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Seattle eyes its own 'green new deal'

caption: Mt. Rainier is seen from Seward Park on Monday, March 18, 2019, in Seattle.
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Mt. Rainier is seen from Seward Park on Monday, March 18, 2019, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Advocates for a “green new deal” for Seattle made their pitch to the Seattle City Council on Tuesday for aggressive action on climate change and inequity.

The council unanimously supported the general concept of a green new deal in June — without committing to specific policies.

Climate advocates told the council’s sustainability and transportation committee that their green new deal means ending the city’s addiction to fossil fuels by 2030 — 20 years sooner than Mayor Jenny Durkan aims to — and taking measures to both address injustices and provide good-paying jobs as the economy transitions to using only climate-friendly energy.

“There’s no more time for business as usual,” activist Jordan Van Voast said. “We have to stop building big parking garages like just went up at Expedia.”

In Washington state, cars and trucks are the biggest source of climate-altering pollution.

“We really have to re-imagine our city as a place built for buses, bikes, pedestrians, and not a car-centric place and way of life,” said Brittany Bush Bollay of the Sierra Club.

The Seattle proposal is modeled after the national Green New Deal championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

The council chambers were filled with transit and climate advocates.

No one spoke in opposition to the green new deal.

“I believe that the green new deal is a moment, an opportunity, a movement, that can change the political dynamic that we’ve been stuck in for a long time,” Councilmember Mike O’Brien said.

O’Brien said he would introduce a resolution next week to have the city commit to some of the specific goals of the green new deal proposal, including achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.

O’Brien and interim Councilmember Abel Pacheco were the only councilmembers to attend the meeting.

Neither will be on the city council after this fall’s election cycle.

caption: Seattle's carbon emissions are on the rise despite promises going back to 2001 to slash the city's climate-wrecking pollution.
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Seattle's carbon emissions are on the rise despite promises going back to 2001 to slash the city's climate-wrecking pollution.

Multiple mayors of Seattle, including Mayor Durkan, have declared the city a national leader in fighting climate change even as its emissions were getting worse.

On Tuesday, Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan offered to meet with the green new deal advocates to discuss “how the mayor and her administration can support your efforts.”

How such a comprehensive reworking of the economy and undoing of injustices would be funded is unclear.

In a June letter to the city council, the advocacy groups Got Green and 350 Seattle estimated that greening the city’s residences — by weatherizing them and replacing heating oil and natural gas-burning appliances with electric ones — could cost $2.4 billion.

“We will work with you to identify progressive funding sources at the scale needed to bring about these transformations,” the council told the activists in June.

Mayor Durkan’s office did not respond to interview requests for this story. Jessica Finn Coven, the head of Durkan’s Office of Sustainability and Environment, declined to be interviewed.

Coven’s office shared an email that Ranganathan sent to green new deal advocates on Tuesday:

July 30, 2019

Dear Neighbors:

Thank you for your work for a Green New Deal for Seattle. Mayor Durkan agrees with you; climate change is one of the gravest threats we face and the solutions to climate change must also be solutions to income inequality and racial inequity. In Seattle, we’re excited by the idea of addressing these problems together to build a fairer and more just city. I understand that you’ve been meeting to begin crafting your policy agenda; I’d love to get together to hear how this is going and how the Mayor and her administration can support your efforts.

I’d like to invite you to meet with myself and the Director of the Office of Sustainability and Environment, Jessica Finn Coven. I understand there is a broad group of advocates who have been meeting on this topic. To ensure we are as inclusive as possible, please feel free to pass this invitation along to the groups or individuals who have been most involved. My colleague Amanda Stoddard will follow up before the meeting to better understand who will be attending. At the meeting I would love to talk about ways you would like to engage with the Mayor directly as well as other opportunities to create a Green New Deal for Seattle.

Sincerely, Shefali Ranganathan

Deputy Mayor of Seattle

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