Celebrating Earth Day 2022

By Dow Constantine, King County Executive

Climate change can feel overwhelming, especially now that we are experiencing the impacts in unprecedented ways. Last summer’s record-setting extreme heat event, coupled with more frequent flooding and greater wildfire risks, makes it clear that climate change is no longer a projection or prediction – it is right here, right now, and certain to get worse.

Yet as we mark the 52nd Earth Day, we also see the progress we are making each day to create a more resilient, more sustainable, more equitable future for all who call King County home. Thanks to outstanding work by our dedicated employees, we are delivering on bold commitments we made in the 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan.

Here are just some of our initial results:

  • The 3 Million Trees initiative I announced on Earth Day last year is off to a strong start, increasing urban tree canopy, protecting forestland that is absorbing carbon now, and preparing local forests for climate impacts.  
  • King County Metro recently opened a brand-new charging facility for our battery-electric bus fleet, strengthening our position as a national leader in the transition to fleets powered by clean, renewable energy.
  • We are starting and completing new segments of our regional trail network, connecting more cities in South and East King County to high-capacity transit.
  • Our Solid Waste Division will soon become the first organization in the state – public or private – to roll out a new model of battery-electric heavy-duty trucks manufactured in Renton.
  • I have proposed updates for stronger building and energy codes that will help transform our region’s built environment, ensuring that new buildings where we live, work, and gather will be healthier and more energy efficient.
  • We are making access to affordable green homes connected to transit more equitable with the County’s transit-oriented development bond.
  • We kicked off a community-led strategy that will invest $20 million in energy and job-creating projects in urban unincorporated King County.
  • We are developing a Wildfire Risk Reduction Strategy to increase public safety in King County’s urban-wildland interface.
  • We are simultaneously reducing flood risks and improving habitat, producing better results faster for people, salmon, and orcas.

Our strong start would not have been possible without the contributions and guidance of frontline communities – those disproportionately impacted by climate change. We recognize that climate change deepens the racial inequities that already exist here in King County and across America, and as we move toward a green future we are committed to ensuring our actions mitigate these impacts.

This early progress demonstrates that we have the expertise, the resources, and the strong partnerships needed to produce measurable results. What we must do now is accelerate our climate actions and operate at a regionwide scale, mobilizing the efforts of cities, nonprofits, businesses, and community partners.

Success will require systemic changes that create more opportunities for our talented employees to achieve goals faster, which is what I have directed my Senior Leadership Team and Cabinet members to do. By unleashing the full potential of our dedicated workforce, we will build on our momentum as a climate leader.

Thank you, as always, for the inspiring work you do each day.