Linkage Approval Boosts Cap-and-Trade Momentum

(This was originally posted on EDF’s California Dream 2.0 blog)

Don’t look now, but California’s cap-and-trade program is going global.

With California Air Resources Board (CARB) approving linkage between California and Quebec’s cap-and-trade programs today, these two programs will now be able to trade emissions allowances across borders starting in 2014.  CARB’s action comes on the heels of California Governor Jerry Brown’s recent decision to approve the linkage, which will increase the size of California’s cap-and-trade market by 20 percent. More importantly, linkage will boost California’s clean energy economy by creating a broader market for innovative, low-carbon technologies.  The linkage is also a shot in the arm for global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and it sends a positive signal to other jurisdictions that are working on building their own carbon markets and might ultimately seek to join with California and Quebec.

This linkage comes at a moment when momentum for carbon market development has been building around the world. Many other regions, including Europe, Australia, South Korea, and the Northeastern U.S., have instituted or are currently developing carbon markets. Australia also announced plans last August to phase-in a linkage with the EU system starting in 2015.

California Governor Jerry Brown also recently returned from a trip to China where he signed an agreement with their Minister of Environmental Projection to help reduce air pollution and an agreement with Guangdong Province to share best practices related to cap-and-trade, clear evidence that if we want to get serious about climate change, California or one region can’t do it alone.

Before full linkage is possible, it’s often helpful for governments to develop ‘unofficial links’ in the form of partnerships to share policies, best practices, and goals. This cooperation – which California and Quebec have had since 2007 – is important and beneficial for the overall growth, rigor and integrity of carbon markets. The California cap-and-trade system uses a similar platform to the RGGI system in the Northeastern U.S., and the California system has been carefully crafted based on lessons learned from the EU ETS.

It took many steps to get to this point, but with a first joint cap-and-trade auction now scheduled for early 2014, California and Quebec are finally there. CARB’s approval of linkage is a big milestone for California and the nation, and another strong signal of California’s leadership in fighting climate change, while moving the nation further down the path to a clean energy economy.

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