Published on October 28th, 2013 | by Silvio Marcacci4
North American West Coast Governments Sign Climate Change Pact
They say the West Coast is the best coast, and as of today, that’s definitely true in the fight against climate change.
The leaders of British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington just formally joined forces to reduce emissions and transition toward renewables by signing the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, committing to link and maintain their respective climate and renewable energy policies.
This news is significant on multiple fronts, but mainly for the sheer size of its jurisdiction: three US states and one Canadian province that collectively represent 53 million people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion – essentially the world’s 5th largest economy and now, the world’s largest green economy.
West Coast-Style Climate Change Action
Today’s agreement is part of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which includes the four governments plus Alaska, formed to provide a co-operative forum on policy challenges facing the North American West Coast like clean energy, transportation, economic growth, and emergency management.
The four jurisdictions will account for the costs of carbon pollution and when feasible, link their respective clean energy programs to create a stable policy outlook to encourage investment. The plan also commits to adopting and maintaining low-carbon fuel standards across all jurisdictions, and pledges to work toward additional linkages across other North American states and provinces.
“This Action Plan represents the best of what Pacific Coast governments are already doing and calls on each of us to do more together to create jobs by leading in the clean energy economy,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
California’s cap-and-trade system has sold out of all available current permits in each of its four allowance auctions and will link to Quebec’s carbon market on January 1, 2014. British Columbia has maintained a C$30/ton carbon tax for the past five years while working toward a 33% emissions reduction by 2020 goal.
Both governments will maintain their existing programs, and Oregon and Washington have now committed to explore similar policies. Those emissions reductions goals and mechanisms are yet to be determined, but Inslee has said he supports a cap-and-trade system in Washington while Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has called for a price on carbon.
Under the action plan, the jurisdictions agreed to harmonize their 2050 emissions reduction goals while developing shorter-term targets in the interim – certainly a requisite first step toward any kind of larger linkage, but still a long way off considering formal emissions reduction policies would likely require statewide ballot approval.
Toward Green Economies And Global Emissions Cuts
Regardless, today’s action shows the kind of political action that happens when climate policy turns into green jobs. “We are already seeing how our commitment to clean energy is changing the face and fortune of our state, accounting for $5 billion in economic activity and 58,000 jobs,” said Kitzhaber. “Transitioning to a clean economy creates jobs.”
And the West Coast’s climate action could soon have international repercussions. All four signatories said they would work with other national and sub-national governments to secure a global climate change agreement in 2015. With 60 carbon pricing systems either in operation or under development around the world, today’s action could be the biggest sign yet of a truly international carbon market.