British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington are building low-carbon economies along the West Coast.
SOMETIMES the easiest way to solve a large, vexing problem is to look right under your nose. Here on the West Coast, we refuse to be daunted by the scale of climate change. Starting right in our own backyard, we are leading the way in creating and sustaining the clean economy of tomorrow.
Many think climate change can only be addressed when nations come together to sign strong international pacts. While we do hope an ambitious agreement emerges from the global climate-change talks now under way in Paris, we recognize that our success also depends on bringing solutions to the table at the state, city and provincial levels.
British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington state — joined together as the Pacific Coast Collaborative — are working with cities and businesses to build thriving, livable, low-carbon economies along the West Coast. Together, our states and province represent the world’s fifth-largest economy, a region of 54 million people with a combined gross domestic product of $3 trillion. With our collaboration, we are proving that ambitious climate action and economic success are interdependent, not in conflict.
Halting climate change is an opportunity to deepen investments in what already makes our communities great, such as clean air, resilient infrastructure, efficient transportation and good jobs.
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Washington generates one-fifth of the renewable energy produced in the United States and is developing charging infrastructure to put 50,000 electric vehicles on the road.
Oregon sustained historic investments in energy efficiency, passed a clean-fuels standard and is making it easier for people to get around on public transit.
British Columbia is building from the success of a revenue-neutral carbon tax and is helping build super-efficient buildings and communities that generate more energy than they use.
California, over the next 15 years, will cut petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent, double the rate of energy efficiency savings in buildings and get half of its electricity from renewable sources, such as solar and wind.
Writ large, the results are impressive. Between 2010 and 2014, clean-economy jobs on the West Coast grew 19 percent, more than twice as fast as jobs overall.
As of 2014, the clean economy in our region accounts for more than 580,000 jobs. If we look beneath the surface to learn more about them, a surprising story emerges. Not only are our policies nurturing industries like solar energy and electric transportation, but we’re also helping employers create jobs in areas that weren’t previously considered part of the clean sector. These days, even traditional industries are embracing cleaner ways of doing business to save money and remain relevant in changing times. As these changes become the new norm, we can easily envision a future in which the clean economy will just be called “the economy.”
Our success is not confined to this region. We are also founding signatories of the “Under 2 MOU,” a commitment by states, provinces, cities — and even countries — around the world to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. This partnership, which has grown to include more than 60 jurisdictions from 20 countries and five continents, represents a new blueprint. The nations deliberating in Paris can draw inspiration from the fact that these leaders — representing more than a half-billion people worldwide and a combined GDP larger than that of the United States — are already united in climate action.
For years, national lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa idled on climate change, unable to reach consensus for meaningful action. Now that the real momentum is at the subnational level, nations are stepping up and responding. We will be lifting our collective voice and sharing our model at the global climate talks in Paris so we can illuminate the way forward for national leaders.
In the wake of the devastating Paris terror attacks, some suggested a global climate-change conference could no longer succeed. We respectfully disagree. With more than a hundred national leaders planning to attend, we believe a strong, enforceable agreement is within reach.
We applaud Paris’ resolve to move forward with hosting this gathering even in such a challenging time. It underscores the importance of our shared mission. We join them in mourning lives lost. We will also join them in looking forward and in meeting our shared commitment to future generations.