Climate change plan that includes B.C. could be improved, says researcher

A climate-change strategy devised by a partnership of U.S. states and Canadian provinces including B.C. is not perfect but still signals progress, says a researcher with the Seattle-based Sightline Institute.

The Western Climate Initiative [WCI] group released a more detailed version of its policy package earlier this week.

“The importance of the WCI, really, is that we are seeing significant portions of North America take the leadership role that our national leaders are failing to take,” said Eric de Place with the Sightline Institute, a policy research group.

By 2020, the WCI partners aim to cut emissions of greenhouse gases to 15 percent below levels in 2005.

A centerpiece of the WCI climate strategy is a multi-jurisdictional cap-and-trade program.

The program is intended to create financial incentives for large greenhouse-gas emitters like those in the electricity and industrial sectors.

Permits will be offered allowing certain levels of emissions that are pegged to established reduction targets.

Under the regional program, which starts in 2012, the permits can be traded, sold, or retained.

De Place lauded the cap-and-trade proposal for covering the transportation-fuel sector.

“From the perspective of reducing emissions in British Columbia or Washington [State] that is really the big hairy problem that we’ve got to face,” he told the Straight this week by phone.

But de Place also sees room for improvement.

He said up to 90 percent of the greenhouse-gas emission permits should be auctioned, with revenue used for programs that benefit the public.

De Place also said the WCI could establish a tougher emissions-reduction target. He suggested the partners aim to cut emissions by up to 20 percent below 1990 levels, a benchmark he said is recognized internationally.

“You could argue, and I think it’s fair to argue, that the reduction targets set in the WCI and set in some of the other cap-and-trade programs aren’t aggressive enough,” de Place said.

“That’s not a failure of cap and trade per se. That’s a failure of policy makers to be aggressive enough with their climate targets.”

De Place described the WCI strategy as a “not perfect but pretty darn good climate policy”.