Recently a group from the SSCAN leadership team met with mayoral candidate Bob Hasegawa to discuss climate politics in Seattle. Bob Hasegawa has been a Washington State legislator since 2005, first in the House, and more recently in the Senate. He gets enthusiastic when he talks about “bottom-up democracy” and “community participatory budgeting.” He has also championed the idea of the City of Seattle starting its own bank, which he believes would allow the City to finance a more progressive agenda. Climate change has not been a big focus for him, and he asked us for a one page listing of climate initiatives that the City could adopt. Here it is…
Climate policy for City of Seattle mayoral candidates
Leadership. The next Seattle mayor should be a climate champion. We need a leader who communicates the urgency of taking action to rapidly reduce our carbon footprint and our moral duty to the current and future victims of climate change.
Affordable Housing Near Transit. The working people of Seattle are being priced out of town by an overheated housing market. As they locate further away, they commute longer distances by car, emitting air pollution and greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Building affordable housing near transit will not only reduce our carbon footprint and clean our air, but will also promote social equity in our housing market.
Comprehensive Transit system. Much of our City is still inadequately served by transit. We need more bus rapid transit, more bus routes with shorter headways, and better integration between transit modes.
A Walkable City. Roughly 850 miles of Seattle streets have no sidewalks. We should speed up construction. But walkability doesn’t only mean safe, comfortable sidewalks, it also means that most people can easily walk from their homes to stores, schools, and transit. Zoning changes will insure that residential neighborhoods are in or close to mixed use zones. Creating walkable neighborhoods provides the least expensive form of transportation, lowers carbon emissions, promotes public health, and fosters community.
Bicycle Infrastructure. Seattle would have many more bicyclists if there were safe and integrated city routes for biking. Seattle has begun to provide these but there are many gaps (South Seattle for example has very limited bicycle infrastructure). Increased use of biking will lower our carbon footprint, promote public health, and provide a low cost transportation alternative.
Smart Grid, Distributed Energy. Our electrical grid needs to be 100% renewable, and it should be designed to work with locally produced solar and wind energy.
Energy Efficient Buildings. Our building codes should require state of the art energy efficiency. However, even more impactful is retrofitting existing buildings for efficiency (e.g., weatherization, converting oil furnaces to electric heat pumps). This would reduce our carbon footprint while creating jobs and reducing home heating costs for businesses and homeowners.
Plant Trees. The climate is already changing. We are having more very hot days and more heavy rain events. These trends will get worse. Trees help a lot — they provide crucial cooling during heat waves, and are extremely effective in reducing heavy storm water runoff. Trees also capture carbon from the air and store it as wood. Seattle should plant many trees and protect our existing tree canopy.
Divest From Fossil fuel companies. City funds shouldn’t be invested in companies that profit from climate change. Seattle can join the rapidly growing fossil fuel divestment movement by divesting pension funds from fossil fuel companies, and only working with banks that don’t provide loans for fossil fuel infrastructure.
No New Oil or Natural Gas Infrastructure. Seattle should follow Portland’s lead and simply ban all new major fossil fuel infrastructure construction within the City.
Ensure We Are On Track. We can’t win the fight against climate change if we don’t aim to do that. Office of Sustainability should update carbon targets so they aim for a maximum of 1.5 degrees celsius of warming, which is the maximum most climate scientists believe we should risk if we want to avoid climate mayhem.