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West Coast Economies Sign Landmark "Action Plan" on Climate and Energy

Mary Polak, British Columbia's Minister of the Environment, speaks at the signing of the Pacific Coast Action Plan
The Hon. Mary Polak, British Columbia’s Minister of the Environment, at the signing of the Pacific Coast Action Plan.

UPDATED: 29 October, 9am PST.

Elected leaders from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California today signed a landmark “Action Plan” committing them to work together to slash climate pollution and accelerate the shift to a low carbon economy.

The just-announced Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy [Full Text] is impressive for its sheer scope and breadth. It encompasses four economies that collectively represent 53 million people.

According to a press statement, the four governments agreed to “meaningful coordination and linkage between states and provinces across North America” on climate and clean energy policy.

The leaders said they would account for the costs of carbon pollution and where appropriate and feasible “link programs to create consistency and predictability.” The leaders also committed to adopting and maintaining low carbon fuel standards in each jurisdiction.

Both California and British Columbia have low carbon fuel standards in place intended to limit the CO2 content of motor fuels.

California and British Columbia will maintain their existing carbon pricing programs, the statement said, along with their respective clean fuel standards, while Oregon and Washington have committed to moving forward on a suite of similar policies.

California governor Jerry Brown, Oregon governor John Kitzhaber, Washington governor Jay Inslee, and British Columbia environment minister Mary Polak attended the signing ceremony, with Premier Christy Clark joining an earlier meeting via video conference.

The leaders agreed to “harmonize” their 2050 greenhouse gas emission targets and develop mid-term targets where needed to set a path toward long-term reductions.

They also agreed to press for a global agreement on climate change at the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Paris in December 2015, and at least one leader hinted that the agreement will spread to other jurisdictions.

“We are only one percent of the problem,” said California governor Jerry Brown. “We have got to do what’s right, collaborate with who will collaborate, and we have to get more people joining the collaboration. This is an initiation of a very important agreement here on the West Coast, but it has to spread east and it has to spread west. California has already signed a memorandum of understanding with several provinces in China and with the national government itself, and this will spread. I am committed to that.”

Minister Polak spoke to the challenges of being out front on climate leadership.

“Leadership on climate change is one of those areas where everything you try to do, people will tell you you can’t,” the minister said. “But ultimately, if you stand on your principles, if you tell people what you believe in. if the public can look at you and see you are sincere… they will support you. They will trust you. They’ll back you up.”

“I know that as we embark on the actions in this agreement, there will be tough times,” added the minister. “It is not easy to be in the lead, but if we are going to be serious about tackling the challenges ahead of us, then the lead is where we want to be.”

Polak cited recent research showing that B.C.’s carbon tax shift is working as planned, reducing pollution while the economy and population continues to grow. The head of the OECD recently called the province’s tax shift a ‘textbook case’ of carbon pricing done right.

The new agreement gives other jurisdictions—particularly Washington and Oregon—an opportunity to ‘catch up’ to B.C. on climate leadership.

The Action Plan will be administered by an organization called the Pacific Coast Collaborative. The collaborative serves as a forum for leadership and the sharing of information on best practices, and a common voice on issues facing coastal and Pacific jurisdictions. Previously the body has coordinated initiatives between the member governments on energy efficiency on climate resilience.

See Also: Analysis – Why the Pacific Coast Action Plan Matters.

Minister Polak photo: Ian Thompson, Waterfall Group

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