Gov. Gavin Newsom and three other heads of Pacific Coast governments reaffirmed their commitment to collaborate on climate action, made in efforts to expedite and expand a low-carbon economy.
Leaders of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California signed off a new Statement of Cooperation on Thursday to pledge making a climate-resilient future a soon-to-be reality on a subnational scale.
“We recognize with humility that we don’t have all the answers,” said Newsom at a Thursday press conference. “We seek to share best practices, we seek to compete from jurisdiction to jurisdiction with one another… but in an enlightened sense, that competition has brought us to where we are today.”
The regional governments – who collectively represents 57 million people and $3.5 trillion in gross domestic product – committed to invest and transition to regional low-carbon infrastructure, while also protecting communities most at risk of climate-induced disasters, especially in historically underrepresented areas, according to the agreement.
This work builds on the work of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, first founded a decade ago to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions by promoting green energy, clean transportation and construction and improved food waste management. The major cities of Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver later joined the four governments in the efforts in 2016.
Though each regional government faces their own challenges with climate change, the four share the same sentiments on bolstering ahead with an ambitious climate action plan, both individually and collectively. The hope is to create a stronger, harmonized regional green economy, while also cutting Pacific Coast emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed hosted Newsom, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and British Columbia Premier John Horgan at San Francisco’s Presidio Tunnel Tops to sign the statement.
“We can’t just enjoy our lives, go about our business and leave this planet worse off than it was,” Breed said at the press conference. “It is our responsibilities as stewards to not only be the leaders in climate change, but to make sure that we are teaching the next generation.”
At Thursday’s signing, the leaders pledged to protect their communities from effects of climate-related disasters like extreme drought, prolonged heat, flooding and wildfires.
All four shared similar tragedies related to climate change – noting wildfires that burned down entire towns, dwindling populations of essential species and prolonged heat waves that strained electricity resources.
“We have watched, we have smelled, we have suffered through the smoke,” said Inslee, the state of Washington’s governor. “We understand what it’s doing to our communities. We understand what it’s doing to the health of our children. We understand its economic disadvantage to our economies.”
“But fundamentally, we are leaders and we are three states and one province who can see through the smoke,” he said.
Horgan admitted that he often mirrors the work of his U.S. counterparts to advance climate goals in his own province of British Columbia, like California’s low-carbon fuel standard, an incentive program developed in 2009 to encourage the production of cleaner transportation fuels.
“We’ve had atmospheric rivers, heat domes — terms that we’ve never heard of before that have had a profound impact on our people, our economy and our work,” Horgan said at the press conference. “In order to address those challenges, we have to collaborate.”
Brown, the governor of Oregon, said her state has made large strides in climate action – for example, its last coal plant will be demolished this summer – partially because of its strong partnerships with the public, private and nonprofit sectors, along with their West Coast neighbors.
“We’re demonstrating that we are much more powerful and impactful working together than when we’re working alone,” Brown said. “And together, I know that we can meet the challenges of climate change, because we know that growing our economy and protecting our planet are not mutually exclusive goals, rather they are moral imperatives.”
Moments before the signing, Newsom added one takeaway message for Pacific Coast residents: “don’t be too anxious” despite doomsday headlines.
“These are the anecdotes to that anxiety and stress,” Newsom said, noting this agreement as a sign of optimism. “They’re future-proofing not just their states, but they’re showing the way for the rest of the United States and folks around the rest of the globe. That should calm us.”