Friday, June 12, 2009

Action on Climate Change

There are several technological solutions that will likely contribute to our ability to manage CO2, but only legislation can bring about the timely CO2 reductions required.

There is considerable urgency to reduce CO2 emissions. Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society said: "Unless global CO2 emissions can be cut by at least 50 per cent by 2050 and more thereafter, we could confront an underwater catastrophe, with irreversible changes in the makeup of our marine biodiversity. The effects will be seen worldwide, threatening food security, reducing coastal protection and damaging the local economies that may be least able to tolerate it."

There is widespread agreement that we must address the very real threat posed by CO2 and work towards a low carbon economy.

Technological Efforts

Powerful financial and environmental incentives are driving research efforts to develop technological solutions to manage CO2 emissions. One approach to the problem involves separating the carbon and oxygen molecules in CO2. However CO2 is a very stable and a lot of energy is required to break the bonds that hold the carbon and oxygen together.

Current research is exploring the use of catalysts (like the chlorophyll found in plants) to promote reactions that could separate the oxygen and carbon.

Other CO2 research directions are also being pursued by various organizations in the US and around the world. These organizations include: Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE), GREENTIE, the Greenhouse Gas Technology Information Exchange, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), CADDETT and ScientecMatrix.

Sustainable Business Practices

Although there are technological solutions that will likely help us to manage our carbon emissions, there are other more immediate efforts that can be implemented by businesses here and now.

Practice and advocate sustainable business: Reduce energy consumption, improve efficiency, increase usage of alternative energy, recycle, reuse, and move in the direction of a circular economy. Make Greener choices throughout your supply chain. Educate your staff and participate (or create) industry specific Green associations where you can share information and discuss best practices.

Businesses that practice sustainability benefit from positioning themselves as environmentally responsible leaders, while those businesses that are slow to engage sustainability may be punished in the marketplace.

Cap-and-Trade Legislation

Voluntary adoption of sustainable business practices help, but the passage of cap-and-trade legislation is amongst the most meaningful ways we can reduce CO2 while minimizing adverse economic impacts. Cap-and-trade provides a program of incentives and disincentives while letting the market do the difficult work of setting the price for CO2.

Cap-and-trade legislation will also make it easier for leaders to table a serious CO2 reduction framework at the UN sponsored Cop 15 meeting in Copenhagen late this year.

With many cap-and-trade agreements in place around the world we have strong evidence that it works. Functioning examples of cap-and-trade include the European Union's 27 member Emissions Trading Scheme as well as secondary trade in Kyoto Protocol carbon offsets.

According to a Wall Street and Technology article, "the U.N.'s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has 4500 projects in the pipeline with the potential to deliver around 2.9 billion offset credits by 2012."

The same article indicates the global market for carbon emissions trading doubled in value last year. The market grew to $126 billion up from $63 billion in 2007 and nearly 12 times the value in 2005. Last year a total 4.8 billion tons of CO2 was traded, up 61 percent from the 3 billion traded in 2007.

Cap-and-trade legislation is vital if we are to reduce CO2 within the specified time frames. Everyone can get involved by writing their political representatives and raising awareness about the importance of legislation to combat climate change.

U.S. Action

American leadership is vital and pressure is building for the US to cut CO2 emissions. Indian negotiator Surya Sethi, told BBC News: "In simple terms they need to do more. If they believe the science - and that's what they are telling us - they need to do more."

The US is crucial to global efforts to manage CO2 emissions and the Clean Energy and Security Act represents a serious attempt by legislators Waxman and Markey to substantially reduce American CO2 emissions. The bill seeks the nation's first federal cap-and-trade system for reducing CO2 and other GHGs. If passed into law this bill would reduce emissions by 83% below 2005 levels.

The bill also proposes that by 2020 all electric utilities be required to radically increase efficiency and produce up to 15% of their power using renewable sources. 15% of carbon credits will be auctioned off, the remaining 85% will be donated to important energy intensive industries. A vote in the full house could happen in August.

The importance of cap-and-trade legislation to substantially reduce CO2 cannot be overstated. If the Waxman-Markey Bill passes and if the European Union increases its emissions reduction targets to 30 percent by 2020, this would create about 600 million tons of offset credits per year.

Voluntary reductions in CO2 emissions, although laudable, are hugely insufficient and we do not have the time to wait for technological solutions. Industry played a major role increasing CO2 levels and industry must also play a major role reducing CO2 emissions. Cap-and-trade legislation is the most efficient way to help industry transition to a low CO2 economy.

Next: Carrotmobs: Adding Incentives to the Consumer Arsenal

Related Articles

CO2 Myths and the Science of Climate Change
The Effects of Global Warming
Primer on CO2 and other GHGs
The Renewable Energy Revolution
US Cap-and-Trade: Business
US Cap-and-Trade: Solutions
US Cap-and-Trade: What and Why
COP 15 Implications for Business
COP 15 Timetable
China-US Cooperation
Green Stimulus and Opposition
US Green Legislation
Green Stimulus Package Part 1
Environmental Politics
Market Based Social Change
Green Policy Debate in Canada
Cap-and-trade in Ontario and Quebec
Green Capitalism
Green Blueprint

1 comment:

Chuck said...

I think it is fantastic how we are using renewable energy and going green in so many ways. I think we also need to do things like reducing our energy usage, like installing geothermal heat pumps to replace high energy heating and cooling systems.