Smart State, Smart Cities

June 12, 2019
June 2019

Jay Robert Inslee is serving as the 23rd and current Governor of Washington state. Governor Inslee is a strong advocate for clean energy policies and action against climate change. He recently committed Washington to 100% clean energy by 2045 and has climate change highest on his agenda for his 2020 U.S. presidential election campaign.

You are a true climate advocate and we are truly inspired by your work. Where does your interest in sustainability stem from?

Coming from Washington state, I have grown up with beautiful mountains, waters and coastlines. My parents were hikers and boaters and we grew up appreciating the natural splendor all around us, and I want the same things for my grandchildren and all future generations. Sustainability and conservation have been part of my whole life, and I have made it a priority in my public service over the past several decades. Fighting climate change is not the only issue — it is all the issues.

Our only in-state, coal-fired power plant will cease coal-fired operations at the end of 2025. We’re going to phase out all coal power imports by that date.

You recently signed legislation committing Washington to 100% clean energy by 2045. How will Washington go about achieving this target?

Our only in-state, coal-fired power plant will cease coal-fired operations at the end of 2025. We’re going to phase out all coal power imports by that date. We’re going to replace that power with new clean energy resources — renewable energy resources like solar, wind, and hydropower — and other carbon-free technologies that enable integration of variable resources, like energy storage and demand response. Over time, technology innovation and changes to grid operations will enable us to phase out all fossil-fuel fired power generation. We’re also going to significantly increase energy efficiency so that we can maximize the value of our existing carbon-free energy resources. We believe we can make this transition while ensuring we continue to have affordable and reliable electricity. Clean energy technologies are cost-competitive today, and replacing coal power with clean power can actually save us money in the long-term. We are also ensuring that the transition to 100% clean electricity benefits all communities, especially vulnerable populations and communities that are highly impacted by environmental pollution. Several important provisions in the legislation will allow for greater consideration of the impacts and benefits to these communities, as well as better targeting of energy assistance that helps reduce household energy burden. And, we have extended and amended incentives for certain renewable energy projects that support family-sustaining jobs in Washington. This will ensure that our clean energy workforce has a critical role in building the infrastructure we need to make this transition.

What lessons have you learned during your tenure as Governor of Washington state? What successes are you most proud of with regard to your clean energy policies?

In Washington state, we have proven that climate action and a strong economy go hand in hand. We were recently named the best state in the country by the U.S. News & World Report. The publication evaluated all 50 states across a range of criteria, including education, health care, infrastructure, and the economy. The report emphasized Washington’s thriving technology sector, as well as the state’s aggressive efforts to promote clean, affordable energy. We are as confident as ever about our efforts to speed up the transition to clean energy.

Do you believe that policy change is the most effective way to combat climate change? What is the role of businesses?

To address this monumental challenge we need business, government, non-profits, and community members to come together with solutions. This will need to be a coordinated and sustained effort. Businesses know that fighting climate change can create jobs and new industries. We need all the tools in the toolbox to fight climate change. For example, after the Trump Administration decided to pull out of the Paris Accords, I co-founded the United States Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Through smart, coordinated state action, we can ensure that the U.S. continues to contribute to the global effort to address climate change.

My sustainable heroes are students all over the world who are standing up and speaking out about climate change, as they know the devastating impact it will have on their world.

The Alliance’s three core principles: a) States are continuing to lead on climate change: Alliance states recognize that climate change presents a serious threat to the environment and our residents, communities, and economies. b) State-level climate action is benefiting our economies and strengthening our communities: Alliance members are growing our clean energy economies and creating new jobs, while reducing air pollution, improving public health, and building more resilient communities. c) States are showing the nation and the world that ambitious climate action is achievable: Despite the U.S. federal government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, Alliance members are committed to supporting the international agreement, and are pursuing aggressive climate action to make progress toward its goals.

Who is your sustainable hero and why?

My sustainable heroes are students all over the world who are standing up and speaking out about climate change, as they know the devastating impact it will have on their world.

About Sustainable Heroes

Join us on a journey into the hearts and minds of some of today’s greatest heroes, who have dedicated themselves to positively impact tomorrow’s world. We invite you to explore with us what makes these heroes tick, what drives them to overcome arduous trials and immense challenges, known and unknown. In this issue, we pay homage to global leaders accelerating the sustainable transformation – all of whom share the goal of fighting climate change and creating a sustainable world that is more resilient and lower carbon intensive. We encourage you on your own quest for ways to innovate, embrace sustainability and do the right thing. Become a heroine or hero to others and help us together solve the problems threatening our very survival. To each of you heroes and heroines, there is a brighter, more sustainable future that we can build together for future generations. We welcome nominations for people you’d like to see featured in future editions. Please send your nominations and other comments to

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