Cap-and-invest linkage

Established by the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) in 2021, Washington’s cap-and-invest program is only the second of its kind in the United States. The first U.S. program began in California in 2013, at the same time a similar program was started in Québec, Canada. Given their similar structure and goals, it was determined that "linking" the two carbon markets could yield important benefits in emissions reductions and long-term program sustainability. California and Québec connected their programs in 2014, creating one shared carbon market.

Now, Washington is starting the process of determining whether linking our carbon market with these other jurisdictions would be beneficial. A decision will be made in summer 2023 or later. Then, California and Québec would need to undergo their own processes to decide whether to link, and all three programs might need to revise some regulations, so finalizing linkage would not happen until at least 2025.

What would linkage mean for Washington?

Linkage means combining Washington's cap-and-invest program with similar carbon markets.

A linked cap-and-invest program would mean that Washington would have joint allowance auctions with California and Québec, and all three jurisdictions would share a common allowance price. Market participants could also trade allowances across jurisdictions — meaning allowances issued by the other two programs could be used by Washington businesses to cover their emissions, and vice versa.

The Climate Commitment Act directs us to actively consider linking Washington's cap-and-invest program with other carbon markets and requires that our state's program be built in such a way that linking would be as seamless as possible. However, the law also requires us to review specific criteria to ensure linkage would benefit our state’s communities, economy, and climate goals.

What are some of the potential impacts of linking markets with California and Québec?

When California and Québec linked in 2014, it created a single market with a higher volume of emissions allowances being traded. Larger markets are generally more stable and have more consistent pricing, because a larger pool of emitters reduces price swings when participants enter or leave the program.

The agreement to link California and Québec's markets has enabled businesses to participate in these programs more sustainably and has generated lasting reductions in carbon pollution and much-needed revenue for critical climate projects.

However, the potential impacts of linking Washington's market are still unknown. We are evaluating a number of considerations and reviewing public input as we work to determine whether to link.


Linkage process and timeline

The decision to link markets is a multistep process. First, we gathered input from our partners and the public on whether linkage would be good for Washington and we are evaluating the linkage criteria set forth in the law. The other two jurisdictions would also need to go through their own processes to see if they want to link.

Below, you'll find a general timeline for how we expect this process to roll out, and we'll update this information if we anticipate any changes.

More information

Stay updated on next steps

We asked for public input during a Spring outreach period, which ended May 15, 2023, and now we are using your input to inform our analysis of the linkage criteria laid out in the CCA and the preliminary decision on whether to pursue linkage. 

Thank you to everyone who joined a public listening session or sent us comments! This summer, we will share a summary of the input we received. We provided multiple options for submitting comments, including three online listening sessions, an online survey, email, mail, and voicemail. For a link to the recordings of an online public listening session, please email us at

We held a forum for Tribal governments on Feb. 9, 2023, on the topic of linking Washington's cap-and-invest program. If you represent a Tribal government and would like to meet with us, please contact us at

There will be another opportunity for public input before we approve a linkage agreement, sometime in 2024 or later. You can sign up for Climate Commitment Act email alerts to stay up-to-date on our work.