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.
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
How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018
Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.
Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:
1. Energy – produce it, save it
If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.
It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.
While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.
Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!
2. Don’t be just another tourist
Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.
3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly
We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.
To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.
It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.
4. Know thy recycling
People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.
People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.
5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool
Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.
All in all
The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.
Top 5 Changes You can Make in Your Life to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
In a world, where war rages and global warming threatens our very existence, the inhabitants of earth need to be extra vigilant in their efforts to go green. This includes reducing your carbon footprint on the earth and leading a more sustainable life.
Many homeowners feel perplexed by all of the options available to reduce their carbon footprint. They may even feel (falsely) that making their household more green will fail to make that much of a difference in the fight to save our planet.
Even a single home going green has a massive impact on the environment. We can win this battle on home at a time. If you’re interested in accepting the challenge of making your household a green home, read on below for a few of the top changes you can make in your life to reduce your carbon footprint. We all stand to benefit from making the earth safer for future generations – and your wallet won’t complain when you start to see the savings in annual energy costs.
Switch From Dirty Energy to Clean Solar
The ION Solar reviews tell it all–solar is the best way to go. Whether your goal is to slash your energy bills, or to reduce your carbon footprint, the sun is a fantastic source of renewable energy.
It’s important to get past the hype from solar installers. Instead, listen to the plethora of impartial customer reviews that mention everything from a $20 energy bill, to the incredible feeling of knowing that you are doing your part by going green and minimizing harmful emissions in to our atmosphere.
The average investment is $15,000 to $30,000 for installation and purchase of solar panels. Optional battery power packs can help provide consistent power during both night and day. And many government agencies provide federal, state or local grants to help offset upfront investments in clean energy.
Depending on which installed you choose, your household may qualify for low-interest or zero interest loans to cover the up-front cost of your installation. And the loan payments are usually less than your current monthly power bill.
It really is a win-win, as home buyers are looking for homes that feature this technology – meaning solar power installation improves the resale value of your property.
And there are a number of additional home modifications that can help improve the energy efficiency of your home. A programmable thermostat can better manage energy consumption from home cooling and heating systems while you’re away from home. And weather stripping your doors can help keep cool air in during the summer, and warm air in during the winter.
Of course, energy conservation starts at home. And this includes setting a powerful example for your kids. Teach your children how to close windows, strategically keep doors open or closed based on airflow, and encourage them to leave the thermostat alone – opting for adding or removing layers of clothing instead.
Unplug Appliances and Shut Off Electronics
Unplugging your appliances when they aren’t in use, such as the toaster and the coffee maker, has more of an impact than you might think. Set your TVs and stereos on sleep timers, instead of letting them run around the clock. The cumulative impact of wasteful electronic device usage is horrible for our environment – putting unnecessary strain on our electrical grid.
One of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by recycling. You are already throwing this stuff away anyway, right? It doesn’t take much more effort to just put recyclables in a separate container to be recycled, now does it?
Oh, and did I mention that you can earn money for recycling? Yes! Many cities and towns have recycling centers that will purchase your clean plastic and glass bottles for reuse.
Minimize Your Water Usage
Water is one of the easiest things to forget about when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. Preserve water by turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Shorten your shower by a few minutes and turn down the heat on that water heater. You’ll be surprised at how much lower your water bill and your energy bill will be.
Saving money and reducing your carbon footprint? What isn’t to love?
These are just a few of the top ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint and start living a greener lifestyle. And we aren’t factoring in all of the advantages that we’ll reap from public investments in a smarter energy grid.
From decreasing your water usage, to switching to solar for your home’s energy needs, you will feel good at the end of the day knowing you are doing your part to save the future of this planet for generations to come!
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