Western Governors, Premiers Set Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goal

OLYMPIA, Washington, August 22, 2007 (ENS) - The eight members of the Western Climate Initiative, WCI, today announced that they have established a regional goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the West to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. By defining the goal before the end of August, WCI members met the timetable they set when the organization was created in February.

On February 26, the governors of Washington, Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Oregon created the Western Climate Initiative. Since then, the state of Utah and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba have joined the WCI.

The WCI membership cuts across party lines including Republican and Democratic governors as well as Canadian premiers from the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party.

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire (Photo courtesy Government of Washington)
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said, "In the absence of federal leadership, states and provinces have stepped up to meet the challenge of global climate change. We are working together to agree on common goals that will reduce our region's contribution to the problem while recognizing the states' individual goals. In Washington, we are committed to meeting the challenge and seizing the opportunities presented by climate change."

All eight WCI member states and provinces jointly agreed upon the economy-wide regional goal announced today, although it only goes part way to the WCI's overall goal of "significantly reducing" dangerous threats to the Earth's climate.

The WCI governors and premiers said, "Science suggests that this will require worldwide reductions between 50 and 85 percent in carbon dioxide emissions from current levels by 2050."

"Today's announcement is about individual state and provincial governments showing leadership and taking steps to deal with climate change," said Manitoba Premier Gary Doer.

The Seven Sisters hydroelectric dam on Manitoba's Winnipeg River. The West generates much of its power with dams which emit far less greenhouse gases than burning coal, oil or gas. (Photo by Brian Simmons courtesy of Manitoba Hydro)
"Instead of waiting for federal action, states and provinces are on the forefront of reducing greenhouse gases and dealing with this serious threat to our environment and economy," said Doer. "Together, we can create a market for change."

The WCI members also have agreed to design a multi-sector market-based mechanism, such as a load-based cap-and-trade program, by the end of August 2008 to help reach the goal. Each member will participate in a multi-state greenhouse gas emissions registry.

"States and provinces are leading the way by working to solve - not just debating - the problem of climate change," said New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democratic presidential candidate.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (Photo by Bernhard Kuttenhofer)
"Our goal is the most aggressive regional goal in North America - to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2020. Next, the partners in the Western Climate Initiative will develop a cap-and-trade program and do our part to tackle global warming," Richardson said.

To meet the August 2008 deadline, all eight WCI members have joined The Climate Registry, a greenhouse gas emissions registry consisting of more than 40 U.S. states, tribes, Canadian provinces and Mexican states.

WCI member British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell said today that the new regional goal reflects "the combined impact of emission-related targets B.C. and other members have set, and does not supersede those individual targets."

"Membership in the WCI means having an aggressive greenhouse gas target for your jurisdiction, adopting California tailpipe standards, participating in a cross-border greenhouse gas registry, and working together on a regional cap and trade system to help meet our targets," said Campbell.

"The more partners we unite now in meeting these objectives, the better off our countries and world will be in decades to come." Campbell said, "I am urging other Canadian provinces to participate in this initiative to create a single, continental market for carbon trading."

Greenhouse gases are emitted by vehicles that burn fossil fuels, like these cars approaching Los Angeles. (Photo by Darin Marinov)
At the recent Council of Federation meeting in New Brunswick, the leaders of 12 of 13 provinces and territories agreed to work toward the objective of implementing California tailpipe emissions standards. British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba also committed to a cap and trade system.

While the WCI is a regional effort, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sees the organization as a way to connect with a growing worldwide movement to fight global warming.

"Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution," said Schwarzenegger. "California is proud to be among the Western Climate Initiative partners taking this important step to establish the most comprehensive regional greenhouse gas emission reduction goal in North America. Our collective commitment will build a successful regional system to be linked with other regional efforts across the nation and eventually the world."

Four other U.S. states, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada and Wyoming; three other Canadian provinces, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan; and one Mexican state, Sonora, are participating as observers to the WCI's deliberations.

The WCI members said they expect that some of these governments, as well as others, may seek to join as full members in the future. Current WCI members will use the regional goal of 15 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2020 in assessing requests from other jurisdictions to join the organization.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.