A smart move with a greenhouse-gas registry

More U.S. states and Canadian provinces are getting together to do what their federal governments won’t. According to Reuters, 31 states (representing 70 per cent of the American population) plus British Columbia and Manitoba have agreed to set up a greenhouse-gas emissions registry. Before you can tackle a problem, you first have to understand its exact scope, and this is a major step in the right direction.

The plan is to have the registry working by next January, collecting and independently verifying emissions data from the participating governments — who’s emitting what and where. The data will support the western regional effort to cut greenhouse gases (the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative), and the northeastern states’ (plus, perhaps, Ontario’s) mutual pledge to cut power-plant emissions by 10 per cent within 10 years (generically called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative).

Here’s my favourite part, which Reuters buries near the end of the story:

Companies and organizations could log early actions in cutting greenhouse gases on the registry and possibly get credit for them if future state or national limits on the gases are passed.

If you’re a major emitter and you’ve been expecting that some kind of cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases would eventually come along, till now the only rational choice has been to continue doing what you’ve always done — why would you invest in cutting your emissions now when you expect to be able to be rewarded for doing the exact same things in three years, or five, or ten?

The existence of a registry like this will help conscientious companies make the financial case to themselves (and their boards, and their shareholders, or vice-versa) to act as soon as the registry kicks in.

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