Another Light on the Hill for Climate Change Action

Just when you thought cap-and-trade was dead, the seven Western states and three Canadian provinces comprising the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) unveiled their plans Tuesday for a regional program to create a carbon emissions market to fight climate change. It’s a promising development at a time when national leadership is enthralled by <a href = minority rule</a> in the Senate.

There are <a href=”http://www/ Hats-Off-Cap-Trade/10014.html “ >two other </a>regional carbon emissions markets in North America, but the WCI is important for several reasons. First, it will ultimately cover, not just power plants as the other systems do, but a whole plethora of large, emissions-generating industries. This is important because it will quantify what economists have been saying that reducing carbon emissions generally leads to reduced energy bills, and greater competitiveness, for companies. Studies have estimated that these cost-of-energy savings would amount to $100 billion between implementation in 2012 and 2020.

Secondly, the WCI covers a much larger number of emitters. It is three times larger than the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that is currently operating and covering ten Eastern States. California, the nation’s most populous state and the world’s eighth largest economy, is one of the signatories. This is precedent-setting stuff!

Finally, the WCI addresses transportation, always a particularly difficult sector to control emissions from. But the West Coast states in general, and California in particular, have always been on the vanguard of reducing auto emissions. The three of them, in fact, adhere to a common auto emissions standard that is stricter than the national standard. So this is a good environment for creatively addressing transportation emissions.

The WCI isn’t a slam dunk just yet. Two Texas oil companies have sponsored an initiative on the November ballot in California to withdraw from the WCI. And Utah and Arizona legislatures are expressing their opposition to participation. On top of that, the general economic malaise has made state and provincial officials around the West hesitant to open a new initiative regardless of the long-term benefits. (The other states are New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, and Montana. The Canadian provinces are British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.) In fact, only California, New Mexico, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec are on track to adopt the regulations necessary to implement the plan by 2012.

Still and all, the WCI would be a real step forward in combating climate change. It’s goal is to reduce carbon emissions to 15% below 2005 levels by 2020.

Here’s where you come in. If you live in any of the member states or provinces, contact your elected officials and let them know you support full participation in the WCI. And furthermore, <strong>get your company to express support as well.</strong> They say that the world is run by those who show up. And it’s now time to show up.

Paul Birkeland lives in Seattle, WA, US, and develops Strategic Energy Management Systems for government, commercial, and industrial organizations through Integrated Renewable Energy.