Pacific Coast Pact Ushers in Climate Policy Alignment

The leaders of California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia have agreed to promote policies and regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and foster a low-carbon economy.

The Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy they signed Oct. 28 represents a nonbinding commitment to align regulations and market-based measures in each jurisdiction. The plan promotes clean energy deployment, carbon pricing, revised greenhouse gas reduction targets, research on ocean acidification, and low-carbon transportation. Several provisions highlight the need for regional cooperation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as those supportive of a high-speed regional rail line and an integrated electrical grid. Finally, the plan calls for a coordinated approach to U.S. and international climate negotiations, and each jurisdiction has agreed to participate in a subnational coalition to secure a broader climate agreement at Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC in Paris in 2015.

The collective size of the parties to this agreement should send a powerful signal that state and provincial governments are willing and able to address climate change. The agreement was developed through the Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC), which also includes Alaska. The PCC has a population of 53 million and a combined gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion. If it were a country, the PCC would have the fifth largest economy in the world.

Since the agreement is nonbinding, legislative and executive action is needed for real progress to be made. To date, the parties have made varying levels of progress in climate and clean energy policy. British Columbia has had a revenue-neutral carbon tax in place since 2008, as well as a clean fuel standard for transportation. California has been using a variety of policy tools to fight carbon emissions, especially since the passage of its Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006. One element, the cap-and-trade system, has imposed a price on carbon since the beginning of 2013. Oregon and Washington have agreed to put a price on carbon, but each will require new laws to do so. Legislative efforts in both states to put a price on carbon failed in 2009, but both governors are making a renewed push. Governor Inslee in Washington has directed a working group of state legislators to propose carbon-trading legislation by December 2013. In Oregon, Governor Kitzhaber’s administration has been working to implement its 2012 10-Year Energy Action Plan, which includes the state’s greenhouse gas goals.

Additional Resources
C2ES: California Cap and Trade
Pacific Coast Collaborative: Home Page
LA Times: Gov. Jerry Brown signs clean energy pact with two states, Canadian province
AP: West Coast States and BC to Link Climate Policies