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Ontario has joined the Western Climate Initiative, North America’s largest green partnership, just in time for its third major Stakeholder Workshop. Most Canadian provinces are now Partners or Observers in the WCI, with the notable exceptions of Alberta and the Atlantic provinces. In fact, a glance at the WCI map shows that Alberta is the last major holdout in the entire western half of North America.

In May, the WCI Partners released proposed recommendations to meet a regional goal of a 15% reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG) in emissions (below 2005 levels) by 2020. The recommendations call for a regional cap-and-trade program, in addition to whatever regulations, incentive programs, fee and tax programs, and voluntary programs are already under way or planned. By joining the WCI, Ontario commits itself to joining the regional cap-and-trade program in GHG.

The choice of the 2005 baseline makes the WCI program fundamentally incompatible with the Kyoto Protocol, which is based upon a 1990 baseline. This makes it unlikely that WCI offsets and credits would be tradable into the larger world system. However, organizers expect that the WCI trading bloc will be large enough to support a liquid market of its own. The growing enthusiasm of mainstream industry for carbon trading was underscored by RBC capital markets announcement this week that it now has global capabilities for GHG emission trading.

The growth of the WCI underscores Alberta’s isolation on climate change and risks leaving it, and the federal government, well behind.

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