Western Climate Initiative
The Western Climate Initiative (WCI) was launched February 2007 by Governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington to develop regional strategies to address climate change. In spring 2007, the Governor of Utah and Premiers of British Columbia and Manitoba joined the Initiative. Montana joined in January 2008 and Quebec moved from Observer to Partner status in April, 2008. Most recently, Ontario joined the WCI in July 2008, also moving from Observer to Partner status.
Manitoba Wildlands has joined a group of non-profit, civil society organizations across the western United States and Canadian provinces concerned about WCI outcomes. The organizations in the Western Climate Advocates Network (WeCAN) are providing input and recommendations to state and provincial signatories to the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) as they develop a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions program and design a cap and trade system.
Visit Western Climate Initiative website
View more information about WeCAN and civil society contributions to the WCI
On September 23, 2008 the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) announced its final recommendations for the design of a regional market-based cap-and-trade program.
WCI Releases Recommendations for
Regional Cap-and-Trade Framework
The cap-and-trade design is an important aspect of the regional effort by seven US states and four Canadian provinces to meet their goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. WCI Partners represent over 70 percent of the Canadian economy and 20 percent of the U.S. economy. Manitoba has indicated that it will meet its emissions targets based on Kyoto Protocol objectives and WCI goals through emissions reductions inside Manitoba.
The WCI recommendations include the following design elements:
The multi-sector program will cover most of the region's emissions from six main GHGs in the following sectors:
- A limit on the emissions from all major sources of global warming pollutants;
- Include under cap all electricity-related emissions, including those associated with electricity imported from outside the WCI partner jurisdictions;
- Ensure all regulated entities use a consistent reporting methodology; and
- Mitigate economic impacts on consumers and regulated entities by allowing flexibility in how and when reductions are made (e.g., banking of allowances and the limited use of offsets).
- Electricity generation, including imported electricity
- Industrial and commercial fossil fuel combustion
- Industrial process emissions
- Gas and diesel consumption for transportation, as well as residential, commercial, and industrial fossil fuel uses not otherwise covered (see below)
The timeline agreed to by WCI Partners means that each would begin reporting emissions in 2011 for emissions that occur in 2010. The first phase of the cap-and-trade program will begin on January 1, 2012, with a three-year compliance period. The second phase will begin in 2015, when the program is expanded to include transportation fuels and residential, commercial and industrial fuels not otherwise covered in the first phase.
Ontario and Quebec in Canada signed an MOU in summer 2008 to initiate a cap and trade program that will be on line sooner than the WCI plan.
Design of WCI system will be finalized November 2008 with all Partner jurisdictions expected to pass supporting legislation in 2009 to implement the system.
Download September 23, 2008 WCI press release (PDF)
Download September 23, 2008 WCI report, Design Recommendations for the WCI Regional Cap-and-Trade Program (PDF)
Download WCI's Q & A document (PDF)
Download WCI document, Overview: The Western Climate Initiative's Cap-and-Trade Program Design Recommendations (PDF)
Download WCI's regional map (PDF)
View September 23, 2008 Government of British Columbia press release
Sources: Western Climate Initiative, Government of British Columbia
Non-government organizations say the Western Climate Initiative recommendations for design of its cap-and-trade program for GHG emissions are "a step forward" but the program could have gone further towards addressing climate scientists' recommendations for an urgent response to the risks and threats posed by climate change.
Matt Horne, Acting Director of the Pembina Institute's B.C. Energy Solutions program commented, "The WCI recommendations represent a step forward from the draft version, but their lack of urgency reinforces the need for immediate action from Canada's federal and provincial governments. The system's start date of 2012, with full implementation not until 2015, is completely out of line with the recommendations of climate scientists."
Gauging the potential or pitfalls of the WCI cap-and-trade program is difficult as states and provinces have choices to make regarding implementation within their individual jurisdictions.
The Pembina Institute pointed to options for individual WCI Partners to strengthen the program. "In addition to the need for near-term action, several design issues will need to be strengthened prior to the WCI cap and trade program's launch in 2012. In particular, it will be critical for the states and provinces to commit to auctioning (as opposed to giving away free-of-charge) more than 10% of the pollution permits."
As Christopher Bush, a UCS climate economist, noted, "Auctioning permits allows states to spend money on projects that can further reduce pollution and benefit their residents".
The Pembina Institute did acknowledge the progress made on the issue of offsets, "On the positive side, there has been some important progress made by tightening the limits on offsets and reaffirming a commitment to including a sufficient percentage of emissions," said Horne.
The Union of Concerned Scientists also commented on issues related to offsets, urging both states and provinces limit offsets and maximize pollution reduction in the region. Doing so, UCS experts say, would spur more clean technology development and protect public health by reducing conventional smog-forming and toxic air pollutants. UCS praised the fact that the WCI now "permits states and provinces to set even tighter limits on offsets" - an improvement over the draft recommendations issued in July 2008.
Download September 23, 2008 Pembina Institute press release (DOC)
View September 23, 2008 Union of Concerned Scientists press release
According to Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), recommendations released September 23, 2008 by the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) for its regional cap-and-trade program duck a key issue -- whether partners will be allowed to falsely claim carbon neutrality for logging and burning natural forests to produce electricity.
WCI Leaves Loophole for Wood Bioenergy, Creates Risks for Forests
Burning wood results in significant carbon dioxide emissions. Yet proponents of producing bioenergy from wood say the fuel does not cause pollution or emissions because trees grow back and remove all the carbon back out of atmosphere as they grow.
"The problem is that it can take more than a hundred years for a natural forest to take the carbon back from the atmosphere, if it ever does. In the meantime, switching to woody bionenergy would actually increase emissions in the short-term when emission reductions are most urgently needed," says Chris Henschel, an expert on forests and climate change with CPAWS.
Environmental groups have been pushing for emissions from all energy sources to be counted within the WCI cap-and-trade program. The final September 23, 2008 recommendations allow each province and state to decide whether or not to ignore these real emissions and treat them as carbon neutral.
CPAWS contends the WCI needs to send a clear signal it will not create a perverse incentive to log and burn natural forests with no climate benefit. Creating a market to burn wood from natural forests for electricity could result in much greater pressures to log forests and accelerate clear cutting in Northern pristine boreal forests.
View September 24, 2008 Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society press release
Source: Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
Download August 13, 2008 Submission to WCI Re: Western Climate Initiative Draft Design Recommendations for a cap-and-trade program by Climate Action Network Canada, David Suzuki Foundation, Manitoba Wildlands, Pembina Institute and WWF-Canada (PDF)
Canadian Groups Respond to WCI Draft Cap-and-Trade Framework
Download Manitoba Wildlands' cover letter for Government of Manitoba - Joint Canadian ENGO Submission to the WCI Re: Western Climate Initiative Draft Design Recommendations for a cap-and-trade program (PDF)
The Western Climate Initiative released its draft design framework for a broad cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions July 23, 2008.
Download July 23, 2008 Cover Memo to Draft Design Recommendations for WCI cap-and-trade program document (PDF)
Download July 23, 2008 Draft Design Recommendations for WCI cap-and-trade program (PDF)
The draft cap-and-trade framework proposes setting a hard cap on industrial emissions, providing cash incentives for companies to reduce their pollution levels. Greener companies can sell their pollution "credits" to the highest bidder - to those emitters who can't meet their targets. The intent is to encourage efficiency and conservation by rewarding industries that get below the cap and adding costs to high polluters.
The cap would force polluting companies to pay for emissions they created. They would then be free to pass those costs on to consumers.
The program would grant each participating province (British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec) an allocated and declining cap for each year from 2012 to 2020, set in advance. Those caps have not yet been set, but would be based on population, electricity consumption and production, and economic activity - not on current efficiency, the WCI report says. As such, the most efficient provinces in 2012 could sooner sell credits to other regions, creating a revenue stream.
In Manitoba Premier Doer made a public commitment in March 2008 that all reductions in emissions for the province's Kyoto targets, and hence for WCI reporting, would be from actual reductions in emissions within the province.
Emissions caused by production of transportation fuels, such as gasoline, are included in the draft design, though with significant delay before they are included. Others include electric generation, general combustion, industrial process emission sources and transportation fuel combustion. Emissions from production of biofuel would not be included.
The gases considered as emissions are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulphur hexafluoride.
The cap would apply to all companies emitting more than 25,000 tonnes of those gases, measured as "carbon dioxide equivalents" per year. This level is much lower than current reporting levels for Canada's GHG national inventory.
View July 24, 2008 Globe and Mail article
View July 24, 2008 Vancouver Sun article
Climate advocates have been supportive of the intent and overall direction of the WCI, but were cautiously critical of the draft cap-and-trade recommendations. They expressed disappointment at the prospect of initial caps being set at business-as-usual levels and the idea that the framework wouldn't bring large polluters into the system until 2012, and even 2015 for some (for more information, see section below, WCI's Draft Cap-and-Trade System Flawed: Canadian Climate Advocates).
The plan was open for public review and comments until mid-August and is scheduled to be finalized September 2008.
The WCI also released draft recommendations for member reporting of greenhouse gases on July 23, 2008.
Download July 23, 2008 Cover Memo to Draft Essential Requirements of Mandatory Reporting Requirements document (PDF)
Download July 23, 2008 Draft Essential Requirements of Mandatory Reporting (PDF)
Sources: WCI, Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun
As representatives set off for San Diego to attend the latest Western Climate Initiative (WCI) meetings on July 29, 2008, Canadian conservation organizations reiterated their overall support for the Initiative, while identifying a number of weaknesses in the newly released draft design of WCI's greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.