What Biden's win means: Climate policy

As the Biden-Harris administration prepares to take power, Crosscut asked six opinion writers to share early thoughts on what comes next.

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For the first time in years, both parties will need to sit down and find commonsense solutions to climate change. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

In 2020, it seems nothing can bridge the gap between conservatives and liberals. But as the dust settles after the presidential election, there’s one issue Washingtonians can agree on: protecting the environment.

Earlier this year, a KING 5 poll showed that 77% of Washingtonians were concerned about climate change. Despite that overwhelming number, not nearly enough has been done at the state level to solve our most important environmental problems. Carbon emissions are rising statewide, the orca population is struggling, and King County is dumping raw sewage into Puget Sound.

This must change — quickly. Washington leaders need to shift the dialogue from meaningless talking points to meaningful strategies that actually benefit the environment. Absent effective government action on climate, a market-based approach that leans on the voices of all Washingtonians, not just environmentalists like myself, is already helping us get there. Whether it’s the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe (Olympic Coast) growing its economy and restoring the salmon population through investments in local conservation efforts, Microsoft finding effective ways to reach carbon negativity by 2030 or Vaagen Timbers (Colville) leading the movement toward sustainable cross-laminated timber, we have many scalable examples of local environmental leadership.

To replicate these solutions in Olympia, we need a local version of the American Climate Contract. This national plan, a market-based alternative to the Green New Deal, is supported on the right and the left. It pushes for investment in our nation’s infrastructure, prioritizes energy innovation (to lower emissions in all energy industries) and embraces natural solutions like planting trees, managing forests, restoring wetlands and collaborating with the agricultural industry to lower its environmental impact.

On the national level, a Biden administration and Republican-controlled Senate could bode well for climate action. For the first time in years, both parties will need to sit down and find commonsense solutions. With the national GOP increasingly willing to embrace climate solutions, Washingtonians can work with bipartisan leaders like Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Derek Kilmer and Maria Cantwell to get this done.

If Gov. Jay Inslee and state legislators want to take the issue of climate change seriously, they’ll represent the 77% of Washingtonians who are concerned about climate change, work across the aisle and make meaningful environmental strides for the sake of Washington and our globe’s future.

Read more Crosscut contributors on what comes next:

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About the Authors & Contributors

Benji Backer

Benji Backer

Benji Backer is the founder and president of the American Conservation Coalition.