Earlier this month the eyes of the world turn to the Pacific Coast, where global energy ministers and business leaders met [l1] to begin transforming the Paris COP21 climate agreement from a promise to a plan — developing the specific policies and actions that will accelerate the transition to economies built on clean energy.
Meeting the ambitious carbon reduction goals laid out in Paris last December will require two things in abundance: innovation and collaboration. It will require transformations in our energy systems; the buildings that house our people and businesses; the way we move residents and goods; and related shifts across all sectors of the economy.
And it requires a new way of approaching climate change that involves not just Washington, D.C., but our country’s cities and states. That’s why we’re proud to be on the leading edge of this mobilization effort commensurate with the scale of the climate change challenge. National governments, like ours in “the other Washington”, D.C., identified goals, but it is action by cities, states and provinces that will make those goals reality and ultimately stave off the devastating impacts of climate change.
San Francisco was an appropriate venue for this Clean Energy Ministerial, where the impacts of climate change are tangible and the urgency to act acute. Water was carefully rationed, even for foreign dignitaries, with California gripped by perpetual drought. Wildfires now rage nearly year-round, threatening lives and livelihoods— not just in California, but in West Coast neighbors British Columbia, Oregon and Washington as well.
The Pacific Coast is also home to a cross-sector, intergovernmental approach to solving the climate crisis — a perfect example of the type of subnational effort by cities, states and provinces necessary to realize the promise of the Paris accord.
In 2013, California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia — working together as the Pacific Coast Collaborative — entered into an agreement to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. In 2015, Portland hosted the first-ever West Coast Mayors Summit, and mayors from Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles committed to reinforcing the “green wall” along the West Coast.
At the Clean Energy Ministerial leaders from the Pacific Coast Collaborative joined the mayors and representatives of these cities, along with Oakland and Vancouver, and signed the Pacific North America Climate Leadership Agreement, which outlines areas of cooperation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote a vibrant clean energy economy.
Together, the Pacific Coast states and province represent the world’s fifth largest economy, a region of 53 million people with a combined GDP of $2.8 trillion.
The West Coast is spurring new industries, companies, and jobs, and promoting cleaner air and healthier communities with the foundation of strong, stable climate policies, proving that meaningful climate action and economic success are linked. Between 2010 and 2014, clean economy jobs within the Pacific Coast region grew more than twice as fast as jobs overall. Right now, Silicon Valley Leadership Group members like SunPower, Nest, Finelite, Imergy Power Systems, EnerNOC, Tesla, and dozens more are creating good jobs in R&D, design, production, sales and installation.
That growth is also evident in Washington state, the largest producer of renewable energy in the country, where forward-thinking companies like Amazon, Microsoft, BMW and REC Silicon locate because they want to run their operations on the cleanest power available. And Washington is investing tens of millions to integrate more renewables, to grow the companies that will deliver the modern electrical grid and expand the use of alternative vehicles in our cities.
Cities are increasingly at the center of efforts to move the needle on climate change. Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco are co-founders of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance and, with Los Angeles and Oakland, have committed to reducing community-wide greenhouse gases by 80 percent or more from 1990 levels by 2050. These commitments, paired with thriving economies and high quality of life, make West Coast cities magnets for talent and ideas, and fertile testing grounds for technology innovation.
Armed with the proper incentives, these business innovators will develop the clean energy tools and technology we need to meet the demands of the 21st century. Since 2006 investors have put more than $27 billion into California companies that are helping to drive the low-carbon revolution. As of this year, the advanced energy industry in California, which includes smart grid technologies and energy efficiency, employs more than 500,000 workers.
Climate impacts cross borders between states not just countries, and so should our collaboration on solutions. Working together to do our part to address a global problem, we will create better jobs, more economic opportunity, and more significant reductions in global emissions than we can separately if the work on climate change extends from Washington, D.C. to every corner of our nation.
Jay Inslee is governor of Washington state, Charlie Hales is mayor of Portland, Ore., and Mike Mielke is senior vice president of Environment & Energy at Silicon Valley Leadership Group.