BC joins Western climate pact

Victoria, Canada (GLOBE-Net) – British Columbia has joined five western U.S. states in a regional pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that could lead to a carbon cap-and-trade system. The Western Regional Climate Action Initiative (WRCAI) linking Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington, is aimed at identifying and implementing collective greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the region while seeking out related benefits.

The governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington jointly signed the WRCAI agreement in February 2006. With the addition of British Columbia, the climate change partnership now has an international dimension. A copy of the Memorandum of Understanding between the US States and British Columbia is available here.

The members pledge to set a regional goal by August 2007 to reduce emissions collectively, consistent with state-by-state and provincial goals. Following the agreement coming into force (August 2008), the members will have 18 months to design a market-based multi-sector mechanism to achieve the regional GHG reduction goal, which most likely will be an emissions trading market.

BC Premier Gordon Campbell said the regional initiative will allow B.C. to participate in a larger carbon market and provide more opportunities for low-cost solutions, fostering economic opportunities through the development of new technologies and innovation.

To support the market, a multi-state/provincial GHG registry will be created to enable tracking, management, and crediting for entities that reduce GHG emissions. The pact also includes a commitment to adopt clean tailpipe standards for passenger vehicles.

Any emissions trading market formed by the Western states is likely to be linked to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a mandatory cap-and-trade program planned by a group of seven Northeast States. Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont will limit emissions to current levels beginning in 2009, and make incremental reductions to achieve a 10 percent cut by 2019. BC could potentially purchase carbon credits from Eastern states if the markets were integrated.

California’s recently adopted Global Warming Solutions Act, which pledges to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, will create a carbon market linked with the RGGI.

The two groups now represent a significant portion of GHG emissions from the United States, and are reflective of a growing trend of regional and local action to combat climate change in the absence of a comprehensive federal policy.

The addition of BC could lead to further Canadian participation. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty recently indicated that his government was interested in joining both the RGGI and the Western pact, building on the province’s existing trading system for smog forming pollutants.

A number of environmental and climate change initiatives were announced in BC’s 2007 throne speech, including a pledge to reduce B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33 per cent below current levels by 2020, equivalent to 10 per cent below 1990 levels. The province also plans to set new tailpipe emissions standards for all new vehicles sold in B.C., to be phased in between 2009 and 2016.

The follow up energy plan includes further commitments:

  • All new electricity projects developed in B.C. will have zero net greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Existing thermal generation power plants will reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.

  • Zero greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired electricity generation.

  • Clean or renewable electricity generation will continue to account for at least 90 per cent of total generation.

  • Elimination of all routine flaring at oil and gas producing wells and production facilities by 2016 with an interim goal to reduce flaring by half (50 per cent) by 2011.

    By joining with the Western states, BC increases the momentum for the creation of a North American carbon trading market. With leading states such as California and New York involved, the movement for national carbon legislation in the United States is growing.

    Canada’s own climate change plan, details of which were released this week by Environment Minister John Baird includes provisions for carbon trading as well between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

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