Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about Seattle for a Green New Deal.
What is a Green New Deal for Seattle?
A Green New Deal is not any single policy; rather, it is shorthand for “a suite of policies that will transition our society away from fossil fuels and eliminate climate pollution.”
Isn’t Seattle already reducing its pollution?
Not nearly enough—between 2014 and 2016 (the last years for which we have data), Seattle’s climate pollution rose by over 58,000 tons (though per-person emissions did drop). And last year, our city’s air quality was among the worst in the nation. Furthermore, the environmental pollution in Seattle remains deeply segregated by race and class: Residents of South Park, Georgetown and the Duwamish Valley are three times more likely to have asthma than those that live in North Seattle, and have a life expectancy that is thirteen years lower than residents those that live in the high-income, mostly white neighborhood of Laurelhurst. We have a lot of work to do, both to do our part to for a healthy climate future and to address existing environmental injustices in our communities.
What could Seattle’s Green New Deal look like?
Given that 62% of our climate pollution comes from transportation, our Green New Deal will mean investments that get people out of cars and onto electric and free (or very low-cost) public transit, including rapid buses in dedicated lanes that connect every neighborhood; we also need protected bike lanes and walkable neighborhoods so that people feel safe venturing out of their cars; and we need portions of our city to be car-free, as leaders such as Barcelona, Edinburgh, Madrid, Copenhagen and London have already started to do.
With 35% of our climate pollution coming from the housing sector, our Green New Deal will also need to make investments that eliminate climate pollution from our buildings. There are 140,000 homes in Seattle that are currently heated by gas, a climate-wrecking fossil fuel. There are another 18,000 heated by oil. We must transition all of those homes off of fossil fuels to carbon-free electricity. We also need to weatherize our entire housing stock. And we need an ambitious build-out of dense and affordable housing, so low- and middle-income folks aren’t being pushed out of the city, to places where they need to drive everywhere.
Most importantly, Seattle’s Green New Deal means investing first and most in the Seattle neighborhoods that are currently most impacted by air, water and noise pollution ― and placing those communities at the heart of decision-making.
That sounds expensive. How will it be funded?
We have many options. For a start, we can put a climate emergency tax on big business ― something we can do by either raising B&O taxes or by following the lead of Portland, which placed a clean energy tax on big business last year. Alternatively, we can put a price on congestion, as cities around the world have already done. Or we can put a one-off climate emergency levy to the voters ― in February 2019, Seattle voters passed two public schools levies that will raise over $2.2 billion over six years. If Seattlities care enough to fund their children’s education, it seems likely that they would also be willing to pay a little extra to ensure that they have a planet to live on. Other options include placing a tax on fossil fuel use in buildings, dipping into Seattle’s existing rainy day fund, or taxing ride shares.
All of these mechanisms would need to be rigorously studied before implementation. Washington state already has the most regressive tax system of any state in the country; it’s critical that our Green New Deal funding mechanisms do not further burden low-income communities.
The most expensive thing by far is not reducing our climate pollution: Climate change has already cost U.S taxpayers over $350 billion over the last decade; that figure will rise exponentially as climate change grows worse.
Anything else I should know?
You should know that the campaign has already been endorsed the full Seattle City Council, as well as major labor unions SEIU 775, SEIU6 and UAW 4121, community organizations like El Centro de la Raza, the Sierra Club, Fuse Washington and the Washington Healthcare Alliance. Our hope is to demonstrate to our city leaders that there is broad support for transformational climate action by having 1,000 Seattle-based organizations, businesses, and community leaders endorse the campaign by the end of 2019.
What can a single city like Seattle do in the face of a global crisis?
While the climate crisis is global, cities matter; they are responsible for 70% of global climate pollution and are the easiest places to implement change for large numbers of people. Major cities around the world are already responding to the climate emergency: Copenhagen is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2025, Oslo by 2030, and cities worldwide are announcing bans on internal combustion engines. What’s more, we know that in the United States we cannot wait for the federal government to solve this problem for us.
What does endorsing actually mean?
It simply means saying that you agree with our community endorsement letter and that you support a transformational Green New Deal for Seattle that will eliminate climate pollution by 2030, address current and historic injustices, and create thousands of jobs.
Click here to sign your organization, business or community group on in support of Seattle’s Green New Deal.
How can I get involved in the movement for Seattle’s Green New Deal?
This is a volunteer-driven campaign. Hundreds of Seattle residents are already signature gathering, attending City Council hearings and candidate forums, making art and posters, and knocking on our neighbors’ doors. This is the only way we can win this campaign: If hundreds of people like you chose to be part of the growing movement for climate justice.
Click here to get involved.