In working to address climate change, many states have reached beyond their borders to enlist their neighbors in collaborative efforts. Across the United States and Canada, multi-state climate initiatives have been designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, develop clean energy sources, and achieve other environmental and economic goals. Multi-state initiatives can be more efficient and effective than actions taken by individual states because they cover a broader geographic area (and, in turn, more sources of GHG emissions), eliminate duplication of work among the states, and help businesses by bringing greater uniformity and predictability to state rules and regulations.
Scroll down to learn more about these regional initiatives or jump to a specific initiative:
- North America 2050
- Western Climate Initiative
- Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
- Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord
- Transportation and Climate Initiative
Summary: In March 2012, a diverse array of states and provinces launched North America 2050: A Partnership for Progress (NA2050). NA2050 participants are committed to policies that move their jurisdictions toward a low carbon economy while creating jobs, enhancing energy independence and security, protecting public health and the environment, and demonstrating climate leadership. NA2050 is a multi-state, multi-regional collaborative working constructively on climate change and clean energy. C2ES serves as one of six nonprofit advisor groups for this partnership.
History: NA2050 is the successor to the 3-Regions Initiative, which was a collaboration among members of the three North American regional cap-and-trade programs: The Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Western Climate Initiative. NA2050 is a broader effort, addressing clean energy in addition to climate change.
Summary: The Western Climate Initiative (WCI) is a collaboration of independent jurisdictions working together to identify, evaluate, and implement emission trading policies to tackle climate change at a regional level. Current WCI Partners are British Columbia, California, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. Other U.S. states, Canadian provinces, Mexican states and tribes that are interested in collaborating to combat climate change at a regional level are encouraged to participate in the WCI.
In November 2011 WCI formed WCI, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, to provide administrative and technical services to support the implementation of state and provincial GHG emission trading programs. As WCI jurisdictions begin to implement cap-and-trade programs, WCI, Inc. will develop a compliance tracking system that tracks both allowances and offset certificates; administer allowance auctions; and conduct market monitoring of allowance auctions and allowance and offset certificate trading. California and Quebec will move forward with cap-and-trade in 2012, with compliance requirements beginning in 2013. Ontario, British Columbia, and Manitoba are committed to implementing programs in the near future as well.
History: On February 26, 2007, Governors Napolitano of Arizona, Schwarzenegger of California, Richardson of New Mexico, Kulongoski of Oregon, and Gregoire of Washington signed an agreement establishing the WCI, a joint effort to reduce GHG emissions and address climate change. Later, the governors of Utah and Montana, as well as the premiers of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec joined as Partners. An additional 14 jurisdictions joined as Observers, including the U.S. states of Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, and Wyoming; the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan; and the Mexican border states of Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Sonora, and Tamaulipas. In the Initiative's Memorandum of Understanding, WCI Partners agreed to jointly set a regional emissions target and establish a market-based system—such as a cap-and-trade program covering multiple economic sectors—to aid in meeting this target.
The WCI was built on work previously undertaken individually by participating states and provinces, as well as two earlier regional agreements: the Southwest Climate Change Initiative of 2006, including Arizona and New Mexico, and the West Coast Governors' Global Warming Initiative of 2003, including California, Oregon, and Washington.
In August 2007, the Western Climate Initiative announced its regional, economy-wide GHG emissions target of 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, or approximately 33 percent below business-as-usual levels. The regional target was designed to be consistent with existing targets set by individual member states and does not replace these goals. Covered emissions include the six primary greenhouse gases identified by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.
In September 2008, the WCI released Design Recommendations for a Cap-and-Trade Program to begin in 2012. The program would cover emissions from electricity and large industrial and commercial sources in 2012, and would also cover emissions from transportation and other residential, commercial, and industrial fuel use beginning in 2015.
In July 2010, the WCI Partners released the Design for the WCI Regional Program, a comprehensive strategy designed to reduce GHG emissions, stimulate development of clean-energy technologies, create green jobs, increase energy security, and protect public health. It is a plan to reduce regional GHG emissions to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and is the culmination of two years of work by seven U.S. states and four Canadian provinces. It builds on the recommendations for a regional cap-and-trade program that the Partners released in September 2008.
As of November 2011, WCI includes British Columbia, California, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. The remaining jurisdictions that had signed on to WCI are no longer part of the effort.
- Press Release on WCI Formation
- Western Climate Initiative Statement of Regional Goal
- Western Climate Initiative Website
- WCI Economic Modeling
- WCI, Inc. Website
- More Information on California’s Program
Summary: The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory US cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide. RGGI sets a cap on emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants, and allows sources to trade emission allowances. The program began by capping emissions at current levels in 2009, and will reduce emissions 10% by 2018. The current members are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia are observers to RGGI. RGGI has been successfully running since 2008. A study released in November 2011 showed that RGGI has resulted in net economic benefit to participating states due to increased energy efficiency and other factors.
History: On December 20, 2005, the governors of seven Northeastern states announced the creation of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to implement the first mandatory U.S. cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide.
On January 18, 2007, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing his state to join RGGI, making Massachusetts the eighth state to participate. In his State of the State address on January 30, Governor Donald Carcieri announced that Rhode Island would also be joining RGGI.
On April 6, 2006, Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signed into law the Healthy Air Act. The bill required the Governor to include the state in RGGI by June 30, 2007. Maryland became the 10th official participating state in April 2007 with Governor Martin O'Malley's signing of the RGGI Memorandum of Understanding.
New Jersey announced in May 2011 that it would be exiting the program, a move that was complete by the beginning of 2012.
Summary: The Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (MGGRA) was a commitment by the governors of six Midwestern states and the premier of one Canadian province to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through a regional cap-and-trade program and other complementary measures. Members of MGGRA are not currently pursuing their GHG goals through the Accord.
History: On November 15, 2007, the Governors of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, as well as the Premier of Manitoba signed the Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (MGGRA) as full participants. The Governors of Indiana, Ohio, and South Dakota joined the agreement as observers. On November 27, 2008, the Premier of Ontario also joined as an observer. Under the Accord, members agreed to establish regional greenhouse gas reduction targets, including a long-term target of 60 to 80 percent below 2007 emission levels, and develop a multi-sector cap-and-trade system to help meet the targets. Participants also agreed to establish a greenhouse gas emissions reduction tracking system and implement other policies, such as low-carbon fuel standards, to aid in reducing emissions.
After releasing a model cap-and-trade rule in April 2010, the states and province in MGGRA did not continue pursuing their GHG goals through the Accord.
Summary: The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) is a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic jurisdictions that seeks to develop the clean energy economy and reduce GHG emissions in the transportation sector. TCI aims to "expand safe and reliable transportation options, attract federal investment, lower transportation costs, improve overall air quality and public health, and mitigate the transportation sector's impact on climate change." TCI includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and the District of Columbia. Transportation currently accounts for 30 percent of GHG emissions in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S.
History: On June 16, 2010, eleven Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states, as well as the District of Columbia, announced a Declaration of Intent for the TCI. The jurisdictions involved with the TCI established the Transportation, Energy, and Environment Staff Working Group to direct the initiative's planning and seek public and private funding for projects. The Georgetown Climate Center facilitated the initial meeting of the TCI and continues to support the effort.
On October 19, 2011, the TCI jurisdictions announced that the creation of the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network to bolster economic growth, maintain the region’s leadership in the clean energy economy and reduce the area’s dependence on oil and its emissions of GHG and other pollutants. The eleven participating jurisdictions will promote all clean vehicles and fuels and facilitate planning for and the deployment of electric vehicle charging stations and related infrastructure throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.
- More information on TCI
- More information on the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network
- Northeast Electric Vehicle Network Agreement
Less than a week after Senate Democrats decided that including cap and trade in an energy bill was too ambitious for this year, the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) forged ahead with a blueprint for its own such program. Seven U.S. states and four Canadian provinces, which together represent 13 percent of U.S. and 50 percent of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions, have compiled a detailed plan for implementing a market-based system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their region to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The plan is an elaboration on the design recommendations released by the same states and provinces in 2008.
As we enter the dog days of August in Washington, it’s become evident that states must continue to push forward with their own efforts to combat climate change. At the regional, state, and local level, public policy is being formed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while maintaining the right balance between protecting the environment and growing the economy. But many states are being forced to make tough decisions using limited resources, and for some, this November’s election could be pivotal for setting the future course of the effort.
If you’re concerned that climate change action ended with Senator Reid’s decision to exclude a cap on GHG emissions from energy legislation this summer, rest assured that action in the U.S. is ongoing and growing in many areas. While Senate inaction has caused the Washington policy community to turn greater attention to potential EPA climate action and the related legal ramifications, it’s important to recognize the valuable work in practice at the state level.
For instance, carbon dioxide (CO2) from electricity in ten Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states has been capped since January of 2009; the regional cap-and-trade initiative, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), will reduce CO2 from electricity by 10 percent by 2018. Many believed that RGGI would be a model for a national cap on utilities with legislation, which may still be the case once climate legislation resurfaces.
Another regional effort, the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), recently released a comprehensive strategy to reduce GHG emissions by 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 at a net savings of $100 billion. Furthermore, states have repeatedly taken action that aims to reduce GHG emissions for many years. Below is a small sample of recent action from our website’s section on States News.
Figure 1: States have taken plenty of action over the past two years while Congress considered different climate-related bills.
It is not all good news, though. The ongoing economic recession has led some states to dial back their support for climate change action for the immediate future, while “climategate” has led others to openly question climate change science (all scientists involved in the controversy have been exonerated of any wrongdoing).
Arizona’s governor issued an Executive Order that put off indefinitely the state’s participation in the WCI’s cap-and-trade program set to begin in 2012, citing the recession. Utah’s legislature urged the U.S. EPA to “halt its carbon dioxide reduction policies and programs and withdraw its ‘Endangerment Finding’ and related regulations until a full and independent investigation of climate data and global warming science can be substantiated.” Lastly, a ballot initiative in California could permanently delay implementation of the state’s landmark global warming law (AB-32), citing the law’s effect on the economy despite the state’s own analysis that shows the bill will be a net benefit for jobs, personal income, and overall economic production. The fight over this ballot initiative will be significant and most expect a close vote in the fall. A recent poll has California voters rejecting the ballot initiative, but only by a small margin.
Despite these lapses, dozens of states spread across every region of the country remain leaders on climate change, energy independence, and clean energy economic policies. No matter what happens in Congress this year or after the election in November, action on climate change will continue throughout the United States. The states have long been known as incubators of public policy, and their efforts to reduce GHG emissions remain powerful examples of states taking the lead.
Nick Nigro is a Solutions Fellow
On Monday, members of the three North American regional greenhouse gas reduction programs met in Washington D.C. to discuss potential areas for collaboration, and to send a clear signal to Congress as it debates climate legislation: these regional initiatives – and state leadership in general – are not going away. Representatives from the various U.S. states and Canadian provinces participating in the northeastern Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Western Climate Initiative, and the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord traded information with one another and with representatives from federal agencies on the status of their respective programs, and explored paths for working together on carbon offset design, complementary GHG reduction policies such as energy efficiency measures, and possible linkages among their existing and developing carbon markets. Members of the regional initiatives also took their message to Capitol Hill, where they briefed press and Congressional staff on their initiatives, their intention to continue developing these programs, and their strong preference for federal cap and trade policy.
It was clear from these discussions that the states are moving ahead regardless of what happens at the federal level. All of the states represented support a strong, rigorous federal cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs), but should such a program fail to materialize, the states and the regional initiatives will continue to move ahead with the development and implementation of their own trading programs, and potentially move to link these programs. When 23 states – representing 48 percent of the U.S. population, over half of U.S. GDP, and 37 percent of U.S. GHG emissions – and their partners in Canada sit down to talk about uniting their efforts to reduce emissions, it is clear that the choice is no longer between having a federal climate program or not; it is between having comprehensive climate legislation designed and negotiated in Congress, or having a de facto national North American carbon market driven by these state efforts, working in concert with regulations issued by federal agencies. States strongly prefer a federal trading system, but as far as they’re concerned, the foundation for a national cap-and-trade program has already been laid.
The states and regions also made clear that as they move ahead, they want to form a strong partnership with the U.S. EPA and other federal agencies, regardless of what happens with federal legislation. EPA is already moving to regulate greenhouse gases (as evidenced by the recently announced endangerment finding, and the tailoring rule and vehicle standards released earlier this year) and the states will play a key role in the implementation and enforcement of these new regulations. Even with federal climate legislation, states will play a key role in its implementation.
In addition, the states made clear that any federal plan needs to allow them the flexibility to continue crafting effective greenhouse gas reduction policies that can complement cap and trade, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy standards. For many at Monday’s meeting, preserving states’ ability to achieve emissions reductions beyond what is mandated at the federal level is an imperative; it is not clear to them that pending federal legislation and the tools currently available to the U.S. EPA under the Clean Air Act can achieve the levels of GHG reductions required, and that it may fall upon the states to make up the difference through policy innovation.