Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Pledges Zero-Emission Public Fleets, Cites 'Extreme Weather'

All vehicles owned by Washington state will be fully electrified by 2040 in the latest attempt to cut down carbon emissions to limit the impact of climate change.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced an executive order Sunday requiring the state's light duty fleet to transition to 100-percent zero-emission by 2035. The state's medium and heavy-duty fleets will have until 2040 to make the transition, his office said in a statement.

The order requires Washington state to replace vehicles that have internal combustion engines (ICE) with battery-powered electric vehicles when they have "reached the end of their useful life," Inslee's executive order said.

By 2025, 40 percent of the state-owned light-duty fleets would be electric-powered. For vehicles in which there is no battery-powered electric vehicle available, the state will prioritize the lowest-emission, cost-effective option available—including hybrid electric vehicles.

According to the executive order, the current pace of mitigation is insufficient to limit the worst impacts of climate change. It warned that Washington state is already feeling those impacts, pointing to the wildfires that devastated parts of the Pacific Northwest earlier this year.

"Washington State is already experiencing the impacts of climate change, such as increasingly frequent extreme weather events and longer, more devastating wildfire seasons," the order read.

Inslee called the move a "tangible, meaningful" way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to get to net-zero by 2050.

"Together with the rest of the leaders here and those everywhere else today who are committed to this fight, we will lead the charge on decarbonizing the transportation sector," he said in a statement.

Inslee cited a United Nations report released that warned the world could see a temperature rise of about 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, far more than what leaders hope to cap at 1.5 degrees.

The report, released in September and updated in October, found that greenhouse gas emissions—which are considered to be a key driver in climate change—are expected to rise 16 percent by 2030.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the report found that "the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7 degrees [Celsius] of heating."

Scientists said that climate change, if not addressed, could lead to devastating effects such as flooding, extreme heat and weather, and drought.

Inslee, who has been among the most vocal advocates for solving climate change, attended the U.N.'s climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. The governor's office said that he would work with world leaders to focus on immediate action to limit global temperature increases.

"We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to effectively mitigate climate change. The actions we take in the next five years will determine the fate of our species. I'm proud to stand with this global coalition of governors and mayors to go beyond pledges," Inslee said in the statement.

Governor Jay Inslee
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, above, announced Sunday that all state-owned vehicles will be electrified by 2040. Karen Ducey/Getty Images