Pact includes committments, but no legally binding obligation or funding
By Alex Baumhardt, Oregon Capital Chronicle
Three West Coast governors and a Canadian premier signed a pact to make the region the first on the continent to transition to 100% clean electricity and a low-carbon economy.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown joined California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and British Columbia Premier John Horgan in San Francisco on Oct. 6 to sign the pact, which includes commitments to create policies, investments and interstate projects that will end each state’s dependency on fossil fuels and create new green energy jobs in the coming decades.
“We know that growing our economy and protecting our planet are not mutually exclusive goals,” Brown said, “rather, they are moral imperatives.”
The leaders also committed to working collaboratively on wildfire and drought mitigation and to collective invest in stemming those impacts of climate change.
The pact includes commitments to continue investments in interstate electric vehicle charging stations for the next five years, as each state and British Columbia have done with the West Coast Electric Highway that includes charging stations every 50 miles along major roadways between British Columbia and the states; building a network of hydrogen-refueling stations for vehicles with hydrogen fuel cells; introducing collective emissions-reduction targets for medium and heavy-duty vehicles such as large vans, buses and semi-trucks and exploring the potential for a zero-emissions corridor for such vehicles along Interstate 5 from southern California to British Columbia within the next 10 years.
The pact includes commitments to decarbonize Pacific Coast maritime ports and shipping.
“The Pacific Coast leads on virtually everything in social and economic development. And we are yet again leading the world and the nation when it comes to the development of a clean energy economy,” Inslee said. He was behind Washington’s 2020 law mandating a 95% reduction in emissions by 2050.
Oregon has the earliest target date for getting emissions at least 80% below 1990s levels by 2040. California, British Columbia and Washington have targeted 2050.
The leaders agreed to prioritize low-income and historically marginalized communities in their plans to transition to a carbon-free economy and to apply tribal and Indigenous knowledge in managing natural resources.
According to the document, there is no legally binding obligation to enforce the commitments or to fund the work.
The states and British Columbia first joined to tackle climate change about a decade ago. In 2013, they created the Pacific Coast Collaborative which included an agreement to account for and tax carbon emissions, address Pacific Ocean acidification, improve forest health and integrate the states’ and British Columbia’s electrical grids and transition to emissions-free energy.
In 2016, the collaborative brought in leaders of major West Coast cities, including Portland, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. to create a similar Pacific North America Climate Leadership Agreement.
The pact signed Oct. 6 is a continuation of the collaborative’s commitment to working quickly to stop the worst impacts of global climate change from being reached, according to Brown.
“Future generations will judge us not on the fact of climate change. But what we’ve done to tackle it,” she said.
Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post.