Despite heat and smoke, Seattle delays major climate policy for buildings

New report reveals how climate delays benefit Seattle's biggest and most polluting corporations


SEATTLE, Wash. - August 31, 2023 ( Just a week after Seattle suffered through the worst air quality in the U.S., Mayor Bruce Harrell is pressing pause on a major piece of climate policy aimed at tackling pollution from buildings, one of the city's most overlooked climate problems. Over 1000 Seattleites contacted the Mayor's office this week in protest, urging the Seattle Mayor to move forward without delay.

The proposed plan would set gradually increasing emissions standards to transition Seattle's biggest buildings off fossil fuels (the Building Emissions Performance Standards, or BEPS policy). If implemented, the policy could eliminate 10% of the city's climate pollution, while creating green union jobs, and bringing life-saving cooling to thousands of Seattle residents.

"I'm a high school student, and I'm scared," said Emma Coopersmith, a youth climate activist. "Our city has been choking on smoke for weeks, every summer since I was a kid, and to see City Leaders delaying climate action - what kind of message does that send? Are they really willing to let big corporations turn our skies orange and keep polluting for profit, while we pay the price with our health and future? Mayor Harrell, it's time to stand up with my generation and others on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Don't let your legacy be the Mayor who stood by and did nothing while the world burned.

The role and influence of these large and polluting corporations in Seattle's climate action is under scrutiny in Who Owns Downtown Seattle?, a new report released by 350 Seattle. The report examined 90% of the buildings over 100K sq. ft. in the downtown, researching the ownership and climate pollution of hundreds of buildings.

Top findings of buildings in the study include:

  • Large building owners have actively campaigned to weaken the BEPS policy.
  • Half (49%) are owned by private entities not based in Seattle.
  • Only 3% are owned by individuals or families, so called 'mom and pop' businesses.
  • The estimated assets of downtown's ten biggest polluters totaled over $657 billion.

"The climate crisis is here and we need action now, not three decades from now," said Shemona Moreno, Executive Director at 350 Seattle. "We want Mayor Bruce Harrell to lead on climate and establish the City of Seattle as a model of how a big city with a big economy can thrive beyond fossil fuels. We need to pick up the pace and scale of change. We need this Mayor to bring big businesses with whom he has strong relationships along for the good of our City. Our health and our future depend on it."

350 Seattle works toward climate justice by organizing people to make deep system change: resisting fossil fuels; building momentum for healthy alternatives; and fostering resilient, just, and welcoming communities.

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