Simon Lomax, Bloomberg News · Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010
WASHINGTON - California, New Mexico and 10 U.S. Northeastern states may try to create a North American carbon market on their own now that President Barack Obama has given up on cap-and-trade legislation that stalled in Congress.
The emissions-trading system would be based on a planned carbon market in California, the most populous state, and an existing regional cap-and-trade program for power plants in the Northeast, according to state environmental officials. Three provinces -- British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec -- have also shown interest in a cross-border carbon-trading system, the officials said.
"The key is to have as large and as liquid a market as possible," John Yap, B.C.'s Minister of State for Climate Action, said in an interview. Under cap-and-trade, the government creates a market for pollution rights by issuing a limited number of carbon-dioxide permits, which companies can buy and sell.
The prospects for a North American market got a boost Nov. 2 when voters in California rejected a ballot measure that would have delayed that state's global-warming laws. Talks that began last year, as cap-andtrade legislation backed by Mr. Obama faltered in the U.S. Congress, will resume when state environmental officials meet in Washington this week.
The states and provinces weighing a unified carbon market represent about one-third of the combined US$15.5-trillion U.S. and Canadian economy, according to government statistics and the International Monetary Fund.
After Republicans won control of the House and narrowed the Democrats' Senate majority in the Nov. 2 mid-term elections, Mr. Obama said cap-and-trade "was just one way of skinning the cat" and that he doubts it could pass Congress until 2013 at the earliest. In Canada, the federal government has said it won't set up its own cap-and-trade program unless the United States does.
A carbon market established without the support of the U.S. and Canadian governments would probably "stick pretty close to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and not venture too far inland," Ethan Zindler, a Washington-based analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in an interview.
Such a cap-and-trade system may cover more than 800 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, making it about one-third the size of Europe's cap-and-trade program, according to New Energy Finance estimates.
California plans to start a cap-and-trade program in 2012. It may be joined by New Mexico as well as the three provinces, which also have cap-and-trade laws, according to California officials. Links to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a trading program covering 10 states in the Northeast, are also being explored, said Mary Nichols, chairwoman of California's Air Resources Board.
"Nobody, including us, wants to be alone in implementing a cap-and-trade program," Ms. Nichols said on a conference call after the defeat of the ballot measure.
The 10 states in the Northeast have been auctioning carbon-dioxide permits, or allowances, since 2008. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative's quarterly auctions have raised US$729-million so far.
Revenue from the auctions is falling because power plants are producing less electricity in the weak economy and need fewer carbon allowances. Auction revenue from the first three-quarters of this year fell 18% and some allowances have gone unsold, according to data from the regional cap-andtrade program.
The rules of the Northeast's cap-and-trade market are scheduled for review in 2012.
Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/todays-paper/States+create+carbon+market/3908727/story.html#ixzz16qzUBZhZ
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