On Wednesday, December 7, Mayor Bruce Harrell signed a new Executive Order directing City departments to work together to prioritize and expand actions that equitably reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) within the transportation sector. Actions are designed to invest in and build resilience among communities that are hardest hit by the climate crisis, expand workforce opportunities, and to improve the health of Seattle residents and workers – by improving air quality and making streets safer.
“We recognize the inherent link between our infrastructure, transportation systems, climate, and community wellbeing – meeting the scale of the climate crisis and fulfilling our commitment to strong and healthy communities requires addressing them together. In this Transportation and Climate Justice Executive Order, we are bridging ambitious policy ideas with our collaborative One Seattle approach to advance a climate justice agenda grounded in equity and the requisite action necessary to build a healthy, sustainable, thriving Seattle today and for future generations.”Mayor Bruce Harrell
“Each year we are grappling with an increasingly severe whiplash of climate impacts. From flooding this spring to drought in the summer, topped off dangerous smoke and wildfires this fall, we see from our lived experiences and our GHG emissions data that we need to be far more aggressive in eliminating climate pollution and building resilience among our most impacted communities. That’s why we are excited that through the Transportation and Climate Justice Executive Order, we are bringing innovative, bold, local solutions like neighborhood low pollution zones and expanding zero carbon transportation options to achieve environmental equity and resilience.”Jessyn Farrell, Director, Office of Sustainability & Environment
Transportation is responsible for 61% of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to the most recent 2020 GHG inventory report, the City is not currently on track to meet carbon neutrality by 2050 as called for in the Climate Action Plan or to be climate pollution free by 2030 as called for in the Green New Deal resolution. Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order directs City departments to accelerate climate investments and innovation, including:
- Plan for three low-pollution neighborhoods by 2028. These actions will for the first-time weave together decarbonizing buildings and transportation while investing in community resiliency, equity, and economic opportunity.
- Commit to making 20 miles of Healthy Streets permanent. The City will update the Bicycle Master Plan Implementation Plan and update the Pedestrian Master Plan Implementation Plan to include commitments to Healthy Streets and expand Seattle’s School Streets program.
- Achieve a 100% zero-emission, fossil fuel free City fleet by 2030. Leading by example, the City will ensure we have the essential electrification infrastructure and implementation plans to transition all city-owned vehicles to be fossil fuel free.
- Host a Youth Transportation Summit in 2023. Building on the community advocacy for Free Transit for Youth, the City will bring together young people to learn how the pandemic has changed their transportation experiences and center their voices in climate-responsive actions.
Despite a decrease in emissions attributed to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) traffic monitoring in downtown indicates that the emissions have begun to come back in 2022 and traffic volume has steadily been increasing between 2020 and 2022. Without significant action, the city projects emissions will return to baseline and continue to trend upward.
“Transportation pollution is over 60% of Seattle’s total carbon emissions. Mayor Bruce Harrell’s Executive Order bolsters SDOT’s commitment to be bold and enable healthier, more affordable and more equitable transportation options that support business vitality. We have a real opportunity to democratize our public spaces further, making them accessible destinations where community thrives.”SDOT Director Greg Spotts
A significant amount of emission reductions will come from electrifying vehicles that everything that moves people, goods, and services, relying on Seattle City Light’s majority renewable and non-emitting, affordable, and reliable electricity to power.
“City Light has started down the path to electrification by prioritizing partnerships with the communities we serve—primarily those experiencing the most health and environmental harms – to enable a just transition. As more people embrace the use of electric cars, trucks, ferries, buses, and trains, Seattle City Light is working with public and private sector partners to meet the demand for charging options for these vehicles. This order brings together departments from across the City in a One Seattle approach that puts us on a coordinated path towards meeting our collective greenhouse gas emissions targets and delivering long-term benefits for the communities we serve.”Emeka Anyanwu, Energy Innovation & Resources Officer for Seattle City Light
The City of Seattle is also accelerating several significant policies and programs to reduce emissions from buildings, including building emission performance standards and the clean heat program, which are projected to reduce building emissions by 35%. More information can be found at www.seattle.gov/environment.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING:
“Seattle has long been a leader in environmental action, but we need match the scale of the climate crisis with investments and innovation that both decrease carbon pollution and support people’s ability to safely get where they need to be despite the drastic changes we’ve felt during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are thrilled to see the City centering important voices, like youth, in these conversations, and to be exploring low emission neighborhoods which would for the first time bring together building and transportation decarbonization investments with economic opportunity, health, and resilience for community members.”Alex Hudson, Transportation Choices Coalition
“Switching to a 100% zero-emissions fleet is not only a climate imperative, it is an opportunity to reduce toxic air pollution and free ourselves from reliance on volatile, expensive gas and diesel prices. To achieve this, the City must immediately stop buying fossil fuel vehicles of all types, ranging from cars to big trucks, and implement a citywide plan to ensure this transition begins now, with individual departments addressing their specific challenges. Transitioning fleets of all sizes to zero-emissions is a major goal for Climate Solutions here in the Pacific Northwest. We hope to see more cities taking and acting on this pledge, and we are eager to partner with the City of Seattle in realizing this effort.”Leah Missik, Climate Solutions.
“Transforming our streets into places that are safe, accessible, and welcoming to people to walk, bike, roll, and play helps us achieve not only our climate goals, but our equity, health, and livability goals as a city. Making Stay Healthy Streets permanent and creating low emissions zones are a critical part of living up to our commitments as a city. If the city implements these policies boldly, we would inspire cities across the nation.”Clara Cantor, Community Organizer with Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.