Dive Brief:

  • The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for the passage of a federal Green New Deal, which has generated vigorous debate in Congress, and committing to developing a local version of the climate action plan.
  • The resolution sets the standards for drawing up Seattle’s Green New Deal. It includes a multitude of environmental and economic principles including eliminating greenhouse gases by 2030; prioritizing low-income communities and communities of color, which tend to be the first to be affected by pollution and climate change; reducing reliance on fossil fuels; increasing building and transportation energy efficiency and reducing their emissions; and improving housing affordability.
  • Mayor Jenny Durkan released a statement praising the council’s move. She issued an executive order directing city departments to examine how they can accelerate their action items in Seattle’s Climate Action Plan, which mirrors a number of the principles in the Green New Deal.

Dive Insight:

The council was met with applause from a packed house of spectators as soon as they introduced this resolution. Upon passage, meeting attendees again applauded and parlayed that into a standing ovation.

Equity for low-income and other marginalized communities took center stage at the meeting, and it is to be a primary focus of the Green New Deal. The strategies included in the plan should consider both environmental and economic solutions. Without that combination, the plan is incomplete and the council runs the risk of further problems down the road, members say.

“We have to address the climate crisis that’s barreling down towards us, and we have to do it in a way where we simultaneously address the economic crisis that faces too many of our community members,” Council Member Mike O’Brien said at the meeting.

The council discussed controversial topics in amendments related to the resolution, including the community impacts of rent control and congestion pricing, especially on low-income populations.

For example, council members noted that while fossil fuel reduction is a positive goal, many people rely on fossil fuels as the most available and reasonable option for traveling to work or school. Plus, those who work non-traditional shifts, such as overnights, do not have the same access to reliable transit as those who work traditional shifts. And many people heat their homes with fossil fuels.

“We need to include those folks who rely on fossil fuels — whether it’s for work, transportation, heating or other needs — to be centered at this, to help us figure out how they can successfully make that transition to a fossil fuel-free world,” O’Brien said.

The debates that did occur weren’t over whether to advance a Green New Deal strategy, but rather over the language and whether to include controversial amendments such as rent control. Those elements might not seem important to outsiders, but council members stressed the importance of getting this resolution right for future measures to build on.

“What goes in the resolution does matter, and it should be… things that will actually provide housing and climate justice to our communities,” Council Member Kshama Sawant said.

The city council realizes this resolution alone is not going to solve all of Seattle’s problems related to climate change. They referenced the work that lies ahead, which includes drawing up the actual Green New Deal. Seattle will join other cities, including Los Angeles and New York, which already have released their own versions of a Green New Deal. But as Durkan alluded to, the contents of the Green New Deal plans overlap heavily with cities’ current climate action goals.