Olympia needs to invest in climate mitigation and adaptation, says climate program manager


At the Finance Committee meeting yesterday, Olympia Climate Program manager Dr. Pamela Braff discussed information about sustainable funding to support climate work and how the city has been able to reach targets addressing climate change.

Reducing emissions

In 2018, Olympia began working with Thurston County with the cities of Lacey and Tumwater and  to develop the Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan, which was published in December 2020 by the Thurston Regional Planning Council. The intention is to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions by 45% - below 2015 levels by 2030; and 85% - below 2015 levels by 2040.

Braff recounted that the city passed the Olympia Climate Inheritance resolution in 2019, which aims to achieve net-zero emission by 2040.

Olympia also participates in "Cities Race to Zero: Achieve net-zero emissions by 2040" and sets an interim 2030 science-based target, which reflects Olympia's fair share of a 50% global reduction in emissions by 2030.

Despite these commitments, Braff said Thurston County's emissions are not on track.

Braff showed a graph reflecting Thurston Country's 2019 Greenhouse Gas Emissions with 3.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e).

"It is just taking us further from where we need to go,” she commented.

Broken commitments – not close to the goal

Braff said Olympia's emissions reached 661,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2019. She said a big chunk of it came from the built environment and transportation, including fuels, energy used to heat, power, and cool the buildings, and vehicles and buses to get around town.

Braff said Olympia has a growing commitment to reducing emissions, and addressing climate change requires investments in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

"It requires investment in both mitigation and adaptation. It is because many effects of climate change are here now. They will continue to get worse until levels of C02 emissions in the atmosphere level off, and we are not expecting to see that until 2050," Braff warned.

"So no matter what we do, no matter how good we are at reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade, the impacts of climate change will continue to grow until at least 2050," she added.

She said Olympia needs to be prepared to be resilient to those climate impacts, like extreme heat, weather, drought, disturbances, and diseases.

Stepping up

Braff said there is a mismatch between the amount of necessary work and the funding available to support climate work; other cities and counties also recognize this.

According to Braff, Boulder and Denver, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Bellingham, Washington; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have taken steps to generate revenues through taxes – property, utility, sales - retail, to support their climate programs.

Braff presented five options to raise revenue for the Olympia climate programs:

  • Private utility tax – a tax on electric, gas, or telephone. This will require voter approval. Estimated revenue per 1% increase is between $100,000 to over $500,000 annually. Tax for each utility would require a separate individual vote approval.
  • Municipal utility tax – includes taxes on garbage, sewer, stormwater, or water. It does not require voter approval and is within the city council's discretion. The estimated revenue per 1% increase is about $100,000 to $400,000 annually, depending on the utility tax they consider.
  • Property tax – requires voter approval. It increases costs to property owners. Depending on the rate increase, the estimated revenue is between $89,000 to $1.7 million.
  • Business and occupation tax – requires voter approval. It increases costs to businesses. The estimated revenue per 0.1% increase is $3 million.

Climate mitigation goals

With the possible availability of funds, Braff recommended focusing on high-impact actions to achieve the 2030 science-based target, including investing on:

  • Grid decarbonization – 80% reduction of carbon intensity
  • Building efficiency – all new buildings meet IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) 2018
  • VMT (vehicle miles traveled) reduction – 5% reduction in total vehicle miles traveled. Whatever miles that can't be reduced need to electrify
  • EV (electric vehicle) adoption – 4.5% annual growth in EV adoption.


9 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Miller19

    It’s all about raising revenue. This is one of the best scams ever.

    Friday, August 19 Report this

  • rubinken

    I disagree wit6h Miller 19 100%!

    We need to mitigate the impacts we are having on our planet. Climate catastrophe is not a myth, it is reality. Olympia residents can take actions, but there are costs associated with that.

    Where does Miller 19 suggest we get funds, or is s/he in denial that we need to change what we've been doing?

    Friday, August 19 Report this

  • Claire

    Try as they will, it is extremely arrogant to think humans can have any significant impact on the natural progression of climate events.

    Friday, August 19 Report this

  • Claire

    Rubinken has consumed far too much of the climate change koolaid. He has fallen for the greatest hoax to beset mankind.

    Friday, August 19 Report this

  • Labman54

    No matter what you do in Olympia, you still have I-5 running through the middle. With semi's that are spewing diesel exhaust and cars by the thousands.

    Saturday, August 20 Report this

  • Miller19

    To answer Rubinken, I think there are lots of things we can do differently, but the climate crisis as it’s sold to us by politicians and big business is a hoax. It is a manipulation of raw data and suppression of other facts into a NARRATIVE about a doom scenario. I suggest reading about CO2 absorption spectrums, radiative forcing, and CO2 saturation to start. Also, look into how these climate scientists build their models and what assumptions are in those models. There is a saying, “all models are wrong but some are useful.” Climate models have been proven wrong and not useful. They are used as part of a grand wealth transfer scheme.

    Sunday, August 21 Report this

  • Miller19

    And to expand more, I think we need a higher CO2 concentration in the atmosphere as it would make the planet flourish. In the mid-19th century the CO2 concentration was down to around 150 ppb. Plant life begins to die around 140 ppb. So the people who say we need to reduce carbon in the atmosphere (who are people smart enough to know these historical and physical facts) either don’t care or want to destroy life on this planet. It’s a Malthusian worldview.

    Sunday, August 21 Report this

  • Connie

    How can you encourage more and more new apartments downtown with the increased population and increased vehicles and not expect temperatures to rise, pollution to increase and more people and buildings being vulnerable to flooding. Then you want more tax money to allow for more spending on ways to mitigate these increases. It makes no sense, is not thoughtfully considered. Virtue signaling and spending our money like this will not solve anything.

    Monday, August 22 Report this

  • Cobbnaustic

    Here we go again.......They want to take more of your $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    Monday, August 22 Report this