Archive for the ‘Carbon Offsets’ Category

China, a Big Country With Big Environmental Problems, is Starting to Make Big Plans for Big CO2 Reduction.

Pollution Over East China via Wikimedia Commons

Pollution Over East China
via Wikimedia Commons

We recently wrote about how the concentration of CO2  in the environment has reached a point higher than it has been in millions of years.  A lot of the newer COno doubt came from the Middle Kingdom. China, which is currently responsible for a quarter of all carbon emissions worldwide, has been under intense pressure in recent years to curb its output of global warming gases. It has consistently resisted doing so, citing the imperatives of economic development and the central, seemingly irreplaceable, role that coal plays in driving the country’s growth. Indeed, China consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined. China’s refusal to rein in its emissions has served as a useful excuse for other nations to drag their heels. Why tighten your own belt when the big guy over there is loosening his?

But rampant pollution and the looming threats posed by global climate change are affecting a notable turn-around in China. Pollution in its capital city has become the stuff of international legend. Gas masks are becoming must-have accessories for business travelers in Beijing. China is now a major, market-disrupting producer of  solar panels and wind turbines much to the dismay of German and U.S. manufacturers.  And now, in a dramatic about-face, the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gas pollution has agreed to follow some 200 other countries and agreed to impose a cap on its COemissions and cut the amount of  COper dollar of economic output – something the U.S. has so far been unwilling to do.

Britain’s Climate and Energy Change Secretary Ed Davey believes China’s changing attitude towards climate change demonstrated by its willingness to impose a ceiling as soon as 2016 may provide a significant push toward reaching an ambitious global accord on emissions reduction.  “At the end of last year the Chinese leadership changed and started talking about creating an ‘ecological civilization’. This doesn’t mean they have signed up to every bit of the climate change talks, but it means they recognize that their economic model has to take account of pollution and the environment and that damage that it’s doing to people’s health.” Perhaps China and the U.S. will finally stop passing the climate buck back and forth and jointly pave the way for a global deal.

China’s vow to dramatically reduce emissions doesn’t appear to be merely theoretical. In another first, the country has unveiled its first carbon–trading program which will cover 638 companies in the southern city of Shenzhen.

And the country isn’t just getting aggressive about reducing coal and industrial emissions. It’s pressing ahead with far more unconventional methods of reducing its carbon footprint. And what is its latest eccentric proposal?  How about building an entire self-contained city in one of the tallest buildings in the world in just seven months?  The Broad Sustainable Construction Company has announced it will build a pre-fab 220-story, 2,750 high building containing some 4,450 apartments and 100,000 square feet of indoor vertical farms on a greenfield site in just over half a year. The goal, aside from dramatically increasing the speed with which skyscrapers can be built, is to simultaneously increase the energy efficiency and lower the carbon footprint of what will amount to a brand new city of 30 thousand people.  A resident of BSC’s mega tower is expected to use only 1/100th of the land used by a typical Chinese citizen.

China, a big country with big environmental problems, is starting to make big plans for big COreduction.

“U.S. vs. EU ETS” More Than One Year Later

Photo by chimothy27. Some rights reserved.

While I had every intention of throwing the Green Mien a one-year anniversary party, the day (September 8th) slipped by unnoticed.

One thing that hasn’t slipped by unnoticed? The European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which was spotlighted on the Green Mien just over a year ago.

The EU’s Directive 2008/101/EC, which requires airlines with operations “to, from and within the EU” to limit their aircrafts’ carbon dioxide emissions and/or buy allowances to cover their emissions, is still scheduled to go into effect in 2012. But to say it’s an unpopular plan stateside would be an understatement.

Just yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 2594) that prohibits “operators of civil aircraft of the United States from participating in the European Union’s emissions trading scheme.” There will be no playing nicely with others here.

H.R. 2594 calls the EU trading scheme “inconsistent with long-established international law and practice,” claiming that it “undermines ongoing efforts at the International Civil Aviation Organization to develop a unified, worldwide approach to reducing aircraft greenhouse gas emissions and has generated unnecessary friction within the international civil aviation community as it endeavors to reduce such emissions.”

The Hill’s Floor Action Blog has more.

Environmentalists vs…Carbon Cap-and-Trade?

Photo by West Point Public Affairs. Some rights reserved.

A recent Update from ML Strategies (a consulting affiliate of law firm Mintz Levin) tipped us off to an interesting case that pits California’s proposed carbon cap-and-trade system against two environmental justice groups.

Environmentalists were largely united in their excitement over the passage of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (more popularly known as AB 32), which was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2006. The Act directed the California Air Resources Board (CARB), to develop regulations and market mechanisms that would help the state meet its goal of a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

However, the cap-and-trade program that CARB proposed as part of its implementation of AB 32 created a sharp rift among those environmentalists. While many were elated to see the plan take shape, some saw the cap-and-trade program as the “industry-preferred” approach – one that does not require polluters to reduce emissions, rather allowing them to buy “reductions” from other polluters. Opponents of cap-and-trade argue that these polluters are “disproportionately located in low income communities of color.” A 2010 study by the University of Southern California affirms this argument.

In 2009, a group of individuals, along with attorneys from the two environmental justice groups, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment and Communities for a Better Environment, filed a lawsuit against CARB, arguing that it had violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it failed to analyze and consider alternatives to the cap-and-trade program prior to implementation of AB 32.

(It’s interesting to note that representatives from both the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment and Communities for a Better Environment sit on CARB’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, though perhaps this speaks to the limited influence the Committee ultimately has on CARB’s implementation plans.)

Less than two months ago, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the petitioning environmental justice groups, and enjoined CARB from any further implementation of AB 32 until it “has come into complete compliance with its obligations under its certified regulatory program and CEQA.”

Pursuant to the judge’s decision, the petitioners were ordered to submit proposed documents (“Writ of Mandate”) to finalize the Court’s order. As explained in the accompanying letter, these proposals limit the scope of the injunction to include only the development and implementation of the cap-and-trade program, in order to allow “the good part” of AB 32 to move forward.

Carbon Neutral Coffee: May Both Your Beans And Your Marketing Claims Be Green

Photo by איתן. Some rights reserved.

Like coffee? Well, duh. (I write this from Seattle, WA, so excuse my assumptions.)

But most eco-conscious consumers know that every fragrant, tasty, and imported cup comes at an environmental cost. Last year, a Canadian coffee company commissioned a study that was used to calculate the carbon footprint of a single person’s coffee consumption (based on an average 2.6 cups/day). The study considered every step in the coffee-making process, from farming, roasting, and transporting the beans to boiling the water in your kitchen and eventually tossing the used grounds. The findings? This fortifying habit generates an eye-opening 35 kilograms of CO2 annually (comparable to driving a car about 105 miles).

The environmental impact leaves a lot to be desired, though it nicely sets the stage for companies who would like to work towards – and market to customers who strive for – carbon neutrality.

Enter Coopedota R.L. Earlier this week, the 800 farmer coffee cooperative in Costa Rica announced that after 12 years working towards carbon neutrality, their efforts had finally paid off – they are reportedly the first of their kind to export this certifiably “carbon neutral” coffee.

The certification comes in the form of PAS 2060, a set of materials developed by British independent standards-setter BSI that “allows organizations to ensure their carbon neutrality claims are correct and gain customers’ confidence.” While PAS 2060, which was launched in April of 2010, may be one of few private standards to be recognized internationally, no formal international certification scheme currently exists.

And what is carbon neutrality? Generally, “carbon neutral” describes an entity whose greenhouse gas emissions net to zero, usually by both decreasing carbon emissions as well as sequestering or offsetting an equivalent amount of carbon, or purchasing carbon credits to cover the difference. However, according to the FTC, no uniform definition of the term exists (though I’m sure The CarbonNeutral Company, who purportedly first coined and registered the term in 1998 would disagree).

In the states, we’re still far from any kind of national standard or certification scheme. However, the FTC is making progress towards developing federal regulations that dictate how products can use marketing claims of “carbon neutrality.” The FTC’s Green Guides cover environmental marketing generally, but it’s only in the past few years that consumers and marketers alike have clamored for more specific guidance on carbon neutrality claims. As we reported last October, the FTC is currently in the process of updating the Green Guides to address consumer feedback and to reflect changes in the marketplace.

You can see section VI.E (starting on page 166) of the FTC’s proposal for a discussion of the proposed changes (and initial feedback) relating to carbon offsets and carbon neutrality, or you can jump straight to page 201 for the actual proposed additions to the Green Guides regarding carbon offsets. This language, once approved, will eventually be codified at 16 CFR 260.5.

In the meantime, ease some of your consumer guilt by following these simple rules.

%d bloggers like this: