| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Western U.S. states and Canadian
provinces on Wednesday agreed to cut greenhouse emissions 15
percent by 2020 in the latest regional pact to regulate the
gases, an approach opposed by U.S. President George W. Bush.
"Our collective commitment will build a successful regional
system to be linked with other efforts across the nation and
eventually the world," California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
said in a statement.
The Western Climate Initiative, led by Schwarzenegger,
seeks to slash greenhouse emissions by 15 percent below 2005
levels by 2020. Mandatory cuts are at odds with the voluntary
approach favored by his Schwarzenegger's fellow Republican
Schwarzenegger signed a landmark law last year mandating
California to cut its carbon emissions 25 percent by 2020.
California produces about 2 percent of the world's carbon
emissions, state officials say.
"We also feel the federal government needs to step up and
take action and today's action sends, I think, another strong
signal to Washington," Linda Adams, California's secretary for
Environmental Protection, told reporters. "In the absence of
federal action, states and provinces are not waiting, they are
in fact leading the way.
The White House this month announced a meeting of the
biggest greenhouse gas-emitting countries on September 27-28 in
Washington. The meeting is an effort to involve developing
countries in the move to cut the pollutants.
Scientists say high levels of heat-trapping emissions, such
as carbon dioxide, will lead to catastrophic storms, droughts
and floods as temperatures rise and glaciers melt.
The group of six Western states and two provinces also
agreed to design a market-based mechanism, such as a
cap-and-trade program, by the end of August 2008 to help reach
The pact's goal is modest compared to reductions of 80
percent by 2050 that two states -- New Jersey and Florida --
Environmentalists welcomed the announcement although some
said the targets were too lenient.
"These targets are barely consistent with what needs to be
done," said John Coequyt, energy policy analyst with Greenpeace
The Western pact, along with a U.S. East Coast emissions
agreement between 10 states, may pressure the U.S. Congress to
pass laws regulating heat-trapping gases, he said.
But he cautioned that the modest 2020 goal could make it
"heavy lifting" for advocates to push for agreement on deeper
emissions cuts in the future.
The Western pact does not include Alberta, the Canadian
province that is home to oil and natural gas fields, including
the tar sands, whose development is extremely carbon-intensive.
It also excludes Nevada, California's neighbor which lacks
emissions targets and has sought to lure Golden State
businesses with tax benefits and other incentives.
"This was a big concern in California that companies would
move to other states and this kind of a regional program will
certainly help to minimize that," said California's Adams.
Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington and
Utah are the U.S. members of the pact, along with Canada's
Manitoba and British Columbia.
"A regional cap...should ensure that all businesses in the
region will operate on a level playing field," said Christopher
Busch, climate economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"A regional cap is a clear indication that the future for
business is in cutting pollution, not escaping regulation."
The United States is the largest greenhouse gas emitter,
followed closely by China.
States in the U.S. East formed the Regional Greenhouse Gas
Initiative pact starting in 2003. The group of 10 states seeks
to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants starting in
(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner in New York)