EU and California to discuss linking carbon markets

EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and California Governor Jerry brown said the EU and the US state are discussing plans to link their carbon markets. [European Parliament]

The EU and California are beginning talks to potentially create a common carbon market that could also include China.

EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and California Governor Jerry Brown discussed linking the bloc’s carbon trading market to the US state’s cap-and-trade system during meetings in the European Parliament on Tuesday (7 November).

“The EU and California are natural partners in the fight against climate change and have been pioneers in the early years of carbon markets and clean mobility,” Cañete said in a statement after meeting with Brown.

Brown said that his goal is to create a global emissions trading system. California, the most populous US state, already has a common carbon market that shares permits for greenhouse gas emissions with the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

A common carbon market with the EU “would be a concrete kind of investment move that California and other states and provinces could become a part of,” Brown said.

Brown also met with Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and discussed plans to link carbon markets with Commission officials who work on emissions trading.

The EU, which has the world’s largest carbon market, previously agreed to link its system with Australia, but that deal was later scrapped. China is likely to set up its own emissions trading system and would then eclipse the EU as the world’s largest market.

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The California governor is on a ten-day tour of Europe that includes talks at the UN COP23 conference in Bonn, where he will speak at the Chinese pavilion on emissions trading.

Brown has vowed to uphold the commitments in the Paris climate agreement to slash emissions on behalf of California, although US President Donald Trump announced in June that he will withdraw the federal government from the deal.

For now, the US federal government remains a signatory to the Paris agreement and will participate in discussions with other countries on how to implement it, the US’ senior envoy said at the start of the COP23 on Monday.

As a result of the California governor’s outspoken international push to fight climate change, EU politicians appeared eager to embrace Brown as an opponent to Trump’s policies.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said at the opening of a conference on clean energy on Tuesday, “The approach of Mr Trump at a global level is not necessarily as helpful as it might be but we are delighted to have Governor Brown here because it shows there is a strong commitment from the US.”

Brown will host a climate summit in San Francisco in September 2018, which Cañete plans to attend. The California governor wants that participants at that conference to outline specific plans to reduce emissions.

“You can think of the Paris agreement for nation states, the San Francisco conference will be a San Francisco agreement for subnational states and organisations,” Brown said.

He emphasised that regions and countries need to double down on their commitments and invest more money into fighting climate change.

“I always thought the European Union was a cumbersome organisation, but if you take the rest of the world it’s virtually ungovernable. It’s a big task and I don’t want to minimise or sound utopian,” Brown said.

“This is an absolute necessity to constantly lower our carbon emissions and get to that goal well before 2050, and then we have to go to negative and extract carbon from the environment. We don’t even know how to do that in the economical way. But if we don’t, the price will be harm, catastrophe. Europe won’t look pretty, nor will many other parts of the world,” he added.

Cooperation on zero-emission vehicles

In addition to committing to further discussions about connecting California and the EU’s carbon markets, Brown and Cañete also agreed to work together on developing zero-carbon transport. One EU source said the Commission is looking at ways to take on some of California’s state policies that could encourage auto manufacturers to build cleaner cars.

Cañete’s agreement with Brown comes one day before the EU executive is set to announce new legislation that aims to cut CO2 emissions in the transport sector.

California has a goal of adding 1.5 million new zero-carbon vehicles on its roads by 2025, a move hailed by environmentalists as an example to follow.

“Like China and India, California has set a clear target for zero-emission vehicles, acting as a good example for the EU,” said William Todts, Executive Director at Transport & Environment, a green NGO.

“We hope that the European Commission will follow this lead tomorrow when it releases its proposal on CO2 standards for cars and vans.”

Commission's new clean transport rules may lack ambition

The European Commission will unveil a package of legislation regulating environmental aspects of transport on Wednesday (8 November), amid concerns from NGOs and some MEPs that it may lack ambition in setting targets for the car industry.

Further Reading

The EU and Switzerland link their carbon markets

The world’s first carbon trading system has found a new partner in Switzerland. EURACTIV France reports.