Now is the time to call for a Washington carbon plan

June 5, 2014 

Gov. Jay Inslee recently signed an executive order that demonstrates he wants Washington to lead on combating climate change — the greatest environmental crisis of our time — while also ensuring our state’s economy can grow and thrive.

With the Environmental Protection Agency announcing Monday it’s moving forward with carbon pollution standards on existing power plants, the governor’s timing couldn’t be better.

The governor’s executive order, signed at the end of April, allows us to debate what impact carbon limits would have on our state. It helps Washington’s citizens and lawmakers work out how we can reduce carbon emissions and their associated costs to our economy.

The overarching goal of any carbon program is to lower greenhouse gas emissions. One of the most effective ways to do this is to incorporate the effects of carbon emitted from our biggest industrial polluters, including oil refineries and coal-fired power plants, into the economic equation.

As we consider potential carbon programs for Washington, the status quo of unlimited carbon pollution is the one policy certain to be wrong. In order for us to limit pollution, we must first put a value on it. Only then can businesses recognize — and work to minimize — the costs of unlimited carbon pollution.

The shift to carbon valuation should phase in gradually, and allow for new economic growth. For this reason Inslee’s call to action incorporates an assessment of how to limit pollution while protecting consumers and workers.

We have the unique opportunity to learn from successful carbon programs in British Columbia and California, and we should seize it. That way we can develop an even-better policy than our neighbors, and one that leads the nation in creating wealth while also helping save the planet.

Eric Berman, of Woodinville, and Jeremy Stone, of Bellevue, are each members of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national community of business leaders who advocate for policies that protect the environment and grows the economy, and Element 8, a Seattle-based group of angel investors focused on early-stage cleantech companies.

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