Once upon a time, an international agreement forged through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) seemed the surest route to meaningful action on climate change. But the complexities of reaching common ground between nearly 200 distinct national agendas have dimmed the hopes for the sort of “global deal” envisioned in the run-up to the Copenhagen conference in 2009. The UN process has provided a platform for countries to make new emission reduction commitments: Mexico recently announced a promising post-2020 climate commitment, and the US-China announcement last November was a game-changer. Even these critical breakthroughs, however, demonstrate that strong action on climate will be driven from the “bottom up” by national policies, not from the “top down” by an international treaty.
Thankfully, many leaders are blazing a path towards climate progress, working from the ground up and collaborating with others to foster collective action. As I have previously written, cities, states, and provinces are going ahead with some of the most substantial climate commitments to date. Ontario – Canada’s largest province, with 40 percent of the country’s population and nearly one-quarter of its greenhouse gas emissions – has become the latest jurisdiction to chart an ambitious path forward with this morning’s announcement of a comprehensive cap-and-trade program intended to ultimately link with the existing California-Quebec system.
Ontario’s announcement is significant for a number of reasons. First, cap-and-trade will help Ontario meet bold 2020 and 2050 goals for cutting greenhouse gas pollution, which stand at 15 percent below and 80 percent below 1990 levels, respectively. Second, the news is a compelling curtain raiser for the high-profile Premiers Climate Change Summit in Quebec City, which begins on Tuesday and is meant to showcase opportunities for provinces to take individual and collective climate action. Finally, Ontario is poised to build on and leverage cap-and-trade successes from elsewhere, most notably California, where the two-year old program has helped cut pollution and grow the economy. Read More