Five Western Governors Sign Agreement to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

On Feb. 26, the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington announced the formation of the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative to implement a joint strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association, Govs. Janet Napolitano (AZ), Arnold Schwarzenegger (CA), Bill Richardson (NM), Ted Kulongoski (OR) and Chris Gregoire (WA) signed the agreement that directs their respective states to, within the next six months, develop a regional target for reducing greenhouse gases. During the next 18 months, they will devise a market-based program, such as a load-based cap-and-trade program to reach the target. The five states also have agreed to participate in a multi-state registry to track and manage greenhouse gas emissions in their region.

The Western Regional Climate Action Initiative builds on existing greenhouse gas reduction efforts in the individual states as well as two existing regional efforts. In 2003, California, Oregon and Washington created the West Coast Global Warming Initiative, and in 2006, Arizona and New Mexico launched the Southwest Climate Change Initiative. Each of the five states has adopted or committed to adopting state reduction goals, clean tailpipe standards, mandatory emissions reporting and renewable portfolio standards to accelerate the transition to non-fossil fuel based energy sources.

"In the absence of meaningful federal action, it is up to the states to take action to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in this country," Napolitano said. 'Western states are being particularly hard-hit by the effects of climate change."

Schwarzenegger said, "This (agreement) sets the stage for a regional cap and trade program, which will provide a powerful framework for developing a national cap-and-trade program. This agreement shows the power of states to lead our nation addressing climate change."

Richardson said, "With this agreement, states are once again taking the lead on combating global climate change -- while Washington, D.C., sits on its hands. This historic agreement signals our commitment to tackling the problem head-on at the regional level and building on efforts in our individual states."

Kulongoski said, "This announcement shows how the West continues to lead the way in addressing the most pressing environmental challenge of our time. Together, we are putting ourselves on a path to reduce greenhouse emissions and create a sustainable energy future -- a model and example for rest of the nation."

Gregoire said, "We have all seen the science and we must increase our efforts to respond. We must implement what we all have put in place, and work together to develop a regional market approach. Together, we can reduce our climate pollution, grow jobs and move toward energy independence."

Western states have suffered from prolonged drought, decreased snowfall, increased and earlier snowmelt, and more severe and devastating forest and rangeland fires in recent years as a result of changes in the climate, the governors stated.

More information on the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative can be accessed at http://www.governor.wa.gov.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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