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. 

The Climate Commitment Act

Washington's comprehensive climate law is the Climate Commitment Act, signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on May 17, 2021.

The Climate Commitment Act establishes a "cap and invest" program that sets a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted in Washington (the cap) and then auctions off allowances for companies and facilities that emit greenhouse gases until that cap is reached.

Over time, the cap will be reduced, allowing total emissions to fall to match the greenhouse gas emission limits set in state law.

Auctioning allowances will raise money that'll raise funds for investing in climate resiliency, reducing pollution in disproportionately affected communities and expanding clean transportation. 

Rulemaking for the Climate Commitment Act began in 2021, and the program's first compliance period will begin in 2023. 

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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. 

In 2021, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Clean Fuel Standard, which will require fuel suppliers to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels 20% by 2038. The standard is expected to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 1.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030. 

In 2020, the Motor Vehicle Emission Standards law directed Ecology to adopt California vehicle emission standards. In November 2021, we adopted the zero emission vehicle standards that require a percentage of the vehicles sold in Washington to be zero emission. Consumers will have more zero emission vehicles to choose from, starting with the 2025 model year.

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
The 2021 Legislature directed the State Building Code Council to adopt rules for electric vehicle infrastructure at new residential buildings and directed the Washington State Department of Transportation to develop an online map of charging locations and a forecast for the future growth of zero emission 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% of their power from renewable sources (excluding existing hydroelectric power) by 2012, 9% by 2016, and 15% 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.

A law passed by the 2021 Legislature expands on that program, establishing a program to reduce leaks from large air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, limiting the global warming impacts for refrigeration chemicals, and requiring Ecology to recommend options for capturing HFCs when equipment reaches the end of its useful life. 

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.