Support the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy’s carbon initiative

Support the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy’s carbon initiative

Conservation Northwest / Nov 03, 2015 / Work Updates

We support the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy in their effort to pass sensible legislation in Washington state that reduces global warming pollution, strengthens our economy, and makes sure all Washington families have a better future. Sign up to show your support

By Mitch Friedman, Executive Director

With the recent announcement that the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy (AJCE) has committed to fielding an carbon/climate policy initiative that will appear on Washington state’s November 2016 general election ballot, some people might be confused over whether to back this effort or the competing I-732, for which Carbon Washington has been gathering signatures for several months.

Conservation Northwest is now a member of AJCE and firmly endorses its upcoming initiativeSome believe the critical reasons to support AJCE are its broad coalition and objective of fostering equity. While we also appreciates those factors, our choice to endorse AJCE is largely based on direct climate considerations.

The main distinction between the two is that Carbon Washington’s I-732 has the goal of being revenue neutral, while AJCE aims to strictly cap carbon and actually generate revenues which it would put to beneficial use. Conservation Northwest has nothing inherently against a revenue neutral approach, but we see it in this case as falling short.

First, the fees that I-732 would apply to carbon use are too small to substantially change carbon consumption behavior. While its proponents point to British Columbia’s admirable carbon tax as a model, the extent of the climate change threat indicates that we must take more assertive action than that eight year-old policy example.

Second, I-732 is unlikely to win enough votes. It’s entirely predicated on a theory that a modest, revenue neutral carbon tax will be acceptable to moderate Republican voters, hence avoiding controversy and winning a majority vote. That’s a sensible hypothesis, but it’s not evident in polling, which shows Republican voters still opposed to I-732.

So what are the relative advantages of the AJCE model? First, its hard cap would strictly limit carbon. Second, it would raise revenue for needed objectives such as helping acquire forests to store more carbon and to treat forests to help them adapt to the changing climate. Third, polling shows that these uses of revenue are popular, actually enhancing the likelihood of a positive election outcome. 

Ideally the competing efforts will find a way to work together on a single initiative. But if they don’t, I encourage you to sign up for and support the initiative that the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy will launch, and not Carbon Washington’s Initiative 732.