Former US Vice President Al Gore touts Washington state as climate policy leader

Feb 18, 2022, 5:07 AM | Updated: 9:01 am
Former Vice President Al Gore joins Gov. Jay Inslee in a virtual town hall to discuss climate change (TVW)

As the Washington state Legislature considers posing new requirements on construction projects to ensure net-zero carbon emissions to accord with the state’s climate policy, former Vice President Al Gore joined Gov. Jay Inslee in a town-hall meeting this week.

The virtual discussion was targeted at Generation Z viewers, to contextualize climate change policy in 2022 and why, in Gore’s view, Washington state is a leader in reducing carbon emissions.

The conversation was largely centered on HB 1770, which revises residential and nonresidential energy codes to establish minimum and maximum energy efficiency thresholds to reach energy and carbon reduction goals by 2031. The bill has drawn criticism for its duplicate requirements on commercial buildings that exceed 50,000 square feet; the possibility that it will raise housing costs as it moves away from gas and towards electric heating.

This bill was passed in the House last week and is being considered in the Senate as of Thursday.

“We have a chance with this legislation now pending in Washington state to get it done,” Gore said Wednesday. “We have a chance to continue these executive orders and with your voices and persuasion to get the legislation passed as well.”

Gov. Inslee echoed the sentiment, with the encouragement that the public get in touch with their representatives in support of the policy change.

“You have the power to influence seven million people’s behavior in the next 24 to 48 hours,” Gov. Inslee added. “Because if you can help me pick up the last vote on a couple of these bills, we’re going to have seven million Washingtonians join you in doing what you’re doing, which is doing sensible things around the uses of energy. And I want to empower you to realize these things are on the knife’s edge.”

Much of the town hall, which included federal climate adviser Gina McCarthy, was focused on highlighting how Washington state’s action on climate change is indicative of a larger trend in which local state governments are prioritizing climate change policy as their companion pieces at the federal level languish.

“During the previous administration, state action was a saving grace,” Gore continued. “A lot of what Gina [McCarthy] and President Joe Biden are working on right now is an agenda that [Gov. Inslee] put out there.”

Directly addressing Generation Z viewers, Gore discussed how concerns about climate change have been internalized by younger generation and why he rejects a subsequently nihilistic outlook.

“I remain incredibly optimistic that we are going to be able to solve this climate crisis,” Gore added. “… If you look at all of the new electricity generation installed worldwide last year, what percentage of it came from new renewables? 90%. …. Look at the fact that every car and drug manufacturer in the world is moving as quickly as they can to shift over to electric vehicles. … We’re in the early stages of a sustainability revolution that has the scale of the Industrial Revolution and the speed of the Digital Revolution.”

Gore also shared what he referred to as “a couple of findings that didn’t make the headlines.”

“Once we reach net-zero emissions, the temperatures in the world will stop going up with a lag time of as little as three to five years. And once we reach net zero, half of all the human-caused CO2 will fall out of the atmosphere in as little as 25 to 30 years,” he said. “It’s as if we have a switch that we can … solve the climate crisis.”

Watch the complete town hall on TVW here.

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Former US Vice President Al Gore touts Washington state as climate policy leader