The Washington Department of Ecology is inviting public feedback about the possibility of connecting the state's new cap-and-invest program to similar carbon reduction programs in California and Québec. This “linkage” would create a single market with a larger pool of participating emitters, potentially increasing the stability of the emissions market and reducing carbon prices.
The Climate Commitment Act, the 2021 law that established the cap-and-invest program, directs Ecology to evaluate the benefits of linking the state's carbon market and states that specific criteria be met before pursuing such an agreement. Among the criteria, a linkage agreement must broaden opportunities for businesses to decrease emissions, reduce the program’s overhead costs, increase market security, and support the state’s ability to meet its statutory commitment to reduce carbon pollution by 95% by 2050.
"Though we can see the benefits of linking to programs in California and Québec, we are committed to ensuring that any linkage agreement is in the best interest of Washington's environment, economy, communities, and climate goals" said Ecology’s director, Laura Watson. “The law is clear about the criteria that must be met, and Ecology is now beginning a thorough public process to gather input from partners and the public before making any decision on linkage."
Ecology will provide several ways for the public to provide input, including online listening sessions and an online survey. The public listening sessions will be held on March 16, March 29, and April 18. A separate Tribal Forum will be held on Feb. 9, although Tribal members are also invited to attend the public meetings. While the sessions will focus on attendee input and questions, Ecology staff will also share background on the cap-and-invest program, linkage criteria, and the decision-making process.
“The law directs Ecology to develop Washington's program to be 'linkage-ready,' so many of the key aspects of our program are already aligned,” said Luke Martland, who oversees the new cap-and-invest program for Ecology. “The Legislature clearly envisioned a linked market, so we have built Washington’s program to dovetail as seamlessly as possible with those in other jurisdictions if Ecology determines that linkage meets the requirements set in the Climate Commitment Act."
Ecology plans to make a decision in summer 2023 on whether to pursue linking with California and Québec.
If Washington, California, and Québec each decide to pursue linkage, the three jurisdictions would begin discsussing a linkage agreement and revising program regulations, as needed, to align the programs – a process that would take at least a year. Ecology will ask for public input again before approving a linkage agreement.
Registration and more information available here.