Sightline’s research team is in Portland this week with other delegates to the Western Climate Initiative (WCI)—a collaboration of several western states and two provinces of western Canada to find ways to work together to reduce greenhouse gases in the region. Folks from British Columbia to New Mexico are working through one of the biggest questions of our generation: That is, how to design fair, effective, and efficient climate policies.

There’s a very good op-ed by Fred Heutte of Sierra Club in today’s Oregonian that sums up the important details of this week’s WCI discussions and acknowledges the sheer momentousness of this occasion.

It’s a big deal because the effort has strong backing from the governors of Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, as well as the premiers of British Columbia and Manitoba in Canada.

Plus, WCI is the third major regional climate agreement in North America following the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the Northeast and the Midwestern Climate Accord. This means that well over half of the states in the United States, and several Canadian provinces, are part of regional greenhouse gas reduction agreements based on cap-and-trade systems.

More importantly, these regional agreements are charting new ground when it comes to climate solutions. As Heutte points out, “Getting an early start is crucial, because the regional approach will coordinate state efforts years ahead of a federal system and help set a standard for the nation.” That’s why steps to get climate policy right here really can equate to giant steps for cap-and-trade elsewhere.

Read it for yourself. Heutte eloquently and succinctly hits on the most essential elements of a successful cap-and-trade system:

And Sightline would add:

Something huge is afoot in our neck of the woods. Not only are WCI delegates setting the stage for our region, as Heutte points out “we can also help set a standard for the rest of the world.”