In 2021, the Washington Legislature passed the Climate Commitment Act, or CCA, which establishes a comprehensive program to reduce carbon pollution and achieve the greenhouse gas limits set in state law. The program will start Jan. 1, 2023.
How the CCA will reduce greenhouse gas emissions
The Climate Commitment Act caps and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s largest emitting sources and industries, allowing businesses to find the most efficient path to lower carbon emissions. This puts Washington on a path to meet the greenhouse gas emission limits set in state law.
The CCA also puts environmental justice and equity at the center of climate policy, ensuring that communities that bear the greatest burdens from air pollution today see cleaner, healthier air as the state cuts greenhouse gases. Finally, funds from the auction of emission allowances will support new investments in climate resiliency programs, clean transportation, and addressing health disparities across the state.
In 2019, Gov. Jay Inslee (right, with Franklin Pierce High School student Malik Goodrum) welcomed Washington’s first electric school bus.
An electric transit bus owned by Everett Transit.
An electric vehicle at a charging station. Zero emission vehicles like this car help reduce Washington's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions - transportation.
The Swauk Creek Wind Farm near Cle Elum generates low-emissions electricity.
Researchers believe climate change is driving more frequent wildfires in Washington and across the western United States.
Using mass transit, like this SoundTransit Link light rail car, is another way to cut transportation emissions.
Rising sea levels caused by climate change will worsen storm surges and threaten coastal communities.
Generating electricity is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington. Switching to clean energy sources such as the solar panels seen here can reduce those emissions.
The Cap-and-Invest Program
In the CCA, the Legislature directs Ecology to develop rules to implement a cap on carbon emissions, including mechanisms for the sale and tracking of tradable emissions allowances, along with compliance and accountability measures. We are also required to design the rules to allow for linkage of the program with similar programs in other jurisdictions.
Establishing an emissions cap
- We will create a cap-and-invest program starting Jan. 1, 2023, by setting emissions allowance budgets that meet the greenhouse gas limits in RCW 70A.45.020.
- Starting on Jan. 1, 2023, the cap-and-invest program will cover industrial facilities, certain fuel suppliers, in-state electricity generators, electricity importers, and natural gas distributors with annual greenhouse gas emissions above 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
- On Jan. 1, 2027, the program adds waste-to-energy facilities.
- On Jan. 1, 2031, the program adds certain landfills and railroad companies.
- Covered entities must either reduce their emissions, or obtain allowances to cover any remaining emissions.
- The total number of allowances will decrease over time to meet statutory limits.
- Some utilities and industries will be issued free allowances; other allowances will be auctioned.
- A portion of a facility’s compliance obligation can come from credits generated by projects that prevent greenhouse gas emissions, called offset projects. Covered entities can meet up to 5% of their obligations with offsets through 2026, and 4% from 2027 to 2030.
- An additional 3% of a facility’s compliance obligation through 2026 can be met through offset projects on Tribal lands, decreasing to 2% from 2027 to 2030.
- Offset projects must result in greenhouse gas reductions that are real, permanent, quantifiable, verifiable, and enforceable.
Promotes environmental justice and equity
The Climate Commitment Act aligns with the requirements of the Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act and includes provisions to promote environmental justice and equity, including:
Generates revenue for tackling climate change and promoting resilience
Proceeds from the auction of allowances must be used for clean energy transition and assistance, clean transportation, and climate resiliency projects that promote climate justice, including dedicating a minimum of 35% of funds toward overburdened communities and a minimum of 10% toward tribal projects.
Proposed rulemaking timeline
Ecology will conduct three separate rulemakings to implement the Climate Commitment Act. If you want to stay informed on the rulemaking processes, please subscribe to our CCA Update email list. The proposed timeline for these rulemakings is below.