Reducing greenhouse gases

Washington is a national leader in cutting greenhouse gas emissions to prevent climate change. Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington Legislature have adopted a variety of regulations, programs, and initiatives designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

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Vehicle emissions
Vehicle emissions are Washington's largest contributor to greenhouse gases. Under the Clean Car Law, vehicles manufactured after 2005 must meet strict emission standards to be registered, leased, rented, licensed, or sold in Washington. 

On March 25, 2020 Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) standard that goes into effect June 11, 2020. This standard supplements the Clean Car Law, replicating California's vehicle emission standards. The ZEV standard requires automakers to deliver a certain number of zero emission vehicles each year, and earn credits based on the number of vehicles produced and delivered for sale.

Washington received $140 million from the Volkswagen federal and state settlements to reduce air pollution from transportation. We are investing these funds with a priority on transforming Washington's transportation system to advance zero-emission vehicles. 

Electric vehicles
Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order in 2019 requiring that 50 percent of all new passenger vehicles purchased for state fleets are electric by 2020. 

Washington state also provides up to $2,500 in sales tax incentives for residents to purchase electric vehicles, and provides funding to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure


Residential, commercial, industrial heating

Building efficiency 
The energy used to heat, light, and power office buildings and other workspaces is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. The 2019 Legislature adopted new standards that will increase the efficiency of these buildings and reduce emissions. The Legislature also increased efficiency standards for appliances.


Electricity generation

Clean Energy Transformation Act 
On May 7, 2019, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) (SB 5116). ​The bill requires all electric utilities in Washington to transition to carbon-neutral electricity by 2030 and to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.​ The Washington Department of Commerce and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) are leading the implementation efforts. 

We will assist Commerce and UTC by developing requirements for energy transformation projects, and assist utilities in measuring their progress in offsetting greenhouse gas emissions. 

Energy Independence Act
An initiative passed by Washington voters in 2006 requires electric utilities in the state to generate 3 percent of their power from renewable sources (excluding existing hydroelectric power) by 2012, 9 percent by 2016, and 15 percent by 2020. 

Power plant emission standards 
Certain power plants in Washington are required to meet greenhouse gas emission standards, and offset or mitigate their carbon pollution. Learn more about this regulation on the greenhouse gas standards page.

The State Agency Climate Leadership Act (RCW 70.235.050 and 060) requires some state agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The Act was updated in 2020 to require state agencies to reduce their carbon pollution to these targets:

  • 2020 - 15% below 2005 levels
  • 2030 - 45% below 2005
  • 2040 - 70% below 2005
  • 2050 - 95% below 2005 and achieve net-zero GHG emissions.

Read our reports to the Governor and Legislature. 


Industrial processes

Ecology adopted a rule in 2019 to transition away from using potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (or HFCs) in products and equipment starting Jan. 1, 2020. These greenhouse gases are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Petroleum refinery greenhouse gas emission requirements
Oil refineries were required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent by 2015. If they were not able to reduce their emissions, they're required to maintain an above-average energy efficiency rating. Read more about petroleum refinery greenhouse gas emission requirements.


Waste management

Reducing waste
Twenty percent of national methane emissions come from landfills. In Washington, food waste is an estimated seventeen percent of all garbage sent to disposal facilities. 

In 2015, EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a national goal of reducing food waste 50 percent by 2030 to help combat climate change.

Washington passed legislation in 2019 to reduce food waste in order to fight hunger and reduce environmental impacts.  We are working with the state departments of Agriculture and Health to develop and adopt a plan by Oct. 1, 2020 to reduce the amount of food waste by 50 percent of 2015 levels. 

Learn more about food waste prevention, recovery, and donation.