Governor Brown Greenlights International Partnership with Quebec to Curb Carbon Pollution

On the eve of his trade mission to China this week, Governor Brown signed off on California’s proposed cap-and-trade linkage with Quebec, a step that would allow companies to trade carbon permits and seek out emission reduction opportunities across borders. The move sets the stage for the first-ever international, economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon pollution and drive clean energy alternatives.

Apparently international collaboration ventures come in twos.

The Governor’s endorsement clears the way for the California Air Resources Board to finalize the link, set to take effect January 1, 2014, at a hearing on April 19. If the Board approves the linkage, California and Quebec will hold joint auctions of carbon emission allowances starting next year, which can be used for compliance in either jurisdiction. Quebec is the first Western Climate Initiative member outside California to adopt a market-based approach to cutting emissions, and has been laying the groundwork with ARB to link up for more than a year.

Last year, the California Legislature called for the Governor (on the advice of the Attorney General) to ensure that any proposed linkages would not impose liability on the state, inhibit California’s ability to enforce AB 32, or connect California to a less stringent program.

In his letter, the Governor stated that Quebec’s program fits the bill, citing among other factors Quebec’s more stringent emission reduction requirement (a 20 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020, compared to AB 32’s target of returning to 1990 levels by 2020), and nearly identical provisions on key environment design components such as emissions reporting and verification, offsets quality, and penalties for noncompliance arising from both jurisdictions’ adherence to the WCI’s shared design principles. 

While endorsing the linkage as fully consistent with the Legislature’s review criteria, the Governor also rightly identified the need for careful monitoring and oversight as the linked programs take shape. ARB has a draft agreement with Quebec in the works to establish a shared set of expectations regarding ongoing coordination activities, but should follow through on the Governor’s directive to provide for public review and input of any future changes in a linked jurisdiction’s program to ensure the programs remain of comparable stringency and integrity moving forward.

California and Quebec’s partnership marks a significant milestone. Maintaining momentum for sub-national and regional efforts to accelerate clean energy and energy efficiency will be critical to fill the void left by federal and international dithering and lessen the impacts of climate change already taking a toll.

Let’s get moving. 

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