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Will carbon trading save the world?



This week chiefs of global energy companies, including Shell and BP, called on world leaders to adopt a carbon pricing scheme ahead of UN talks later this year. Asher Kohn takes a look at how the idea of a carbon market took hold.

This article was originally published on Timeline. To download the Timeline app click here.

The Brief

Environmentalists have an unexpected ally in the fight against climate change — oil companies. Six of the world’s largest declared that they’re on board for a carbon market and that they look forward to seeing one come out of Bonn’s June 1-11 climate meetings.

The oil companies aren’t doing this out of kindness. A carbon market would make sooty coal more expensive, and render oil, gas and renewable-energy investments more attractive by comparison. With the EU and Big Oil (if not Big Coal) onboard, a global carbon market may be within reach. And regardless of whether carbon trading achieves its goal, it will certainly make some people a lot of money. Here’s how the idea took hold.

1920 – Economist brings external voice to energy debate

Britons in the early 20th century knew that soot from burning coal was rendering their fair isles not quite as fair as they used to be. Cambridge economist Arthur Cecil Pigou, assigned blame for British smog squarely on the coal industry.

It had long been agreed that a product might have costs not immediately visible; a drinker may pay a shilling for a beer to get drunk, but five shillings equals not just a drunk night, but a hungover morning. Pigou made the same argument for coal. He noted that people pay for the energy provided, but nobody pays the bill for sooty windows and sick livestock. Pigou argued that the crown should tax coal producers for the “external” costs society pays for their products.

1968 – Canadian economist breathes life into toxic lakes

Pigou published just before the Great Depression and World War II, which made politicians wary of his high-concept tax idea. But just because Pigovian taxes, as they were called, were unviable in real life didn’t stop economists from diving into their theoretical use.

University of Toronto economist John Dales proposed emission permits as a mechanism for Pigovian taxes. If the right to emit a certain amount of runoff and could be traded, he argued, the permits market would push environmental responsibility onto polluters. Published at a time when the car and steel industries dominated politics, Dales knew that his carbon market ideas were unlikely to gain traction any time soon.

1990 –  Clean Air Act limits acid rain

In the late 1980s, acid rain caught the public imagination for two reasons; it ignored political boundaries and it sounded scary as hell. Rainwater thatcontained nitrous oxides killed trees and fish, making for ugly pictures in the media.

US President George H.W. Bush cajoled Congress into signing amendments to the Clean Water Act to create permits for air pollutants, as Dales suggested years before. Businesses would reluctantly self-regulate, which many in both the industry and environmentalist camps hated. Stakeholders on both sides fought to maximize their advantage in a well-monitored permit market, which made it work better than many predicted.

2003 – Australian greenhouse gas scheme short-lived

Inspired by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the Australian state of New South Wales launched a “greenhouse gas abatement scheme” that went mandatory in 2003. Australia’s most populous state aimed to limit not just nitrous oxides but carbon dioxide by initiating tradeable permits. The state’s forestry department went on a large-sale tree-planting rush to use the trees as a carbon sink to offset coal plants’ carbon output.

The scheme was scrapped in 2012. Carbon dioxide turned out much tougher to track than anticipated. What’s worse, one company had acquired nearly half of the state’s carbon permits, and used their ownership position to manipulate the permit market.

2005 – Europe makes carbon market, recession undoes it

Soon after the Australian attempt, the European Union formed a similar emissions market that had a bit more structure and far more actors. The market launched in 2005, and EU regulators promised to take three years to see how it could be improved.

Unfortunately, the EU economy imploded in late 2007, done in not by carbon regulation but by real estate skullduggery. European policy was more focused on keeping people employed than building a perfect market, so the EU issued many more permits than necessary. This made it cheap to exceed allotted emissions caps, rendering the system ineffective. The EU promised to pop this bubble later in 2015 as part of their new international climate change protocols.

2013 – China slows coal roll

China’s astonishing growth over the past few decades has been on the back of cheap coal, so energy analysts were astonished when China’s National Energy Administration announced that they would aim to switch from coal to natural gas. Gas is more expensive to transport than coal, but it is safer to extract, cleaner to burn and easier to integrate into a global emissions market.

But China’s swap won’t save the world. Seven years before the move, an environmentalist discounted the Earth-saving potential of a global carbon market in New Scientist.

“Global warming requires…nothing less than a reorganisation of society and technology that will leave most remaining fossil fuels safely underground. Carbon trading can’t do this.” – Larry Lohmann

2015 – Oil companies sign up for free market

Six major European oil companies wrote an open letter to the United Nations with an unusual request: Please regulate us! As the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meets in Bonn from June 1-11, the oil titans stated “We stand ready to play our part.”

What sounds altruistic is more likely a clever play. The past century of carbon markets have targeted far dirtier coal, which makes oil and natural gas more attractive in comparison. The European oil companies have much to gain from a carbon market, and it looks like China may mitigate coal use. If the US and its companies sign up, the market might work. Whether that means blue skies, black ink or both remains to be seen.

Photo: Greg Goebel via Flickr

Further reading:

EU votes to fix carbon market in 2019


How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool



eco-friendly pool for home owners
Licensed Image from Shutterstock - By alexandre zveiger

Swimming pools are undoubtedly one of the most luxurious features that any home can have. But environmentally-conscious homeowners who are interested in having a pool installed may feel that the potential issues surrounding wasted water, chemical use and energy utilized in heating the water makes having a home swimming pool difficult to justify.

But there is good news, because modern technologies are helping to make pools far less environmentally harmful than ever before. If you are interested in having a pool built but you want to make sure that it is as eco-friendly as possible, you can follow the advice below. From natural pools to solar panel heating systems, there are many steps that you can take.

Choose a natural pool to go chemical free

For those homeowners interested in an eco-friendly pool, the first thing to consider is a natural pool. Natural swimming pools utilise reed bed technology or moss-filtration to naturally filter out dirt from the water. These can be combined with eco-pumps to allow you to have a pool that is completely free from chemicals.

Not only are traditional pool chemicals potentially harmful to the skin, they also mean that you can contaminate the area around the pool if chemical-filled water leaks or is splashed around. This can be bad for your garden and the environment general.

It will be necessary to work with an expert pool builder to ensure that you have the expertise to get your natural pool installed properly. But the results with definitely be worth the effort and planning that you have to put in.

Avoid concrete if possible

The vast majority of home pools are built using concrete but this is far from ideal in terms of an eco-friendly pool for a large number of reasons. Concrete pools are typically built and then lined to stop keep out any bacteria. This is theoretically fine, except that concrete is porous and the lining can be liable to erode or break which can allow bacteria to enter the pool.

It is much better to use a non-porous material such as fibreglass or carbon ceramic composite for your pool. Typically, these swimming pools are supplied in a one-piece shell rather than having to be built from scratch, ensuring a bacteria-free environment. These non-porous materials make it impossible for the water to become contaminated through bacteria seeping into the pool by osmosis.

The further problem that can arise from having a concrete pool is that once this bacteria begins to get into the pool it can be more difficult for a natural filtration system to be effective. This can lead to you having to resort to using chemicals to get the pool clean.

Add solar panels

It is surprising how many will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their pool is as eco-friendly as possible in terms of building and maintaining it but then fall down on something extremely obvious. No matter what steps you take with the rest of your pool, it won’t really be worth the hassle if you are going to be conventionally heating your pool up, using serious amounts of energy to do so.

Thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your pool is heated to a pleasant temperature while causing minimal damage to the environment. Firstly, gathering energy using solar panels has become a very popular way to reduce consumption of electricity as well as decreasing utility bills. Many businesses offer solar panels specifically for swimming pools.

Additionally, installing an energy efficient heat pump or boiler to work in conjunction with your solar panels can be hugely beneficial.

Cover it!

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are many benefits to investing in a pool cover. When you cover your pool you increase its heat retention which stops you from having to power a pump or boiler to keep it warm. This works in conjunction with the solar panels and eco-friendly heating system that you have already had installed.

Additionally, you cover helps to keep out dirt and other detritus that can enter the pool, bringing in bacteria. Anything that you can do to keep bacteria out will be helpful in terms of keeping it clean.

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4 Ways To Get a Green House in 2018




green house and homes
Featured Image From Shutterstock - By

Demand for green houses is surging. In 2020, almost 20% of all homes on the market will be green.

If you would like to buy a green home, this is a great time to look into it. Prices are still pretty low and there are a lot more financing options available than there were right after the recession.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, now could be a very good time to make the move! A number of factors in the housing market right now mean that you might be able to afford your dream home. Although in many parts of the country house prices are still rising, if you do your research and plan wisely, there are lots of good schemes to help you get your foot on the property ladder, or trade up to the house you’ve always wanted.

Interest Rates and Stamp Duty

Although the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25% recently, they remain very low, which is good news if you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage. However, rates may not stay low and it’s predicted that there’ll be a further rate rise during 2018, so don’t wait too long. Another factor that’s going to help first time buyers in particular is the Chancellor’s decision to abolish stamp duty for first timers purchasing properties for under £300,000.

Different options

For many people looking to buy a green home, raising a deposit of between 5% and 20% may not be a realistic option, in which case there are a growing number of schemes to help. Increasingly popular are shared ownership schemes, through which the buyer pays a percentage of the full value of the property (typically between 25% and 75%) and the local council or a housing association pays the rest, and takes part ownership. This is suitable for buyers who may struggle to meet the up-front costs of buying outright. There will often be a service charge or management fees to pay in addition to the mortgage. The Government’s Help To Buy scheme is a good place to start looking if you’re interested in this option. This scheme is now available to people looking to buy green homes too.

ISA Options

If you’re still saving for a deposit, another scheme is the Help to Buy ISA. You can get a 25% boost to your savings on amounts up to £200 per month with this scheme. It’s only open to first time buyers and you can claim a maximum of £3000.

Other costs

Green home buyers are going to run into a number of other ancillary costs, most of which are common to other homebuyers.

When calculating how much you can afford, it’s vitally important to remember that buying a house comes with a whole host of other costs. Depending on the cost of the property that you’re buying, you may have to pay stamp duty of anywhere between 1% and 5%. There’ll be estate agents fee if you’re also selling a property, although there are a wide range of online estate agents operating such as Purple Bricks or Right Move that have lower fees than traditional high street companies. Conveyancing costs to a solicitor can add another £1000-£3000 and you may need to take out life insurance and hire a moving firm.

There are other initial costs such as, fixing parts of the home that aren’t upto your taste. Getting new furniture to fill up all the new-found space in your new home. If you are moving away from the city, you need to consider the cost of transportation as well, as it can take up quite a lot over time. Take your time, do your homework and shop around and soon you could be getting the keys to your perfect home.

I hope this article was useful for you to learn more about the basics that you need to be aware of before you start the process of buying your first home. If you have any doubts with regards to this, let us know through the comments and we will be glad to help you out. If you have any suggestions regarding how we can improve the article, let us know them through the comments as well for us to improve.

Do you have any other reservations against buying your first home? Do you see your house as an asset or a liability? Do you think it is important for everyone to get themselves a new home? Let us know through the comments.

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