The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, is wrapping up Friday after 12 days of negotiations on global carbon emissions.
Yet, even as we work through the complexities of an international agreement, it would be a mistake to miss the extensive change that’s already taking place here on North America’s Pacific Coast. Last year, our four governments — the states of California, Oregon and Washington and the Province of British Columbia — reached a landmark agreement to align climate and energy strategies for 54 million Americans and Canadians.
The Pacific Coast represents the world’s fifth-largest economy, with a GDP of $2.8 trillion. By working together we are transforming our economies and influencing world markets for the better. Our regional model shows that it is possible to take serious action on climate change and simultaneously expand an economy with well-paying jobs. And we believe it can be a blueprint for other regions to take action.
Our agreement, which established the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, represents a regionwide commitment to air quality, clean fuels, carbon pricing, and clean-energy jobs. But it also respects that we have different approaches to reaching our shared goals. California’s carbon pricing program uses an economywide cap-and-trade system, while British Columbia has a revenue-neutral carbon tax program. Oregon is building on existing programs to set a price on carbon emissions. Washington is developing a carbon market program, including consultations with stakeholders.
We are aligning our reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions and charting collective progress. We also want clean-energy businesses in our region to grow. All of our jurisdictions are working together to advance zero-emission vehicles, promote energy-efficient buildings and develop climate-resilient infrastructure.
It’s our goal not just to make an impact on the Pacific Coast but also to create a prosperous pathway and successful model. We called for action at the U.N. Climate Summit in New York in September. This week we took our message and model to Lima. Next year we will join in the effort to reach a final, comprehensive climate agreement in Paris.
We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished. Yet, if we’re alone in what we’re doing, our efforts won’t be enough. We are mindful of the proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” In the battle to save a warming planet, we do not have the luxury of going slowly or alone.
Edmund G. Brown Jr. is the governor of California, John Kitzhaber is the governor of Oregon, Jay Inslee is the governor of Washington and Christy Clark is the premier of British Columbia. The four leaders are members of the Pacific Coast Collaborative.