Last month, I joined business and policy leaders at the Climate Solutions Annual Dinner in Portland to talk about what's next in the fight against climate change. I came away inspired to focus even harder on solutions, but also with a renewed faith in state and regional action as the way forward on climate.
The truth is, we won't find a solution if we stick to old models and wait for squabbling politicians in Washington, D.C. to act. Today, regional partnerships among states with strong political leadership and engaged business interests are leading the way to a more sustainable future. This is the real story of climate action in the United States.
The West has the potential to lead the nation on climate action. We made important strides last month when the governors of California, Oregon and Washington and the premier of British Columbia signed an historic agreement to work toward a coordinated carbon market and clean fuel standard.
Together, these three states and our neighbor to the north represent the world's fifth largest economy. That's 53 million people and GDP of $2.8 trillion. So it's not a stretch to say the new Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy will make a huge difference for the entire country. And guess what? Congress had nothing to do with it.
God is in the details, of course, and hard work remains. The governors of Oregon and Washington face tough state legislative battles to either enact a cap and trade system like California or a carbon tax like British Columbia.
These are the very challenges that excite a new generation of climate activists, myself included. If regional leadership takes off, the federal government will be forced to catch up.
We've seen it in New England, where nine states have joined together in a regional carbon market, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, aimed at reducing carbon emissions 10 percent by 2018. And we've seen it in California, where a Republican governor passed the nation's strongest law to fight climate change, and where we're now working with Quebec to extend that market outward.
In each of these successful regional initiatives, business has been at the table from the beginning. This is a new world. The old paradigm of business versus the environment no longer holds. I say this as someone who actively bridges that supposed divide: a professional investor for 30 years, I retired in December to devote myself full time to the fight against climate change.
As a father to four kids, and as someone whose day job focused on evaluating long-term risk, I thought a lot about the future and knew I needed to change what it looked like. So that is why in all my political and philanthropic efforts on climate change, I've tried to bring business to the table -- not as an "unusual ally" trotted out at the press conference, but as a partner from the get-go. In the 2010 campaign I co-chaired with George Shultz, we built a coalition of environmental, labor, and business supporters to beat back the oil companies' efforts to gut California's climate law.
And in the 2012 campaign to close a corporate tax loophole and direct revenues to energy projects in public schools, we teamed with clean tech business interests from the drafting of the ballot proposition through Election Day. In both these efforts, and in the current fight to make climate change a defining issue in American politics, I've relied on my friends in the business community to give me the straight story about how the energy markets are really working, how clean tech business is really faring, and what the future of energy transformation could really hold.
The climate fight is coming to the West Coast. California's groundbreaking climate and energy solutions need to be expanded outward so we're not acting alone. And the western region has the potential to show the nation how to fight climate change and build economic prosperity at the same time.
I know we can lead. We just need to end in DC rather than starting there.
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