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A Changing U.S. Climate

GREENHOUSE-GAS EMISSIONS
Fortnightly Magazine - February 2005

to create "public benefit funds" that are used to promote energy efficiency, research and development of new technologies, and renewable energy. In 40 states, citizens can sell electricity generated privately (via solar panels, for instance) back to their utility thanks to "net metering" programs. 2

Perhaps more significantly, regional efforts that transcend state and even international borders also are taking place. At a recent Capitol Hill roundtable organized by the Sustainable Energy Institute (SEI), Josh Bushinsky of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change identified regional initiatives now under development (). 3 In an effort initiated by New York Gov. George Pataki in 2003, nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states (with two more observing), as well as five Eastern Canadian provinces, are working to develop a regional CO 2 cap-and-trade program by April 2005 as a part of their broader cooperation on climate change. This Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) aims to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2010, and 10 percent below those levels by 2020. As Franz Litz of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation stated at the SEI roundtable, these nine states are equivalent to the world's third-largest economy and account for more than 3 percent of world GHG emissions.

Regional efforts are ongoing in the West as well. In 2003, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington announced plans to coordinate actions such as development of renewable energy technologies and accounting methods for GHG emissions. In June 2004, the Western Governors' Association unanimously accepted a proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, calling for the 18 states represented by the group to generate 30,000 MW of electricity from renewable sources by 2015 and to improve energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020. Although specific policies have yet to be implemented, a working group has been formed to evaluate these proposals and provide recommendations in the next two years. In addition, the Western governors are developing a renewable energy tracking system that will facilitate the trading of renewable energy credits. The Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta are collaborating in the development of this system.

International outreach by states is not limited to collaboration with Canada. Dialogue is ongoing between designers of emissions trading systems for RGGI and the European Union. Anticipating future emissions trading between the two regions, policy-makers are motivated to consider compatibility issues as they design their cap-and-trade programs. 4

States also have joined forces in litigation against the utility industry. California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin filed suit in July 2004 against the country's largest emitters of CO 2, a group of five utility companies responsible for 10 percent of the nation's annual CO 2 emissions. 5 The suit, based on the common law principle of public nuisance, is the first filed directly against utility companies for CO 2 emissions and will seek emission reductions rather than financial penalties.

Bushinsky described the impact of these state actions at the SEI event, noting that the policies have spurred research