Seattle Public Schools Becomes First in State Committed to Phasing Out Fossil Fuels by 2040

By Ruth Sawyer, Beyond Coal Organizer

Last week, the Board of Directors for Seattle Public Schools voted unanimously to pass a resolution committing the School District to transition to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2040, which requires eliminating all use of fossil fuels in district electricity, heating, cooling, cooking, and transportation. The resolution, developed in partnership with Sierra Club and a coalition of students, educators, parents, and community groups, is the first of its kind passed by a school district in Washington state.

Research has shown that school districts that reduced fossil fuel emissions saw improvements in student health and performance. Through this resolution, Seattle Public Schools has taken a crucial first step in protecting the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff, as well as responding boldly to the climate crisis and helping Seattle meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals.

“When Seattle Public Schools students demanded the district do its part to address the climate crisis, we heard them loud and clear and got to work on ideas,” said Seattle School Board Director Zachary DeWolf. “This collaboration not only created a pathway to a sustainable future, it also created community in the process. Thank you to all the students, educators, families, and community members for your fierce and tireless efforts to work on a solution whose impacts will be felt for generations to come.”

Transportation and buildings are currently the two largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in both Seattle and Washington state. Seattle Public Schools is the largest public school district in the state, with over 9 million square feet of buildings and a contracted fleet of over 400 school buses.

“This is a good first step. The science is clear. The world needs to decarbonize, reducing emissions by half by 2030, to avoid the worst impacts of climate on human health and lives. Climate impacts the most vulnerable among us, including our children and their future. Rich cities like Seattle have a moral obligation to decarbonize first, so this is an encouraging first step,” said Heather Price, a parent and climate scientist who worked on the resolution.

A growing number of school districts across the nation -- including Los Angeles, Oakland, Salt Lake City, and several rural districts in PA and MN -- are committing to move to 100% clean energy, phase out gas infrastructure, and adopt zero-emission school buses. By embracing clean electricity and energy efficiency, these proposals put schools on a path to eliminate climate pollution from their operations while improving student health and performance

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