VICTORIA, — British Columbia, Manitoba and six western U.S. states that have established a regional goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, a target that will lay the foundation for a common cap and trade system.

Members of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI)- British Columbia, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Utah and Manitoba -- agreed to the target after a meeting in Vancouver earlier this month. The WCI will use its new regional goal in designing a regional, market-based, multi-sector mechanism, such as a load-based cap and trade program, by August 2008.

Any emissions trading market formed by the Western states could be linked to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a mandatory cap-and-trade program planned by a group of seven Northeast States. Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont will limit emissions to current levels beginning in 2009, and make incremental reductions to achieve a 10 percent cut by 2019.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell noted the regional goal reflects the combined impact of emission-related targets B.C. and other members have set, and does not supersede those individual targets. Members will use the regional goal in assessing requests from other jurisdictions to join the WCI. BC has set a GHG reduction target of 33 percent below current levels by 2020, which will place emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels.

Since then, the Province has signed memorandums of understanding with California and Washington State on climate change and Pacific Ocean conservation and joined the Climate Registry, a cross-border GHG registry which includes with Manitoba, 34 U.S. states, and three tribal members.

The registry -- North America's largest co-operative effort on climate change, representing over 70 percent of the U.S. population -- is seen as a critical first step in developing emissions reduction programs such as cap-and-trade systems across the U.S. and North America.

Currently, four other U.S. states (Colorado, Kansas, Nevada and Wyoming), three other Canadian provinces (Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan) and one Mexican state (Sonora) are participating as observers of the WCI's deliberations. Some of these entities, as well as others, may seek to join the WCI as full members in the future.

At the recent Council of Federation meeting in New Brunswick, Canadian Premiers focused their annual meeting on energy and climate change. There was agreement in many areas, including renewable energy and energy efficiency, and a strong show of commitment and leadership. However, sharp divisions persist, notably on the creation of a national cap-and-trade system. Leaders of 12 of 13 provinces and territories did agree to work toward the objective of implementing California tailpipe emissions standards. B.C., Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba also committed to a cap and trade system.

This article originally appeared on Globe-Net.ca and is reprinted with permission.