Today, Washington is one step closer to drastically reducing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global climate change, as Ecology finalizes regulations for the state’s first cap-and-invest program.
Under the Climate Commitment Act passed by the Washington Legislature in 2021, Ecology is required to implement the landmark program – only the second of its kind in the nation – by Jan. 1, 2023.
“This policy is among the most decisive actions we’ve taken in our history to confront climate change and protect our collective future,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “This new program will help us decarbonize our economy, improve air quality, and put Washington at the forefront of the fast-growing global era of clean energy.”
Under the cap-and-invest program, businesses and organizations responsible for 75% of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions will have to obtain allowances to cover their emissions. Over time, the number of these allowances will be reduced, incentivizing businesses to cut emissions.
Some allowances will be awarded at no charge while others will be sold at quarterly auctions, with the first auction planned for the second half of February 2023. The proceeds will be invested in emissions reduction programs and preparing Washington communities for the effects of climate change, especially those that deal with more air pollution than others today.
“Washington is already a leader in the clean energy economy,” said Laura Watson, Ecology’s director. “Cap and invest will build on our success by encouraging new investments and innovations right here at home.”
The cap-and-invest program is the cornerstone of a suite of Washington climate policies that aim to increase the number of zero-emission vehicles on the road, accelerate the switch to cleaner transportation fuels, and move away from coal and other polluting sources of electricity. State law requires these policies to meet Washington’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 95% by 2050, with remaining emissions to be offset.
Ecology received more than 1,400 comments on the cap-and-invest program rule from a wide range of people, organizations, government agencies, and Tribal governments during an eight-week public comment period that ended on July 15.