Pacific Northwest Joins to Combat Climate Change Together

Big news today – leaders in the Pacific Northwest agreed to move in lock-step, harmonizing their policies to fight climate change and promote clean energy.

This reminds me of a novel from the 1970s, Ecotopia, and it would be amazing if Ernest Callenbach’s vision came true. Although the Pacific Northwest isn’t seceding as they do in his novel, they are tired of waiting for the rest of the US to catch up with their egalitarian, environmentally sane vision and they set out to create it on their own … together.

California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia  – which, with 53 million residents represent the world’s fifth largest economy – signed the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy. It commits them to aligning their policies so they move in tandem on getting to a clean energy economy.

Climate Agreement Pacific Northwest

Oregon and Washington will adopt carbon pricing programs and clean fuel standards already in place in California and British Columbia. All four will have the same mid and long-term targets for cutting emissions. 

Signatories are the Governors of the three states and the Prime Minister of British Columbia. 

California Jerry Brown calls the steps "modest," but "we have to take action."  Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, says he hopes this will send a message to the nation’s capital. "Congress has ground to a halt because of climate deniers. I hope this can restart a national conversation, and hopefully action, on climate change."

"This Action Plan represents the best of what Pacific Coast governments are already doing, and calls on each of us to do more together to create jobs by leading in the clean energy economy, and to meet our moral obligation to future generations," says Inslee. "Each of the governments here is already taking bold steps on climate change; by joining forces, we will accomplish even more." 

"Oregon supports the Action Plan because we are already seeing how our commitment to clean energy is changing the face and fortune of our state, accounting for $5 billion in economic activity and 58,000 jobs," notes Oregon Governor Kitzhaber. 

All four jurisdictions will account for the costs of carbon pollution and look to connect their programs to create a unified, predictable effort across the entire region. Each jurisdiction will adopt low carbon fuel standards.

The Pacific Coast Collaborative is behind the move, which brings the region’s leadership together to have a common voice on the most important issues. 

Even some business groups that have opposed California’s emission targets came out in support of a regional approach. "We have always believed that we need a broad market that includes not only other states but other countries, in order for it to function efficiently," Shelly Sullivan of the AB 32 Implementation Group, told the LA Times. 

The group is named for the 2006 law requiring California to reduce its greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

"We have long argued that a state-only approach would crush the state economy," Sullivan said.

Here’s what they agreed to:

1. Put a Price on Carbon: California and BC will continue their programs; Oregon wants to set a price on carbon emissions and Washington wants a cap on carbon emissions and the  use of market mechanisms to meet those limits.

It’s not clear how they plan to mix California’s cap-and-trade with BC’s carbon tax and how that would roll-out in Oregon and Washington. The agreement says: Where possible, California, British Columbia, Oregon and Washington will link programs for consistency and predictability and to expand opportunities to grow the region’s low-carbon economy.

2. Harmonize 2050 targets for greenhouse gas reductions and develop mid-term targets needed to support long-term reduction goals. If they haven’t so already, they will establish targets that reflect scientific consensus on reductions that must be achieved to stabilize the climate.  

3. Science informs policy: they affirm the scientific consensus on the human causes of climate change and its very real impacts, most recently documented in the IPCC report released last month. "Governmental actions should be grounded in this scientific understanding of climate change."

4. International agreement on climate change in 2015: they will join with governments around the world to build a coalition that presses for a 2015 agreement.

5. Work jointly on ocean acidification: to get federal governments in both countries to do crucial research. Ocean health underpins their economies. 

6. Transition the West Coast to clean modes of transportation:  

 – Implement low-carbon fuel standards: Oregon and Washington will move to implement California and British Columbia’s standards, merging them into a regional program  "that keeps energy dollars in the region, creates economic development opportunities for regional fuel production, and ensures predictability and consistency in the market."

– Implement a joint goal of 10% of fleet purchases (public and private) to be zero-emission vehicles by 2016.

– Continue deployment of high-speed rail across the region with a goal of system that runs along the entire West coast.

– Support the use of clean fuels for trucks, buses, rail, ports and marine transportation. The will develop targets and action plans to accelerate public and private investment in low-carbon commercial fleets and support the market transition to biofuels, electricity, natural gas and other low-carbon fuels in local and export markets.

7. Transform the market for energy efficiency and lead the way to net-zero buildings. They will work to harmonize appliance standards, increase access to affordable financing products, and policies that ensure energy efficiency is valued when buildings are bought and sold.

They also agreed to streamline permits for renewable energy projects, attract private capital for climate resilience projects, and support integration of the region’s electric grids. 

Read the agreement, Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy:

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