This page last reviewed November 21, 2013

Cap-and-Trade Program

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This website provides information about California’s Cap-and-Trade Program that took effect in early 2012. The enforceable compliance obligation begins on January 1, 2013, for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

Program Implementation Activities:

Regulation, Guidance, Market Information, Forms, FAQs & Meetings

Information about...

Background Information

The AB 32 Scoping Plan identifies a cap-and-trade program as one of the strategies California will employ to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change. This program will help put California on the path to meet its goal of reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, and ultimately achieving an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050. Under cap-and-trade, an overall limit on GHG emissions from capped sectors will be established by the cap-and-trade program and facilities subject to the cap will be able to trade permits (allowances) to emit GHGs. 

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has designed a California cap-and-trade program that is enforceable and meets the requirements of AB 32. The development of this program included a multi-year stakeholder process and consideration of potential impacts on disproportionately impacted communities. The program starts on January 1, 2012, with an enforceable compliance obligation beginning with the 2013 GHG emissions. 

California is working closely with British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba through the Western Climate Initiative to develop harmonized cap and trade programs that will deliver cost-effective emission reductions. The WCI jurisdictions have formed a non-profit corporation, WCI, Inc. to provide coordinated and cost-effective administrative and technical support for its participating jurisdictions’ emissions trading programs. Just as with other voluntary agreements that ARB establishes with local air districts, states, federal government, and contractors, ARB’s agreement with WCI, Inc. does not confer any decision making authority; decisions concerning the ARB’s cap-and-trade regulation are made by ARB at the direction of the Board. More details on the organization and operation of WCI, Inc., can be found at:

What is Cap-and-Trade?

Cap-and-trade is a market based regulation that is designed to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) from multiple sources. Cap-and-trade sets a firm limit or “cap” on GHGs and minimize the compliance costs of achieving AB 32 goals. The cap will decline approximately 3 percent each year beginning in 2013. Trading creates incentives to reduce GHGs below allowable levels through investments in clean technologies. With a carbon market, a price on carbon is established for GHGs. Market forces spur technological innovation and investments in clean energy. Cap-and-trade is an environmentally effective and economically efficient response to climate change.

For regulation or program questions contact the Cap-and-Trade Hotline at (916) 322-2037

News or Press inquiries should be directed to ARB's Public Information Office at (916) 322-2990