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President's Column

Sunday, January 10

Washington deserves credit for leading on environment

Environmental advocates are celebrating the success of the recently concluded Paris climate talks, as well they should. For the first time, the world’s countries – both developed and developing nations alike – have signed onto an historic, ambitious agreement requiring them to limit carbon emissions.

As difficult as the agreement was to reach, though, the hardest work is still to come as government and business leaders go about the work of implementing policies and practices that will allow them to reach these new targets.

For inspiration, they should look at what we’re doing here in Washington state.

We don’t always get enough credit for what we’ve done, but Washington employers and citizens really are among the best in the world when it comes to protecting the environment and reducing greenhouses gas emissions.

Washington is the eighth-greenest economy in the world, emitting less carbon dioxide today than it did in 1990, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, despite adding 2 million residents since then.

This hasn’t happened by accident. It’s the result of hard work and innovation on the part of employers and individuals throughout the state.

Commuters have chosen to purchase fuel-efficient cars and use alternative commuting options like public transit and carpooling.

Governments and businesses — like Basin Disposal in Pasco — have converted vehicle fleets to electric or natural gas power.

From 2007 to 2014, the Boeing Company reduced its U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 9.3 percent while increasing production rates 50 percent.

Over the past 15 years, Inland Empire Paper Company in Spokane has implemented carbon reduction strategies that have reduced the company’s footprint by 30,000 tons of carbon per year, lowered natural gas consumption by 77 percent and has developed a state-of-the-art algae-based water treatment technology.

ConAgra Foods in the Tri-Cities set a goal of reducing emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and has already reduced emissions by 7 percent.

IEDS, a Spokane-based logistics company, installed electronic on-board recording devices in its trucks to allow the company to track real-time drive and vehicle performance information to optimize delivery routes. In two months, the company reduced engine idle time by 40 percent and increased mileage per gallon by 8 percent, decreasing fuel use by 3,780 gallons.

These are just a few examples of how Washington employers and employees are working together to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment for future generations. There are many more throughout the state in businesses of all sizes and in every industry.

These aren’t just good examples for other countries to consider as they look to implement policies to reach the goals established in the Paris climate talks. Washington leaders and voters should also consider them carefully as they weigh new climate policies and initiatives in 2016.

We’re not starting from scratch. Washingtonians have a long and enviable track record of protecting the environment and reducing carbon emissions.

In some ways, that means our job is harder. The challenge for Washington state is to build on this track record without adopting government mandates that will drive good-paying manufacturing jobs out of the state to places where the environmental standards are lower.

Driving jobs out of Washington won’t help the economy or the environment.

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