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Calif., Provinces Push Regional Cap and Trade; In Europe, Carbon Slump Continues

The Western Climate Initiative, a coalition of U.S. states and Canadian provinces seeking to create a regional carbon trading program, has created a non-profit corporation to support state and provincial emissions trading programs.

WCI, Inc. plans to develop a compliance tracking system for allowances and offsets, administer allowance auctions, and conduct market monitoring. Its initial board of directors includes officials from California, Quebec and British Columbia.

California’s cap-and-trade program sets limits on carbon emissions starting next year. The California Air Resources Board gave its final approval to the system on October 20. Emitters will also be able to meet up to eight percent of their required emissions reductions through carbon offsets.

Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has ended its carbon offset program, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The utility’s ClimateSmart program let customers pay for offsets, but the program only attracted about 31,000 participants at its peak, compared to the 168,000 that PG&E predicted.

A company spokeswoman said the program reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 1.3 million metric tons, with participants contributing about $10 million over four years.

Across the Atlantic, the European debt crisis has helped to push the price of emissions permits in that trading program to near three-year lows, the New York Times reports, and is hurting investment in renewable and low-carbon technologies on the continent.

Wolfgang Sterk, a policy analyst with the Wuppertal Institute in Germany, said the low EU prices shouldn’t affect the nascent markets in California or in Australia, which passed legislation creating a carbon tax last week.

But in Europe, the Times said, the price slump has caused many traders and brokers to leave the carbon market.

On Thursday Ricardo Leiman, chief executive of commodity trader Noble Group, quit after the firm said it made a $17 million loss in Q3, its first quarterly loss for over a decade, Reuters reported. Chairman Richard Elman blamed the recent decline in prices for U.N. offsets called Certified Emissions Reductions.

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