It’s Time to Get Real About Climate Justice

If you’re paying any attention at all, you can see the effects of climate change right in front of us.  Eastern Washington smolders and drought starves our reservoirs. Our decisions locally have national and global consequences on our environment, and we must have decisive action.

It is time that our city throw its weight behind the divestment movement from the oil industry. Water protectors from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have put out a clear call to action, and Seattle has a crucial role to play by divesting 3 billion dollars of city money out of Wells Fargo. By choosing a bank that invests in the Dakota Access Pipeline we are complicit in the environmental harm both to the native lands and people. It is a fact that communities of color and indigenous people are disproportionately harmed by environmental hazards, and these same communities have been leading the climate justice fight. Seattle can step up and take bold action by divesting ties to the oil industry and model action for the rest of the nation. It can't just stop at cutting ties to Wells Fargo; the city must also fully divest its pension fund from the fossil fuel industry. We saw what happened when we led on raising wages, now we can lead on climate justice.

And make no mistake, this is not about nature, this is about us. South Park and Georgetown, two diverse low-income areas, have the worst air quality in the city because of burning fossil fuels.  Life expectancy in those neighborhoods are a full 13 years shorter than wealthier communities. Asthma and respiratory infections rates in this area are the highest in the county.  We are already home to refugees fleeing drought-stricken countries.

Seattle has been great about talking about climate change. Just like we had a 10-year plan to end homelessness, we have a plan to be “carbon neutral” by 2050.  But feel good resolutions don’t add up to real progress on climate anymore than they do on homelessness.  Seattle missed its goal to reduce emissions by 7% by 2012.[1] And every alternative in our proposed new Comprehensive Plan would miss our long-term targets[2]

Over 80% of Americans live in urban areas, which means cities are in a unique position to positively impact climate change through investing in mass transit, our built environment, and the overall design of our city while divesting from fossil fuel. As a leader in tackling problems and creating real solutions on a local level, Seattle is in a strong position to make real progress towards becoming the first carbon neutral city.                                                                                                                                           

[1] 2012 Seattle Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, found at:

[2] Environmental Criticism for the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan, found at:

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  • published this page in Priorities 2017-01-16 14:54:33 -0800
  • published this page in Priorities 2015-10-02 11:10:31 -0700