionately affected communities.
AK: Natural gas is a hot topic right now, especially with electric utilities depending on it to maintain grid reliability when they turn away from coal sources. What do you think about natural gas in Washington?
RC: The problem of natural gas at its heart is extremely important to our decarbonization. We made a provision in this year’s budget that requires the Utilities and Transportation Board to review the policy framework of what the elements of a natural gas decarbonization strategy would look like. So it’s sort of the basic scraping, sanding and tape to prepare the house painting that allows us to understand the implications of our sunk costs, our poured infrastructure, our pipeline infrastructure and to be very thoughtful. Natural gas plays an extremely important role in reliability. You need to understand that integrating wind, hydro, solar, nuclear and other energy sources does not happen overnight. And being extremely thoughtful about a natural gas decarbonization plan takes a lot of scraping, sanding, taping and preparation.
In addition, the buildings bill that we passed and the governor’s continued work to decarbonize the building industry are incredibly important and tied to our natural gas efforts. I would say we are laying the groundwork for a comprehensive, company-wide approach to the future of natural gas. It’s just not a problem that you can pass an ambitious bill and hand it over to the bureaucracy, it takes an integrated approach, it takes a systems approach because of the central role in reliability that natural gas plays. So we take this seriously, but I think the building blocks, and especially with the cap and investment program, some of the people in the industry can find great value in moving away from some of their sources of current energy. Everyone needs to do it in a timely manner that works for them.
AK: You have been invited to speak about subnational leadership on climate policy at the United Nations Climate Change Conference which begins later this month in Glasgow. What is the role of states in the fight against climate change, even outside of federal politics?
RC: We need the federal government as a partner, we need them to be successful, but we don’t have the luxury of sitting around and waiting… We just need them to be bolder and take action. And frankly, Washington state and other states are showing that serious climate work doesn’t have to be politically terrifying. It can be of great value, have a high impact, improve the quality of life of people with clean jobs, unionized jobs, high quality economic activity i.e. with a lower carbon footprint and the sustainability at the heart of the work. And we’re showing a path which I think is one of the reasons people are so interested, engaged and excited to see actual bills, legislation and policies being implemented at the level. of State.
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