US: Washington governor to push ahead with carbon programme

03 April 2014 18:29 Source:ICIS

The state of Washington will develop a task force to design a cap-and-trade system in the coming months, the governor announced this week. However, a carbon-reduction tool, which could eventually link to the California programme, cannot be agreed before 2015 because of the legislature’s schedule.

Governor Jay Inslee said the state needed “a cap, [limit] or legal means” to curb the amount of carbon, or pollution, emitted in a bid to protect the state’s environment. He spoke at a live-streamed conference on 1 April. He added that he was in the process of developing a task force to design the policy.

Washington has a target to reduce emissions to 1990 emissions levels by 2020, gradually increasing to 25% by 2035 and then 50% by 2050.

Slow momentum

Inslee has previously pushed for the state to create a cap-and-trade system, but has had little support for the idea from the state legislature.

However, the chances that a mechanism to cut emissions is finally passed are now concrete, said Jay Manning, attorney at Cascadia Law Group and former director of the Washington Department of Ecology.

“I think for the first time in several years [it] is plausible, more than possible, not quite to the level of likely… I can see how we can successfully do it but it will take a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work and resources,” he said last week on the sidelines of the Navigating the American Carbon World conference in San Francisco, California.

But the discussion regarding such system in Washington is at a very early stage. “It will take a lot of time to develop what the proposal is and then to run it [through] the legislature and if it were to pass to actually implement it,” said Manning.

He pointed out that legislation would be needed to introduce a system that seeks to cut emissions across the economy, be it a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax.

As the legislature next meets between January 2015 and April 2015, the body cannot address the matter until then.

Link to California?

A possible emission trading system in Washington with a link to the Californian carbon market is one way in which the latter could grow.

As part of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, a forum for sharing information on climate and energy policies, the governments of California, British Columbia, Oregon and Washington last year committed to work together to account for the cost of carbon pollution in each jurisdiction. And, where possible, the four states agreed to link their respective programmes.

Inslee did not specifically mention a possible link in his speech, but said that cap-and-trade schemes in California, Washington and Oregon could provide certainty to businesses operating in those Western states.

It is more likely that Washington would design and implement its own system to allow a link, rather than opting to join California’s carbon market, according to the lawyer.

“I doubt that the Washington legislature is going to pass a bill that says – go join California cap-and-trade system. I think it would say ‘develop a system here for Washington and one consideration in developing it would be, try to make sure that it can be linked to other market-based systems’ – and not only California but also the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and maybe systems in Europe or elsewhere,” he said. Silvia Molteni and Dan McGraw

By Silvia Molteni