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Moving Ahead With the Western Climate Initiative

April 18, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 205

Carbon Finance recently reported that the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) has decided to give priority to the creation of carbon credits within the participating WCI jurisdictions over the importation of offsets from international programmes such as the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). And at the end of February 2012, the WCI parties released their final recommendations for the future of the offsetting system with the aim of establishing an efficient system consistent across all the participating jurisdictions. This is a positive development with regards to the WCI given that several states have already formally withdrawn from the initiative.

To some extent, since the United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and in the wake of Canada's controversial decision to pull out following the COP 17 conference in South Africa last December, the WCI fills the "climate action gap" in North America. In principle, the WCI is a collaborative effort of several US states and Canadian provinces to identify, evaluate, and implement emissions trading policies with the purpose of tackling climate change at a regional level. The WCI was introduced in 2007 by the governors of five western states, being Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington, with four Canadian provinces and two other US states subsequently joining the programme. But with the exit of several American participants in December 2011, the WCI membership is now just California and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

Despite these membership changes, the WCI is moving ahead on a business as usual basis, as witness the final recommendations on the offset system process released on 22 February 2012. One of the most important recommendations concerns the introduction of processes within the participating jurisdictions for ensuring interchangeability of the offset certificates or carbon credits issued in each, with adherence to the final recommendations expected to achieve the necessary level of rigour.

Strict issuance requirements and, more importantly, tighter emission caps are necessary in order to make the WCI effective, or at any rate more effective than the other major North American collaborative climate action effort, namely the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Although this initiative of nine north-eastern American states was the first market-based emissions reduction regulatory programme in the United States, a serious market for its carbon allowances has yet to emerge, the commonly-cited reason being that the RGGI targets have been relatively easy to meet.

And while some progress has been made towards the interchangeability of carbon credits issued within the participating jurisdictions, a WCI official quoted by Carbon Finance on 5 March 2012 acknowledges that the WCI has not yet advanced any kind of investigation or procedure aimed at bringing in offsets originating from outside North America and the WCI programme. According to the Carbon Finance article, the initiative's offsets committee will at some point move to a consideration of carbon credits from external offset schemes, such as the Kyoto-based CDM, although at present no work is actively under way on this particular element of the programme.

In any case, the WCI is working toward facilitating the linkage of the different climate offset schemes in the participating jurisdictions. Among the next steps envisaged by the WCI stakeholders is a review of their individual domestic programmes so as to assess consistency and, downstream, to create a regional carbon market. California launched its own cap-and-trade system on 1 January 2012, with the ambitious target of reducing its carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from the 1990 baseline. According to a recent report by Ecosystem Marketplace, entitled "Bringing it Home: Taking Stock of Government Engagement with the Voluntary Carbon Market", Quebec province is expected to launch its own scheme in 2013, which will likely link with California. British Columbia also has a regulatory climate action programme, introduced in 2008 and featuring original as well as independent standard methodologies adapted to meet the BC Emission Offset Regulation Criteria.

The WCI has the potential to provide a comprehensive carbon trading framework, especially given that the California cap-and-trade system alone is expected to become the world's second largest carbon market after the EU Emissions Trading System. Needless to say, the definition of strict criteria for the issuance of carbon credits is a must to support both the linkage and the environmental integrity of the individual cap-and-trade programmes of the WCI parties.

Source: EzineArticles
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