Heeding the call of conservative activists, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday pulled the Garden State out of a regional greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program for Northeastern states.

Conservative groups — led by Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by billionaires Charles and David Koch — have been pushing Christie ever since he took office to abandon the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Climate change — or to be more specific, rejecting cap-and-trade style programs — has become something of a litmus test in the GOP presidential process, and Christie’s move only adds to speculation he’ll enter the 2012 race.

Christie said at a news conference in Trenton, N.J., that economic conditions prompted his decision to be the first state to pull out of RGGI since it started operating in 2008. The program calls for power plants in the state to cut their emissions from the power sector 10 percent by 2018.

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