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November 11, 2013
West Coast states and BC ink climate plan

The leaders of the three West Coast states and the Canadian province of British Columbia have signed the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, a nonbinding agreement to harmonize a range of actions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), promote clean transportation, and increase energy efficiency. 

Collectively, California, Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia have a population of 53 million people and a gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion—effectively the world’s fifth largest economy.  The agreement recognizes the common geography, shared infrastructure, and regional economy of the four entities; the “clear and convincing scientific evidence of climate change”; and the findings of the 2012 West Coast Clean Economy report, which projected that 1.03 million new jobs could be created in sectors such as energy efficiency and clean transportation if the right policies are in place.

Price on carbon

Regarding GHGs, California and British Columbia agreed to maintain existing carbon-pricing programs, Oregon agreed to build on existing programs to set a price on carbon emissions, and Washington agreed to set binding limits on carbon emissions and deploy market mechanisms to meet those limits.  The terms agreed to by Oregon and Washington may require new legislative actions that are not guaranteed.  However, the intent of the program is that all the parties maintain or develop programs that are consistent and mutually supportive.  For example, under the agreement, the signatories will set consistent long-term or 2050 GHG reduction targets as well as mid-term targets.  Washington already has a mid-term 2035 target and British Columbia has legislated a 2020 target.

Electric vehicles and high-speed rail

The agreement calls for each party to adopt low-carbon fuel standards and work together to build an integrated West Coast market for low-carbon fuels to keep energy dollars in the region.  Other transportation elements include a goal of electric vehicles making up 10 percent of new vehicle purchases by 2016; increasing high-speed rail across the region; and supporting the penetration of such alternative fuels as biofuels and natural gas into truck and bus fleets as well as rail, port, and marine transportation. 

Expedited permitting

“Energy efficiency is the lowest cost way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating good local jobs,” the plan states.  With that in mind, the parties agreed to work to harmonize appliance standards, increase access to affordable financing products, and support policies that ensure that energy efficiency is valued when buildings are bought and sold.  Also, the parties will support the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange, which secures financing for “climate-smart” infrastructure projects; streamline permitting for renewable energy infrastructure projects; and support integration of the region’s electricity grids.

The five governments also voiced support for U.S. EPA’s initiative to regulate GHG emissions from power plants; the agreement does emphasize the importance of allowing states the flexibility to design “ambitious reduction programs within this regulation.”

Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy

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