Citizens Letter Urging Selection of Bold Criteria
To Ensure Success of The Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan
October 21, 2019
To: The Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan Steering Committee:
From: the below signed community groups
We, the undersigned, thank you for your efforts to reduce our carbon footprint in Thurston County. We applaud your work on the Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan. We are writing to you regarding the important decision about criteria for the Regional Climate Mitigation plan that you will make at the October 24th meeting. We are aware that recently the Steering Committee and the Advisory Committee were separately surveyed about their choice of an array of possible criteria and that they selected fairly different criteria. We understand that at this meeting you will need to integrate the two sets of criteria into one. We urge you to adopt the Advisory Committee criteria. Here are some of the reasons for this request:
The undersigned represent community groups made up of thousands of members of the community. We are writing to urge you to pick the strongest possible criteria for our plan since it will shape how robust the plan is in some very significant ways. Moreover, the Olympia Climate Strike on September 20 (attended by over 2,000 people) ended with some 600 people, including hundreds of youth, signing cards and writing heartfelt comments, urging you to pass a strong plan. These cards are being delivered to you separately. Citizens expect a bold plan that confronts the climate emergency head on.
We note the following Criteria selected by each group:
GHG reduction potential
Track record of success
GHG reduction potential
Speed of deployment
Quality of life impacts
GHG reduction potential. We are gratified that both groups selected GHG reduction potential.
Below we offer our thoughts on each of the other criteria in these two lists.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE SELECTIONS
Speed of deployment. In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported we had 12 years to make necessary changes. Some of us have been talking to you about early implementation actions you can take even before the plan is adopted later in 2020. This urgency was expressed in the 600 cards at the Climate Strike: “We don’t have two years, or even one year. The “house is on fire”, as Greta Thunberg says, and we must act now.” Urgent action has to be one of the criteria of this plan!
Quality of Life Impacts. The citizenry has grasped that this plan also provides the opportunity for other improvements to the life of our community. This is actually one of the greatest selling points to the plan that will be produced, that it will provide a better and healthier life for everyone.
Economic Benefits. The economic benefits of climate action are many, including cost savings through energy efficiency, more clean energy jobs, and greater economic development opportunities. Prioritizing actions which provide economic benefits will make them more attractive to local residents and taxpayers.
Ecosystem health. The health of Thurston County residents is intimately connected to the health of the water, air, soil, plants and animals with whom we share this place on earth. This points to the fact that climate change has not happened in a vacuum – it has happened with a whole set of environmental choices that threaten our overall web of life on this planet. We are already seeing the decline of Salmon, Orca, shellfish such as Oysters and Dungeness Crab, and other species important to our region. We are threatening the water, air and species on which our survival depends, so considering broader ecosystem impacts of an action makes sense. We have to address all these matters in a coordinated way.
STEERING COMMITTEE SELECTIONS
Track record. We of course understand why track records of success are important. This would be a hallmark of a good plan. However, if we limit ourselves to what has worked before, we may well wind up not hitting our targets. The fact of the matter is we are in uncharted territory. No one has yet solved climate change. New, innovative solutions are required. We are going to make our best educated guess and then put our whole shoulder to the wheel!
Educational value. This is an important part of all social change. We commend all four jurisdictions on already having many good educational programs on food waste, transportation opportunities, etc. Many choices you would select through the Advisory Committee criteria will still require educating the public; however we have to again move more aggressively than just educational programs. To give an example, we could educate builders or developers on practices that will reduce GHG’s like solar access on roofs, not building with natural gas, etc.; or we can pass ordinances that require such things. (Both are economically feasible). As you can see one action will move us much further and more quickly toward our goals than the other.
Political Feasibility. It seems wise to assess how much clout different actors have in a jurisdiction, what the current budget situation is, what other projects are competing for resources, etc. It’s also true that political feasibility is shaped by the actions and statements of our political and business leaders. We need bold leadership at this point, not political guesses and calculations. Public opinion will understandably be on the minds of our jurisdictions as this plan is moved forward, but using this as one of our top criteria may unduly limit our options. The signers of the 600 cards called for “moral courage” in moving ahead on the Plan. Listing “political feasibility” as one of the five leading criteria does not reflect moral courage.
Measurability. Not everything that has a high value for climate action can be measured. For example, changes in attitudes and behaviors resulting from public education may be difficult to measure. And their impact on GHG reductions may be difficult to track. But their importance in supporting other strategies and actions is clear.
We want to further note that neither group mentioned equity. We believe that the voices of low income communities and people of color are under-represented in this project, even within the Advisory Committee, and that this important criteria is missing from the selection. As these groups are likely to be most impacted by the climate crisis, it is important that their concerns be reflected in the plan by including this criterion.
Finally, we would refer you to the criteria used in the Portland plan, the only plan we know that has successfully been reducing its GHG’s. Their criteria were:
Magnitude of carbon emissions reduction
High potential to support jobs and prosperity
High Potential to advance equity
High Potential to improve local environmental Quality
High Potential to improve health
Thank you for your consideration of these ideas.
The below signed:
Thurston Climate Action Team
Chris van Daalen
Chair, South Sound Chapter, NW EcoBuilding Guild
Co-spokesperson for Olympia Public Power
President, Thurston League of Women Voters
Connie Campbell and Barak Gale
Co-Chairs, Climate Reality Project, Thurston County, WA Chapter
Organizer, Olympia Raging Grannies
Executive Director, Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team (DERT)
Chair of Conservation Committee, Black Hills Audubon Society
Founder, Oly Indivisible
South Sound Sierra Club Group