Washington Think Tank Questions Claim that Greenhouse Gas Policies ‘Working as Intended’

Washington Think Tank Questions Claim that Greenhouse Gas Policies ‘Working as Intended’

Todd Myers, environmental director at the free market Washington Policy Center, takes issue with officials touting the effectiveness of state climate change policies on greenhouse gas emissions.

“Going all the way back to 2006, our state has launched a range of initiatives designed to bring down carbon pollution and transition from polluting sources of energy,” a Dec. 28 Department of Ecology blog stated. “Long story short, a review of these policies shows that they are working as intended---but their biggest effects will be seen in statewide greenhouse gas emissions data for 2020 and beyond, which has yet to be released.”

Myers said that characterization is at odds with Ecology’s recently released emissions figures for 2019.

“The Washington State Department of Ecology released statewide CO2 emissions for 2019, showing an increase of about 7% from 2018,” Myers wrote in a Jan. 1 blog. “Since 2012, Washington’s CO2 emissions have increased almost every year and total emissions increased about 10% to 102.1 million metric tons (MMT).

“Washington’s emissions are now 9% higher than 1990 levels. According to state law, emissions must fall to just 51.4 MMT by 2030, 50% below the 2019 emissions levels.”

In 2020, the state Legislature set new greenhouse gas emissions limits to combat climate change. Under the law, the state is required to reduce emissions levels as follows: 45% below 1990 levels by 2030, 70% below 1990 levels by 2040, and 95% below 1990 levels by 2050 and achieving net zero emissions.

Myers’ blog goes on to document a series of claims from Ecology over the last several years “that emissions would be declining. Instead, they have consistently increased.”

He even threw some cold water on what he labeled the state’s boasting about the fact per capita emissions have decreased over the last two decades. While he acknowledged the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s confirmation that per capita carbon dioxide emissions are down 17% in the last 20 years, Myers pointed out the Evergreen State follows behind the nation in general.

“The U.S. as a whole, however, reduced per capita CO2 emissions by 22%,” Myers explained. “Washington is actually decarbonizing more slowly than the rest of the country.”

The Center Square reached out to the governor’s office for comment on Myers’ blog, which was also critical of Gov. Jay Inslee for claiming the state is on the right track in reducing emissions.

“The team at Ecology has done an excellent job sharing the results of the analyses done on the CCA and LCFS policies,” Jaime Smith, Inslee’s director of communications, replied via email.

She included a link to a Nov. 28 Ecology news release trumpeting the start of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard to cut greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, as well as a link to a July 1 Ecology blog that said independent studies show new initiatives under the Climate Commitment Act will deliver significant benefits at minimal costs.

Passed by the state Legislature in 2021, the Climate Commitment Act directs Ecology to develop and implement a statewide cap-and-trade program to cut carbon pollution by requiring emitters to obtain “emissions allowances” equal to their covered greenhouse gas emissions. Similar to stocks and bonds, these allowances can be obtained through quarterly auctions hosted by Ecology. The cap-and-trade law went into effect Jan. 1.

Myers remains skeptical of the state’s efforts.

“Rather than continuing to follow the path of failed policy, legislators and agency staff should stop pretending they can effectively reduce state CO2 emissions and empower citizens and innovators to reduce emissions more sustainably and effectively,” he concluded in his blog.

We thank The Center Square for reprint permission.

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