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Washington greenhouse gas limits

We're tracking Washington's progress toward the greenhouse gas limits established in state law. We're also working to align state limits with climate science. We've given recommendations to the Legislature to lower the current limits in order to help stabilize the climate and protect communities, water supplies, and other resources.

Shoreline in Anacortes, Washinton with old pilings in the foreground and mountains in the background.

Shoreline near Anacortes

Current state greenhouse gas limits

We recently partnered with with the Climate Impacts Group to review what the science says about global reductions needed to stabilize the climate. We found that Washington needs to make deep cuts in emissions and recommended that the Legislature adopt stricter limits. These greater reductions are needed to avoid or reduce the worst impacts on the environment and economy.

The Legislature recognized the need to act on climate change and to reduce the severity of its threat to Washington. In 2008 the Legislature set limits on Washington's greenhouse gas emissions in state law. The law requires us to:

  • By 2020, reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases in the state to 1990 levels.
  • By 2035, reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases in the state to 25 percent below 1990 levels.
  • By 2050, the state will do its part to reach global climate stabilization levels by reducing overall emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels, or 70 percent below the state's expected emissions that year.

We’re making progress, but need to do more

​The current policies in place, like the Clean Air Rule, will help Washington get closer to the targets but more actions are needed.

While Washington is working on several initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, current projections show that the state is not on track to meet the limits set by the Legislature. it will take state agencies, local governments, tribes, and the business community working together to find solutions to help slow climate change.

Stricter limits recommended

We worked with the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington in 2016 to evaluate climate science and recent state agreements to reduce emissions. We issued a recommendation in the Washington Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Limits report that was provided to the Legislature in December 2016 to:

  • By 2020, reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases in the state to 1990 levels.
  • By 2035, reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in the state to 40 percent below 1990 levels.
  • By 2050, reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in the state to 80 percent below 1990 levels.

We considered several factors in developing this recommendation, including:

  • Scientific findings from the most recent global climate change science assessment issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
  • The global climate change agreement reached in 2015 (“Paris agreement”).
  • National and state reduction targets.
  • The “Under 2MOU”, a memorandum of understanding signed by Washington and 165 jurisdictions pledging to limit global warming to less than 2°C by 2050.