Western Climate Initiative
|Purpose||Reduce global warming and ocean acidification, promote energy efficiency and clean energy investments|
|Membership||Current or former partners: Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec
Current or former observers: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Wyoming, Saskatchewan, Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Sonora and Tamaulipas
|Website||Western Climate Initiative|
The Western Climate Initiative, or WCI, was started in February 2007 by the governors of five western states (AZ, CA, NM, OR, and WA) with the goal of developing a multi-sector, market-based program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Western Climate Initiative, or WCI, was started in February 2007 by the governors of five western states (AZ, CA, NM, OR, and WA) to evaluate and implement ways to reduce their states's emissions of greenhouse gases and achieve related co-benefits. These states and future participants in the initiative (collectively know as WCI "partners") also committed to set an overall regional goal to reduce emissions (set in August 2007 as 15 percent below 2005 emission levels by 2020), participate in a cross-border greenhouse gas registry to consistently measure and track emissions, and adopt clean tailpipe standards for passenger vehicles. By July 2008, the initiative had expanded to include two more states (MT and UT) and four Canadian provinces (BC, MB, ON, and QC). Together, these WCI partners comprised 20 percent of U.S. GDP and 76 percent of Canadian GDP.
Goals and design
The most ambitious and controversial objective of the WCI was to develop a multi-sector, market-based program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Detailed design recommendations for a regional cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were released by the WCI in September 2008 and July 2010. By December 2011, California and Quebec adopted regulations based on these recommendations. (The WCI has no regulatory authority of its own.) Key administrative aspects of the regional cap-and-trade program are being implemented in 2012. Power plants, refineries, and other large emitters must comply with the cap in 2013. Other greenhouse gas emission sources, such as suppliers of transportation fuels, must comply with the cap beginning in 2015. Among other things, the Western Climate Initiative lays the foundation for a North American cap-and-trade program, not only in its design and implementation, but in its potential acceptance of greenhouse gas emissions offsets from projects across North America.
Views of WCI
Some observers described the entire project as greenwash designed to avoid committing to the Kyoto Protocol, and cited evidence that much more drastic cuts, up to 40%, could be achieved without affecting investment yield in equities, a good indicator that such cuts would not affect economic prospects in the economy as a whole.
Partners vs. observers
Several U.S. partners, although active participants in the design of the program, announced in 2010 that they would either delay or not implement the program in their jurisdictions. The partnership was therefore streamlined to include only California and the four Canadian provinces actively working to implement the program. As of January 2012, regulations have not been issued by British Columbia, Manitoba, or Ontario, although a carbon tax in British Columbia will be increasing to $30/tonne of CO2 equivalents in July 2012. Several WCI partners also remain active in the International Carbon Action Partnership, an international coordinating body for several such regional carbon trading bodies.
Alberta and Saskatchewan object to cap-and-trade and in July 2008 called WCI's plan a "cash grab by some of Canada's resource-poor provinces." However, Alberta has legislated a small restricted carbon charge of its own. The objections seem to be more related to the reporting and disclosure requirements that would be much higher for a North American project than for one based strictly in Alberta. Monitoring of the carbon-intensive Tar Sands, for instance, is inadequate according even to Alberta's own government. Industry funding to other independent monitoring was also cut. Some of the states that withdrew by late 2011 also intended to develop oil shale, hydraulic fracturing of natural gas and coal resources that would have broad impacts beyond climate on water, including more ocean acidification.
Until late 2011, the initiative included two types of participants: partners and observers.
For several years, the partners were the U.S. states of California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. All states except California withdrew in 2011. See below re membership.
The observers included at various times Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Wyoming, the province of Saskatchewan (which objects to WCI plans for a cap and trade system), and the Mexican states of Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Sonora and Tamaulipas.
- 26 February 2007: Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington form the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative.
- 24 April 2007: British Columbia joined with the five western states, turning the WCI into an international partnership.
- 21 May 2007: Utah became the sixth state to join the WCI when Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. signed the Initiative. Huntsman was the second Republican governor to join, after California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
- 13 June 2007: Manitoba said that it would be the second Canadian province to join the WCI.
- 24 September 2007: Alaska joined the WCI as an observer.
- 19 November 2007: The Governor of Montana announced that his state would also join.
- January 2008: Montana officially joins the WCI.
- 18 April 2008: Quebec, previously an observer, became a partner.
- 18 July 2008: Ontario, previously an observer, became a partner.
- 2 February 2010: Arizona announces it will not implement a cap-and-trade program, particularly during the economic downturn, but maintains its membership in the WCI as a partner.
- 29 June 2011: California announces that enforcement of the cap will be delayed one year to allow the necessary elements of the program to be in place and fully functional. The stringency of the cap and expected amount of emission reductions, however, will remain unchanged.
- 6 July 2011: In order to maintain a coordinated approach to implementing the regional program, Quebec announces a one-year delay in enforcement of the cap
- 18 November 2011: Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington leave WCI formally. Participation by BC was cast into doubt also, where officials indicated satisfaction with the existing carbon tax approach and had not committed to implementing a cap and trade system to replace it.
As of December 2011, the remaining WCI members are California and the Canadian provinces British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.
- List of climate change initiatives
- Emissions trading
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord
- Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (Eastern North America)
- The Climate Registry
- United States Carbon Cap and Trade Program
- Project vulcan
- Ontario to sign cap-and-trade climate plan
- WCI milestones
- B.C. Joins Western Regional Climate Action Initiative
- Bloomberg.com: Canada
- Communiqué 7171: Fighting climate change - QUÉBEC JOINS THE WESTERN CLIMATE INITIATIVE