North American West Coast Governments Sign Climate Change Pact

by Silvio Marcacci

Pacific Coast Collaborative logo via Pacific Coast Collaborative
Pacific Coast Collaborative

They say the West Coast is the best coast, and as of today, that’s definitely true in the fight against climate change.

The leaders of British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington just formally joined forces to reduce emissions and transition toward renewables by signing the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, committing to link and maintain their respective climate and renewable energy policies.

This news is significant on multiple fronts, but mainly for the sheer size of its jurisdiction: three US states and one Canadian province that collectively represent 53 million people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion – essentially the world’s 5th largest economy and now, the world’s largest green economy.

West Coast-Style Climate Change Action

Today’s agreement is part of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which includes the four governments plus Alaska, formed to provide a co-operative forum on policy challenges facing the North American West Coast like clean energy, transportation, economic growth, and emergency management.

The four jurisdictions will account for the costs of carbon pollution and when feasible, link their respective clean energy programs to create a stable policy outlook to encourage investment. The plan also commits to adopting and maintaining low-carbon fuel standards across all jurisdictions, and pledges to work toward additional linkages across other North American states and provinces.

“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,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

California’s cap-and-trade system has sold out of all available current permits in each of its four allowance auctions and will link to Quebec’s carbon market on January 1, 2014. British Columbia has maintained a C$30/ton carbon tax for the past five years while working toward a 33% emissions reduction by 2020 goal.

Both governments will maintain their existing programs, and Oregon and Washington have now committed to explore similar policies. Those emissions reductions goals and mechanisms are yet to be determined, but Inslee has said he supports a cap-and-trade system in Washington while Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has called for a price on carbon.

Under the action plan, the jurisdictions agreed to harmonize their 2050 emissions reduction goals while developing shorter-term targets in the interim – certainly a requisite first step toward any kind of larger linkage, but still a long way off considering formal emissions reduction policies would likely require statewide ballot approval.

Toward Green Economies And Global Emissions Cuts

Regardless, today’s action shows the kind of political action that happens when climate policy turns into green jobs. “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,” said Kitzhaber. “Transitioning to a clean economy creates jobs.”

And the West Coast’s climate action could soon have international repercussions. All four signatories said they would work with other national and sub-national governments to secure a global climate change agreement in 2015. With 60 carbon pricing systems either in operation or under development around the world, today’s action could be the biggest sign yet of a truly international carbon market.

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This article, North American West Coast Governments Sign Climate Change Pact, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.


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Obama Names Sweden A Model For Energy Policy and Here’s Why

by Important Media Cross-Post

US President Barack Obama and Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt hold a press conference at Rosenbad, the seat of the Swedish government in Stockholm, Sweden, Sept. 4, 2013. CREDIT: (Credit: AP/Frank Augstein)

Originally published on Think Progress.
By Ryan Koronowski.

During a press conference with Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Wednesday afternoon Stockholm time, President Obama was asked what the United States could learn from Sweden. His first thought was sustainable energy development:

What I know about Sweden, I think, offers us some good lessons. Number one, the work you have done on energy I think is something the United States can and will learn from. Because every country in the world right now has to recognize if we are going to continue to grow and improve our standard of living while maintaining a sustainable planet, we are going to have to change our patterns of energy use. And Sweden I think is far ahead of many other countries.

So what can the U.S. learn from Sweden?

Sweden gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric and nuclear power, dating from investments in the 50s and 60s. Renewable energy — mainly wind — has also been on the rise, such that right now, over 47 percent of all energy consumed in Sweden comes from renewable sources. The vast majority of the electricity mix comes from renewables and nuclear.

But this hasn’t happened on its own. The switch is the result of a concerted effort to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, which in the mid-70s had constituted around three-quarters of total energy supply.

Source: Swedish Energy Agency

The main driver has been a long-standing and uncontroversial carbon tax. Sweden began taxing carbon emissions back in 1991, at around $133 per ton. The system has changed a bit over the years, with industry paying less of the tax and consumers paying more, and the tax up to around $150 per ton.

Daniel Engström, the director of climate at the Forum for Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability in Sweden, said that Sweden does not have as many people who deny that climate change is a problem as the U.S. does (most Swedish energy critics are critical of onshore wind farms).

There have been some concerns about higher fuel prices, but because oil is so expensive to import, and the carbon tax went into effect so long ago, and because biofuels are an increasingly feasible option, many people do not notice the carbon tax. Revenues have been high, the tax is efficient, and emissions have dropped more than expected.

According to the IEA, “Sweden has the lowest share of fossil fuels in the energy supply mix among IEA member countries.” Oil accounts for 27 percent of the total energy supply, and has been steadily losing ground to biofuels.

The country imports all of its oil — and more than half of those imports come from Russia. Total domestic demand has actually dropped since 1985.

Other fossil fuels are a similarly small share of the electricity mix. Only 3 percent of the country’s total energy production comes from gas. Most of the coal used in Sweden is used for industrial purposes — it barely registers as an electricity generator.

Even so, Sweden is committed to reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2020. The country also invests in renewable energy through a market-based certificate system.

After the press conference with the Prime Minister, President Obama visited an energy expo at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology. He spoke with people at Volvo who are aiming to have fully electric public transit buses up and running by 2015, which would pay for themselves within 10 years. Obama also looked at some fuel cell and electric personal vehicles, and posed the challenges of scaling up such a system as a ‘chicken and egg’ question: “In the United States, one of the challenges has to do with distribution… if I was going shopping, where am I gonna refuel, right?”

Sweden’s longstanding carbon tax and emissions and renewable targets have been in operation while the nation thrived economically as much of the rest of Europe fell to pieces.

C. Fred Bergsten, director emeritus at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said that “Sweden has one of the lowest inflation rates in Europe; it runs a budget surplus every year; its corporate tax rates are considerably lower than U.S. rates; and it spends more on research and development, as a share of its economy, than we do.”

So it seems that the main thing the U.S. can learn from Sweden on energy policy is that carbon pollution is not essential to economic success.

This article, Obama Names Sweden A Model For Energy Policy — Here’s Why, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

CleanTechnica is one of 18 blogs in the Important Media blog network. With a bit of overlap in coverage, we sometimes repost some of the great content published by our sister sites.