Photo: Western Climate Initiative makes progress with cap and trade but fixes needed

WCI provinces and states Credit: Western Climate Initiative

By Ian Bruce, Climate Change Specialist

While the governments of Canada and the U.S. dither and delay on climate change action, Canadian provinces and U.S. states are taking up the slack.

The core group of provinces and states that are leading in this area may seem relatively small, but its influence is anything but small. (The Western Climate Initiative is now the largest climate collaboration in North America, representing a whopping three quarters of Canada's economy, and 50 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.)

Today, progress was made with the release of a plan by the WCI, a coalition of four province and seven states, to transform their economies into leaders in energy-efficiency and cutting-edge clean technologies by implement a shrinking cap on global warming pollution by January 2012.

This could be the most significant blueprint for climate change emissions reductions in North America, as long as the partners, including B.C., Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec, close several major loopholes in the regulations.

First, the WCI partners shouldn't weaken the shrinking yearly quota for industrial emitters by allowing companies to buy pollution permits for promised action in the future versus reducing their current emissions. (It wouldn't be responsible to pass on a financial debt to future generations, and the principle is the same) Second, industry's target or cap for reducing emissions should be in line with what leading scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic consequences of global warming, a reduction of about half over the next decade. Last, these provinces and states can ensure the environmental integrity of the cap-and-trade system by limiting the use of carbon offsets in the system, as this weakens the incentive for industry to take responsible action to reduce its own emissions.

Once these fixes are in place, the collaborative approach of the cap-and-trade system will put a regional price on carbon emissions. This means the WCI partners, with their hefty economic muscle, will be sending the necessary signal to slash emissions and create new jobs by redirecting investment away from polluting fossil fuels toward cleaner and safer sources of energy.

If WCI partners continue to lead and strengthen the environmental integrity of the cap-and-trade regulations released today, Canadians and Americans will again see progress where federal leadership was absent.

July 27, 2010

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1 Comment

Aug 06, 2010
6:00 PM

Finally some good news for a change. As someone who has read extensively on climate change and the environment, it looks as though the leadership will have to happen at lower levels than the federal government. This is an observation Al Gore mentioned years ago. I took the time to educate myself on many of the issues facing the planet and I have had to go through a period of mourning because the task is so insurmountable. I am now at the point where I feel that I can move forward with my life. Unfortunately, I live in Alberta where the plans for catastrophic environmental damage are so completely out of control. I hope that this leadership group can help to wake up the government of this province.

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