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.
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Read it for yourself. Heutte eloquently and succinctly hits on the most essential elements of a successful cap-and-trade system:
- The cap is the most fundamental piece of a successful climate policy solution. The cap puts a firm limit on pollution and drives emissions down over time.
- A gradual decrease in the cap each year gives emitters flexibility, a clear timeline, and activates the power of the market to seek out the cheapest and most efficient reductions first.
- Polluters pay. To avoid needless windfall profits by a few and to provide vital public revenue, permits should be auctioned, not given away.
- Smart policy can be a win-win for people, the economy, and the environment. Auction revenue will be substantial, in the billions of dollars. It can go to investments in clean energy, creating green-collar jobs, and creating green pathways out of poverty.
- “Offsets can help emitters achieve their targets at a lower cost, but they should beverifiable, permanent and in addition to what would occur otherwise.“
And Sightline would add:
- More than half of all fossil fuel emissions in the WCI states come from transportation. It’s critically important that transportation fuels be covered in the first phase of the program.
- A smart cap-and-trade system tips the playing field away from big historic polluters and toward leaner and cleaner competitors.
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.”
Does anybody know about this site ( http://www.earthlab.com ) ? I have seen other environmental sites with carbon calculators like yahoo and tree huggers, but I am wondering what the deal with earthlab.com is? I saw they also published a list last month of the top ten greenest cities ( http://www.efficientenergy.org/Top-Ten-Green-Cities-in-the-United-States ). Does anyone know if this site is better than the others? Fill me in! I took their carbon foot print test and it was pretty interesting, they said that I put out 4.5 tons of carbon, does anyone know about any other tests?
Maybe I’m just touchy this morning, after hearing Jay Inslee last night repeat the mantra that America should restore its position as “leader of the world.” Now I hear you doing it, too (“help set a standard for the rest of the world.”). I don’t think we’re in any position to do that. The WCI aims for emission reductions of 15% below 2005 levels by 2020. This is, roughly, a return to 1990 levels, which doesn’t even meet kyoto, and only looks good compared to the complete inaction of our current administration. The UK and Germany have pledged 20% below 1990 levels in that time frame, and 30% if other countries join them.How about if we just strive to cooperate well, and let real leaders lead?
phil, I agree. The “leader of the free world” stuff gets old. What I meant is more about how we hash out the smallest details of how a cap-and-trade system actually works. The targets may be more ambitious in systems that follow these first few, but the structure itself may serve as a model—if not for the world, then at least for our own eventual federal program.AF
Regarding EarthLab – shortly after they launched this past summer, I talked with founder Duane. In short, he wanted to provide an entry point for folks like himself who know nothing about environmental issues, especially not climate change. This explains the intro level of the content and all the links to consumer products. Also, his team noticed that none of the CO2e footprint calculators allowed users to conveniently monitor their progress, as Earthlab’s now does. The tech team has extensive experience with online dating technologies, which is where their technical savvy and, I believe, the foundation’s pockets originate.Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about Earthlab’s data and analytical integrity.
Anna – You and Heutle are right on. But I have a concern that we are still dreaming when it comes to solutions to emissions levels. Everyone is enamored of technological solutions. And no wonder. Not only do we not have to really change anything about the way we live, but there will be profits in it as well! But the fact is that technology alone will not get us there. Without lifestyle changes we are only pretending we have an answer. Greenpeace put out an excellent report yesterday on emissions by agriculture. They estimate that conventional agriculture contributes 17-32 per cent of all greenhouse gasses, and organic agriculture should be promoted. And there has been increasing discussion of the planetary impact of a high meat diet. We need to make these topics part of the discussion as well, or we are dreaming.Paul