Since the mid-2000s, states have worked to fill the void of federal leadership on climate. Most states, though, are responsible for only a tiny share of global emissions. To expand their environmental influence, and to increase the size of the markets for clean energy they seek to create, states have worked together. This has spawned a variety of multi-state initiatives on climate. This is a brief overview of the main initiatives—their objectives, their members, and their status to date.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first U.S. cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the power sector. Currently, the program includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Since 2009, RGGI has set a cap on CO2 emissions from power plants throughout the region. To comply, regulated entities trade emission allowances. The program is administered through the non-profit RGGI, Inc., but individual state governments have enforcement authority. Following a comprehensive program review in 2012 and 2013, RGGI adjusted the program cap to achieve an annual 2.5 percent emissions reduction each year between 2014 and 2020 from estimated 2012 levels. After another program review, members agreed in August 2017 to reduce the cap an additional 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.
Western Climate Initiative (WCI)
The Western Climate Initiative (WCI) was initially formed as a collaboration of jurisdictions working together to identify, evaluate, and implement emissions-trading programs at a sub-national level. In November 2011, WCI transitioned into WCI, Inc., a nonprofit corporation that provides administrative and technical assistance to support the implementation of state and provincial greenhouse gas emission trading programs. Each participating jurisdiction sets its own individual program rules and maintains enforcement authority.
The State of California and the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec are current participating jurisdictions. Each of them has implemented a cap-and-trade program with compatible (though not identical) program design elements and has committed to forming a single carbon market for all covered sources in their jurisdictions. Currently, only the California and Quebec programs are linked, but they will soon begin the formal processes for linking with the Ontario program, which launched in January 2017.
U.S. Climate Alliance
The U.S. Climate Alliance was formed by the governors of California, New York, and Washington in 2017, shortly after President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. Membership quickly grew to include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia. Member states have committed to reducing greenhouse gases consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.