North American sub-governments leading the way for climate action at COP20

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9 December 2014

NEW YORK: While COP20 in Lima is moving toward its final days with some uncertainty and many expectations, forward-thinking sub-governments have announced their joint commitment to tackling climate change.

California, OntarioQuébec and British Columbia have tightened their collaboration to find new policies that can bring green jobs, more productivity and a sustainable economic model to their regions by publicly committing to further joint climate efforts at COP20, with the latter three signing the Compact of States and Regions.

The Compact is a commitment facilitated by The Climate Group and other international organizations to provide a clear and fixed picture of governments’ reduction of greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions.

Boasting many ambitious 2020 climate targets, state and regional efforts are fundamental to maintaining momentum toward a legally binding commitment to reduce global emissions next year, at COP21 in Paris. And now these sub-governments are calling on political leaders gathered for the global climate talks in Lima to do the same on a national scale.

Last year, Ontario’s insurance firms paid US$3.2 billion to compensate the losses resulting after the extreme climatic events that shook the province – the highest insured loss in Canadian history. Ontario’s government is therefore heavily investing in clean technologies, particularly wind and solar energy.

As a first step to achieve a complete shift toward a clean economy, Ontario province has marked its commitment to phase-out all coal-fired electricity generation this year – the single biggest greenhouse gas reduction initiative in North America – while its GHG emissions are 6% below 1990 levels.

“The time to take swift, collective action on climate change is now. Ontario is proud to be among many jurisdictions in North America that recognize the urgent need to stop the irreparable damage caused by climate change," says Glen Murray, Ontario's Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. "This statement affirms our resolve to lead by example, encourage other regions to do their part and leave our future generations with the legacy of a healthy, prosperous planet". 

Québec in Canada is also leading the way in fighting the economic and social effects of climate disruption. The province has committed to reduce its GHG emissions a fifth below 1990 levels by 2020, a measure which is included in its 2013-2020 Climate Change Action Plan.

The province has also detailed many mitigation and adaptation measures for the coming years in its Plan. One of its most important achievements to date though, is its ‘cap-and-trade’ system for GHG emission allowances, which from 2014 is also linked to a twin system in California. Recently, the two sub-national governments held their first joint auction on GHGs.

The consequences of climate change are very real. Urgent action is required, and the time has now come to make decisions based on the kind of world we want to leave our children," stated David HeurtelQuébec's Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change. "Québec, just like its partners, fully shoulders this responsibility and is taking important steps that will not only contribute to worldwide GHG emission reduction efforts, but will also relaunch Québec’s economy”. 

The US state of California is also continuing to lead the way on climate action. In 2006, it passed a law to reduce its GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 – a reduction of about 15% below emissions expected under a ‘business as usual’ scenario.

The state, which is facing one of its worst droughts in history, is deploying and encouraging the development of renewable energy, which now accounts for one-third of its total power generation. All these efforts are linked to other measures directed to energy efficiency, like energy-saving appliances and tighter building standards.

“California has been a leader in developing effective policies to cut carbon pollution and combat climate change. Our experience demonstrates that committing to a clean energy future is also a powerful means to drive economic growth," underlined Matthew Rodriquez, California Secretary for Environmental Protection. "But no one state or province can do this alone. This statement is another sign of how California is working with other states and regions in North America and around the world to make real progress in reducing greenhouse gases and to build momentum toward an international agreement in Paris next year”.

British Columbia in Canada too has made great progress, having already achieved its target of reducing GHG emissions 6% below 2007 levels by 2012, and is set to continue its efforts toward its 2020 target. The province’s energy mix particularly relies on natural gas, which is seen as an important transition fuel.

“It is important for jurisdictions like British Columbia to demonstrate the many ways we can contribute to global climate action, with targets and policies like the revenue neutral BC carbon tax at home and by creating solutions like clean Liquefied Natural Gas, as an example to countries building their plans for Paris in 2015,” stated Mary PolakBritish Colombia Environment Minister

In fact, the province’s flagship initiative is the broad-based revenue-neutral carbon tax. Implemented in 2008, this carbon tax has encouraged businesses and individuals to shift to cleaner energy alternatives, ensuring those who produce emissions, pay for them. According to independent research, in the six years the tax was implemented, fuel use in British Columbia declined by 16%, while the province’s GDP and population continued to grow.

“The leadership shown by British Columbia, California, Ontario and Québec is testament to the crucial role played by states and regions in driving impactful climate action,” said Libby Ferguson, The Climate Group States & Regions Director. “They are setting ambitious targets and implementing innovative strategies to combat climate change. Sub-national governments have huge potential to effect change at both the local and global level.”

With 27 state and regional government members and 41 regional government affiliates, The Climate Group States & Regions members govern 313 million people, representing 11% of global GDP and accounting for about 2 gigatons of GHG emissions.

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