What if one third of the states and most of the Canadian provinces formed a single cap and trade program to control greenhouse gas emissionss from a significant portion of North America? The discussions have reportedly begun according to ClimateWire in a January 28, 2009 story. For industry, this would create one of the largest cap and trade systems, second only to the EU Emissions Trading System. It would also put tremendousus pressure on Congress to pass new legislation that would provide a nationwide consistent greenhouse gas regulatory system.
The pressure by states to develop their own systems, started with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative governing coal-fired power plants in ten northeastern states followed by the development of the California economy wide system and the Western Climate Initiative and the Midwestern Greenhouse Climate Accord.
In response, many large industries formed the US Climate Action Partnership issued its USCAP Blueprint for Legislative Action. On the organization's website, Duke Energy's President and Chief Executive Officer states, "Climate and economic challenges are twin ills and we should not treat either in isolation. The cure for one will help us heal the other."
The membership of this group includes some of the largest companies in the United States and several environmental groups. The Blueprint is the result of two years of discussions and negotiations between these companies and environmental groups.
The Blueprint will likely influence not only climate debate in Congress, but the developing multi-state, multi-province negotiations to establish a cap and trade system to control greenhouse gases. Whether the national governments in the US or Canada take action, the states and provinces will push ahead. These programs also address energy issues and establish energy efficiency and renewable energy portfolio standards.
The fact that the state-based groups are discussing a unified approach is not only a significant development in terms of greenhouse gas controls, it appears to be an unprecedented step by the states to regulate an area typically addressed by Congress at a national level. That the states are banding together to establish a regulatory system themselves raises questions of the efficacy of Congress and the Presidency on a matters of immense importance to this country and the world, namely climate change, energy policy, and energy security. Political scientists will find great fodder for research and writing on how the states stepped in to fill the void left by our national government.