There is growing interest in carbon pricing as a policy tool to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for climate change—including carbon markets and carbon taxes—as well as their links with other regulatory efforts for climate change mitigation. In North America, Quebec, California and, until recently, Ontario have played a leading role in climate policy through an emissions trading system operating under the aegis of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI). At the same time, the Canadian federal government has made carbon pricing a cornerstone of its climate action plan, which will have a significant impact on provincial climate policies undertaken to date. Similarly, states in the northeastern United States, including Vermont, have established the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Despite the importance of carbon pricing as a policy instrument for combating emissions, it is not the only instrument for reducing emissions. And among the sources of emissions in both Canada and the United States, the transportation sector is the largest and has proven amongst the most difficult to address. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research collaborations across jurisdictions involved in carbon pricing—particularly those linked by emissions trading systems—promises to shed light on many questions facing governments, business and other policy actors in the jurisdictions involved.
Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time, requiring an unprecedented level of global cooperation to avoid dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Coordinated action at the sub-national level has increasingly been seen as a hopeful spur to greater climate action through more “bottom-up” political processes. In North America, Quebec, California and, until recently, Ontario have taken an important leadership role in climate policy through a linked greenhouse gas emissions trading system operating under the auspices of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI)—a voluntary cooperative agreement between partner jurisdictions. Similarly, states in the northeastern US, including Vermont, have established the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), though currently not of the same ambition as the WCI. Transport is the largest source of emissions all four jurisdictions included in the JCCTRP.
A coordinated, integrative research effort that explores the various technical, economic and political dimensions of efforts to reduce emissions in the transport sector, in Quebec, California, Ontario and Vermont is timely and important for three reasons. First, there is increasing interest in carbon pricing in North America, including greater scrutiny of carbon markets, while also potential interest of linking WCI and RGGI together in addition to linking to other emissions trading systems elsewhere in the world. Second, despite the importance of carbon pricing as a policy instrument for tackling emissions, it is not the only nor necessarily the most effective instrument to reduce emissions in the transport sector. Indeed, California and Quebec expect most of the emission reductions in the transport sector to be accomplished through policies such as improved vehicle efficiency measures, broader efforts to transition to low-carbon energy sources, and expanded provision of public transport services. Yet there are concerns that regulatory approaches might prove ineffective and complicate carbon market linkages. Third, the JCCTRP will work to transcend existing interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research barriers in order to generate robust, policy-relevant knowledge and understanding about climate and transport policy across the four jurisdictions.