Equilibrium & Sustainability

West Coast leaders sign agreement to expand regional climate collaboration

The Associated Press/Jose Luis Magana

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the combined gross domestic product of the Pacific Coast region.

The leaders of California, Oregon, Washington state and British Columbia have signed an agreement to expand the region’s climate partnership — with hopes of accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy.

“We don’t have all the answers. And so we seek to share best practices, we seek to compete,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said at a Thursday press conference in San Francisco.  

“That competition has brought us to where we are today,” the governor continued. “We’re in the how business.”

Newsom gathered with his colleagues Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and British Columbia Premier John Horgan to sign the Pacific Coast Collaborative Statement of Cooperation — an updated agreement that recommits the region to climate action.

The renewed partnership will promote investments in climate infrastructure, such as electric vehicle charging stations and a clean electric grid, according to the agreement.

Participating officials also pledged to protect their residents from climate impacts like drought and wildfire, while ensuring that all communities are included in the clean energy transition.

“This is not about electric power,” Newsom said. “This is about economic power. This is about dominating the next big global industry.”

The Pacific Coast leaders signed the agreement at the Presidio Tunnel Tops in San Francisco, where they were hosted by the city’s mayor, London Breed (D).

The Tunnel Tops — a 14-acre national park built on top of a highway tunnel — are what Newsom’s office described as “a model for building climate resiliency in urban areas and providing equitable access to green spaces.”

The Pacific Coast Collaborative Statement of Cooperation signed on Thursday builds on the ongoing work of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, a regional partnership launched in 2016.

The states of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, as well as the cities of Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, are all members of the collaborative.

“They’re showing the way for the rest of the United States and folks around the rest of the globe,” Newsom said. “I’m here in that spirit of optimism, recognizing the headwinds of the moment, recognizing the opportunity that we’re paving.”

The Pacific Coast region — which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 — represents 57 million people with a combined gross domestic product of $3.5 trillion, according to Newsom’s office.

Taken as a whole, that’s the fifth largest economy in the world, Gregor Robertson, former mayor of Vancouver and Pacific Coast Collaborative ambassador, said in a video statement.

In Thursday’s agreement, the U.S. and Canadian officials said they came together to strengthen regional approaches while working on their own individual climate agendas.

“These four leaders you’re hearing from today — we have watched, we have smelled, we have suffered through the smoke,” Inslee, the governor of Washington, said at the press conference.

“We understand what it’s doing to our communities. We understand what it’s doing to the health of our children. We understand its economic disadvantage to our economies,” Inslee continued.

“But fundamentally, we are leaders and we are three states and one province who can see through the smoke,” the governor added.

Chief among the agreement’s specific goals was support for an equitable and just transition to a low carbon and resilient future — with an emphasis on funding for overburdened communities.

Inslee stressed the importance of a capital investment bill in Washington that commits 35 to 40 percent of clean energy-related expenditures to such populations, crediting his neighbors for enacting similar such legislation.

He and his colleagues pledged to invest in climate infrastructure, including electric vehicle charging stations, green ports and a clean and reliable electric grid. Already, Inslee noted, the partners are working on an “electric corridor” up and down Interstate 5. 

“We’re demonstrating that we are much more powerful and impactful than when we’re working alone,” added Brown, the governor of Oregon.

“Growing our economy and protecting our planet are not mutually exclusive goals,” she continued. “Rather, they are moral imperatives.”

With Thursday’s signing, the leaders agreed to protect both their communities and lands from wildfire, drought, heat waves, ocean acidification and flooding.

“A community called Lytton in my province no longer exists because of wildfires,” said Horgan, the British Columbia premier, referring to a 2021 blaze that wiped out the Canadian town.

“We had atmospheric rivers, we had heat domes — terms that we’ve never heard of before — that have had a profound impact on our people, on our economy and our way of life,” the premier continued.

“And in order to address those challenges, we have to collaborate, we have to work together,” Horgan added.

Tags British Columbia California climate Climate change climate policy Gavin Newsom Gavin Newsom Jay Inslee Jay Inslee Kate Brown Kate Brown London Breed
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