On Dec. 7, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell unveiled an executive order clarifying the city’s climate change goals and the plans needed to achieve them at a press conference with city department heads.
The press conference largely focused on ways the city can decarbonize its transportation sector, which accounts for about 61 percent of core emissions. Seattle has pledged to decrease its transport emissions by 82 percent by 2030, based on 2008 levels. Real Change previously reported that working from home resulted in a significant, but temporary, reduction in transportation emissions in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The executive order follows Harrell’s October trip to Buenos Aires, where he attended the C40 World Mayors Summit. At the conference, various city leaders made ambitious pledges to rapidly decarbonize their cities to meet carbon emission reduction goals.
Some of the other C40 member cities released proposals for significantly more pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. For example, Paris recently committed to creating 1,000 kilometers of protected bike lanes, while Rotterdam, Netherlands, has transformed its city center to be more walkable and limited the use of private vehicles.
Some of Seattle’s goals that were announced at the conference included loose commitments to create zero emission zones in the city; implement the pedestrian master plan to increase walkability; and procure all zero emission vehicles by 2030.
Many of Harrell’s points in the executive order followed through on these commitments. The mayor instructed departments to pilot three “low pollution” neighborhoods by 2028, convene a youth transportation summit in 2023, make a plan to keep many “stay healthy” streets permanent and accelerate the city’s vehicle electrification initiative to meet the goal of switching over the municipal vehicle fleet to zero emissions. In total, there are 23 goals listed in the order, with outlines on how departments plan to achieve those targets.
The directive, in many ways, is a continuation and expansion of existing city policies, with a focus on unifying simultaneous efforts by different departments. A major emphasis of the plan is workforce development to ensure that Seattle workers have the proper training and accreditation to implement these plans and work in green industries.
“The transportation climate justice executive order that we are issuing will not only accelerate our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but it will also support clean energy businesses and the workforce — and this is critically important — the workforce needed for them to thrive and ensure that we are planning for and creating healthy connected communities that are resilient,” Harrell said.
Advocates have raised concerns that Seattle streets are becoming increasingly dangerous, with the number of traffic deaths increasing significantly over the past two years despite the city’s “vision zero” goal for eliminating vehicular deaths by 2030. Seattle is set to release a review of the vision zero program in early 2023.
Read more of the Dec. 14-20, 2022 issue.