Despite the Durban climate talks ending with little progress beyond launching negotiations of a new agreement by 2015 that encompasses all the major emitters, momentum for carbon markets continues to grow from the ground up. Case in point: Canada’s second largest province, Quebec.
It was little surprise that Canada would renege on its commitment to cut climate pollution because it had done little to meet the treaty’s targets. And while its move was harshly condemned at home and abroad as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘reckless’, the news was offset by progress that’s being made at the sub-national level.
Quebec and California are part of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a partnership of states and provinces pledging to fight climate change by putting a price on pollution. Other Canadian provinces in the WCI, including British Columbia and Ontario, are actively developing carbon market programs.
Quebec is the latest entity to join climate’s ‘cap-and-trade club’ that counts the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and Switzerland as members. China and South Korea are among the countries that are exploring starting cap-and-trade programs. The United States used cap-and-trade to notable success in the ‘90s to cut acid rain faster and at dramatically lower costs than predicted by industry.
With extreme weather events linked to climate change on the rise, along with public support for solutions, Canada is joining the United States in refusing to deal with the most pressing environmental issue of our lifetime. Fortunately, Quebec and California are leading the charge to cap and reduce pollution, an approach proven to deliver great economic and public health benefits.
A recent study on the economic benefits of RGGI in the first three years found that the region’s economy grew by $1.6 billion, produced $1.3 billion in energy savings to consumers and created more than 16,000 jobs.
Sub-national governments have become the hotbeds of leadership and progress on climate change, proving that taking action grows their economies while protecting the environment. We must not let the hope of a perfect (global agreement) become the enemy of the urgent (taking concrete action to fight climate change).