Carbon tax plan offers fair deal for Tacomans

Kirk Kirkland is a long-time Tacoma resident and environmental advocate.
Kirk Kirkland is a long-time Tacoma resident and environmental advocate. Courtesy photo

Since the Paris Agreement on climate change was signed in 2015, our governor and the two other West Coast governors have proposed legislation to curb their states’ carbon emissions.

With last week’s state election, control of the Washington Senate was handed over to Democrats with a one-seat majority. This cleared the way for Gov. Jay Inslee and the Democrats to enact new policies such as a carbon tax.

“We intend to make a full-scale effort in the next session of the Legislature if we win,” Inslee said prior to the election. “It will be a bell in the night, showing hope for the country, rejecting the Trump agenda of denying climate science.”

Also last week, Inslee joined 14 other U.S. Climate Alliance states at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany. These states represent 116 million Americans and approximately 40 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

These states agreed to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement and accelerate state-level action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In attending the conference, Inslee was joined by California and Oregon governors to provide American leadership on climate, regardless of the intention of President Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

The member states and territories of the U.S. Climate Alliance announced they are on track to meet their share of the first target established in the Paris Agreement – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by the year 2025.

These 15 states are home to clean energy industries with 1.3 million jobs. They have outpaced the rest of the U.S. in overall economic growth.

Can just 15 states, working together, really achieve goals set for the entire nation?

A major change in our energy sources from fossil fuel to sustainable energy is not unlike what happened a few years ago, when California led the way in setting higher mileage standards for motor vehicles. Washington, Oregon, Canada and some eastern states followed.

Eventually car manufacturers had no choice but to increase fuel efficiency because the majority of car buyers live in these populated states.

This year, Washington voters could lead the way and make our state a model by approving a proposed carbon tax initiative that is socially equitable.

The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy is proposing a policy initiative designed so that workers in locations like Tacoma don’t have to lose manufacturing jobs or shut down local smoke stacks.

The initiative uses funds raised by the carbon tax to invest in projects that modernize local mills to manufacture with clean-energy technology.

If the cost is too high to convert a plant, then funds are available to re-train workers or to invest in green manufacturing startups.

Under this plan, Tacoma and other communities with industrial histories can receive funds to keep workers employed, such as at the Port of Tacoma.

In Tacoma this week, people can review the details of the carbon tax initiative at a campaign kick-off at 7 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 16) at Washington Shiloh Baptist Church, 1211 South I St.

The proposal does more then just limit carbon emissions in transportation, manufacturing and energy generation. It makes changes that are fair, have low environmental impact and are socially equitable.

It is time for Washingtonians to take the lead. Show our polarized country that we can work out differences. Demonstrate that we can create policy that invests in clean-energy technology, lowers greenhouse gas emissions and still provides family-wage jobs.

Kirk Kirkland is an environmental advocate and a resident of Tacoma for 45 years.