June 5, 2013 By John Upton
More than 40 national governments and 20 states or other “sub-national” governments are now charging polluters for emitting greenhouse gases, or plan to start in the coming years, according to a new report from the World Bank.
The U.S., of course, is not one of the countries with a national cap-and-trade plan or carbon tax, but California and parts of New England are pushing ahead despite Congress’ refusal to act.
All in all, about 7 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases are now priced — the equivalent of 3.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide out of the total 50 gigatons emitted annually worldwide. Not a lot. But, says the report, “If China, Brazil, Chile, and the other emerging economies eyeing these mechanisms are included, carbon pricing mechanisms could reach countries emitting 24 [gigatons of CO2 equivalent] per year, or almost half of the total global emissions.”
The World Bank report also notes that many cap-and-trade programs are beginning to join together — California is partnering with Quebec, and the E.U. has joined up with Switzerland — which, in theory, should make it easier for companies to make the easiest cuts first. And many programs are trying to expand coverage. Australia and Korea are hoping to get 60 percent of their emissions covered, while California is aiming for 85 percent.
That said, the World Bank concludes that there hasn’t been nearly enough progress to avoid the worst effects of global warming. “The current level of action puts us on a pathway towards a 3.5–4°C warmer world by the end of this century, [which] would threaten our current economic model with unprecedented and unpredictable impacts on human life and ecosystems in the long term.”