For some time now, U.S. states have been well ahead of the federal government in taking action on climate change. In April came the latest big development: 34 U.S. states, two Canadian provinces (British Columbia and Manitoba), and the Campo Kumeyaay Nation joined together to form the Climate Registry. The 34 U.S. states together represent 78% of the U.S. population, and they represent impressive diversity, geographically, economically, and politically.
The Climate Registry evolved out of many states' efforts to begin to address climate change by developing consistent, transparent, and verifiable programs to measure and report GHG emissions across many sectors. Programs that measure, report, and verify emissions are critical first steps to develop just about any policy to reduce GHG emissions, be it voluntary, regulatory, governmental, or private sector. As Frances Beineke at the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) put it, "you have to count carbon pollution in order to cut carbon pollution."
The Climate Registry combines the work of many states on emissions registries under development or implementation over the years: many of which were based on WRI's GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard:
- The California Climate Action Registry: the first state-level, voluntary corporate GHG registry in the United States.
- The Eastern Climate Registry (ECR): a voluntary, corporate GHG registry initiated by a group of Northeast states. The ECR was designed to support voluntary reporting as well as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an emissions trading system for the electricity sector.
- In 2005, several states began to develop a Midwest registry inspired by the ones in the Northeast and in California. But by then there was growing interest from an increasing array of stakeholders—including the California Registry, the ECR, the Western Regional Air Partnership, as well as other states and tribes—to create a single, unified registry.
What makes the Climate Registry significant is that the majority of U.S. states will soon be using a unified accounting standard for GHG emissions. That makes it much easier for states to coordinate multi-state and regional strategies to reduce emissions. The Climate Registry is specifically designed to support both voluntary and mandatory policies. Companies will benefit from uniform standards across state lines. And ultimately, these standards may help support and provide a common template for federal climate change policies and programs as well.