World leaders meet in New York to catalyze action on climate change, Ben & Jerry’s slims down emissions while making cows happy and China says that it’s a big deal.
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22 September 2014 | It’s not too late for serious action to address climate change. That’s a key message heading into this week’s Climate Summit 2014 hosted by United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which will be the largest gathering of global leaders in history to ponder the climate challenge. More than 120 heads of state from major emitting countries such as the United States but not China and India as well as hundreds of business leaders and civil society representatives will travel to New York City this week to work together to build momentum for a strong, global climate agreement in Paris in 2015. The aim of the Paris climate talks will be to limit the average rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution to 2 degrees Celsius the warming that climate scientists have deemed safe(ish) for the planet. But some climate experts believe that, given the current trajectory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it is too late to meet the target, and that governments should acknowledge this dilemma and work on anticipating and adapting to the catastrophic impacts of climate change. Bob Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning within the Executive Office of the Secretary General, UN, predicted significant announcements and progress during the summit, including commitments to finance the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The GCF was formally established during the UN Conference of Parties in Cancun, Mexico in 2010 and features a stated goal of raising $100 billion per year by 2020 to assist developing countries with climate change adaption and mitigation activities, but actual monies have been slow to materialize to date. “We need funding to flow in many different ways from many different channels,” he said during a Center for American Progress discussion on September 17. “But the Green Climate Fund is an important piece of the architecture. The Secretary-General has called for an initial capitalization for the Green Climate Fund of between $10 billion and $15 billion. We will see a good down payment on that.” One important policy measure that needs to happen is pricing carbon and getting these prices right, said Rachel Kyte, Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change for the World Bank. Corporations all around the globe are adopting carbon prices for business planning purposes, according to a new CDP report, although settling on a price that actually instigates changes in behavior to reduce carbon emissions remains an open and often controversial question (see Climate Finance section below). Ahead of the summit, the World Bank has invited organizations to sign a statement that declares that carbon pricing is a necessary step to tackle climate change and making the economic case that there is nothing to be gained by waiting to address the climate problem. “If you wait, it simply gets more expensive,” Kyte said. “What we expect to see (this) week is a remarkable leadership group self-selected of countries, states, cities and companies that are all pricing carbon already or are working through how they are going to price carbon.” An announcement is also expected next week about the so-called New York Declaration on Forests in which countries and other partners will pledge to take concrete actions to slow emissions from tropical deforestation, building on commitments by consumer goods and other companies that pledge that no forests will be cleared to make their products. “I think it’s so incredible what’s happening in the forest sector right now,” said Nigel Purvis, CEO, consultancy Climate Advisers, which was reportedly involved in preparing the document. “We’ve seen a complete revolution. In the last year, we’ve gone from having almost no companies with commitments to being deforestation-free in their palm oil supply chains to 60% of the global market that has committed to, by no later than 2020 and in many cases immediately, eliminating deforestation from their supply chains. This revolution that is happening within the private sector is giving momentum to the international negotiations and policy discussions.” Purvis also cited the “REDD Rulebook,” the guidance on how countries can harvest available data to create reliable snapshots of their forests over time and to use this information to create deforestation reference levels to be recognized by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, as a sign of the progress being made in addressing deforestation. Negotiators agreed on the basic tenets of the Rulebook in Warsaw during the most recent round of international climate talks. “That’s the part of the Paris agreement that’s ready to go,” he said.
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Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s is reducing agricultural methane emissions by purchasing the largest share of the nearly 13,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) reductions of a project at Green Dream Farms
dairy cattle operation in Vermont. By separating and composting the solids from cow effluence, the project diverts manure from a conventional open lagoon and prevents the release of methane from anaerobic digestion. Methane is a GHG 21 times more powerful than CO2. As an added benefit, the resulting compost is alternative bedding to wood chips that is cheaper and more comfortable for the cows. The project is part of NativeEnergy “Help Build
initiative, in which companies make an upfront purchase of the projected offsets from the first 10 years of a project. Read more here
It’s getting wet out there
The US state of Louisiana loses about a football field worth of wetlands every hour. Barring a major intervention, much of Southeastern Louisiana will sink into the Gulf of Mexico by 2100. The 2012 Louisiana Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast outlined an ambitious plan to save the state’s coastal wetlands, an effort that has already yielded some success in the form of completed projects, including a barrier island rebuilding project on Pelican Island. But current funding levels fall far short of the $50 billion needed for coastal wetlands restoration projects, meaning that other sources of financing including possibly the carbon markets must be identified and accessed. Read more here
Chevy runs deeper than expected
Chevrolet has exceeded its commitment to offset 500,000 tCO2e through its Campus Clean Energy Campaign
, a company spokesperson told Ecosystem Marketplace. Chevrolet’s campaign purchases carbon offsets from campuses to fund GHG reductions through LEED (Leadership in Environmental Design) certified buildings or campus-wide energy efficiency programs through a methodology approved by the Verified Carbon Standard. Grand Valley University is the latest campus to receive support from the program. Chevrolet will purchase offsets generated by energy efficiency projects across the university’s Allendale, Michigan campus. The projects could offset up to 10,000 tCO2e, although the final amount is contingent on certification completion. Chevrolet has undertaken similar efforts at Southern Oregon University
, University of Illinois
, Ball State and Valencia College
. Read more here
Biggest of the big
China could regulate 3-4 billion tCO2e by 2020 under its planned cap-and-trade carbon market, which would make it the largest carbon market in the world, according to officials. China is the world’s biggest emitter of GHGs and the anticipated market would account for 4% its total GHG emissions. The European Union Emissions Trading System is currently the largest carbon market with two billion tCO2e under its cap. China’s National Development Reform Commission plans to finish its draft rules
for implementation of a national carbon market by the end of this year. There are currently seven regional pilot carbon markets operating in China. Read more here
A mutually beneficial relationship
The first official joint auction for carbon allowances between California and Qubec will be held on November 19
. The two Western Climate Initiative (WCI) members linked their cap-and-trade systems in January 2014 and tested a joint auction in August. November’s joint auction is the last step towards full linking of the programs, which will enable allowances issued by either program to be used for compliance with the other. A joint auction is generally seen as benefitting both members because of more predictable allowance costs due to the greater number of participants. Qubec had 14 registered bidders and California had 77 bidders in their most recent auctions. Read more here
California Prefers Hanes
The California Air Resources Board has approved the Hanes Ranch Forest Carbon Project under the California Compliance Offset Protocol. The project will issue over 86,000 tCO2e offsets this year and around 140,000 tCO2e through 2018 for use in compliance with California’s cap-and-trade program. The Hanes Ranch project is 2,500 acres of forest along the Garcia River in Mendocino County, California. The project is developed by New Forests, verified by SCS Global Services and registered with the American Carbon Registry. Read more here
A tantalizing proposition
An Oregon legislative committee praised a proposal for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. A charge of $60/tCO2e would raise $2 billion in revenues according to an analysis by the Northwest Economic Research Center though no specific price for a carbon fee has yet been proposed. “The devil is always in the details, but I’m tantalized, said Senator Alan Bates. In 2013, the Oregon legislature passed a bill requiring a study evaluating the impacts of a “clean air tax or fee on the state’s economy and GHG emissions. The final report will be presented on November 15. Oregon came close to pricing carbon as a WCI member before its participation was doomed by the ongoing financial recession in 2011. Read more here
When is the price right?
Global corporations are adopting internal carbon prices amid expectations that countries from China to South Africa will implement national emissions trading systems or carbon taxes, according to a new CDP report. These companies have a wide range of ideas about carbon pricing: software giant Microsoft uses $6/tCO2e while UK-based utility Pennon Group uses a range of $84.24-324/tCO2e (2010 and 2050 projections, respectively). But what is the right price on carbon to actually reduce emissions? Mark Trexler, Chief Executive Officer of the climate strategy and risk group Climatographers, says behavioral change starts around $30/tCO2e in the electric utility sector and at more than $100/tCO2e in the transportation sector. Read more here
Still more to do
The world’s leading multilateral development banks (MDBs) have reaffirmed their commitment to ambitiously address climate change. In a joint statement, the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank pledged to build on the more than $75 billion in financing for climate action that has flowed to developing countries since 2011. The MDBs say they are advancing global action by using their resources to leverage additional investment, promoting innovative approaches, integrating climate change into all levels of internal decision making and standardizing climate finance reporting. The presidents of all six banks will be in New York City to share this pledge at the UN Climate Summit. Read more here
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Breaking bad records
GHG concentrations have reached record levels in the atmosphere and oceans, according to the UN World Meteorological Organization. CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is 142% above pre-industrial levels and increased more between 2012 and 2013 than during any other year since 1984. Initial analysis indicates the marked increase is due in part to reduced uptake by the biosphere. Oceans act as a buffer by absorbing about a quarter of man-made CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere, thereby lowering the atmospheric concentration from what it otherwise would be. The result is ocean acidification, which is now increasing at the fastest rate in the past 300 million years. Read more here
AIME Program Senior Associate Forest Trends
Based in Washington, DC, the Senior Associate will lead all administrative functions of the Accelerating Inclusion and Mitigating Emissions (AIME) grant and support the Manager and Chief of Party of the AIME program. Eligible applicants should have demonstrated experience with the rules and regulations associated with the use of US federal funds. Ideal candidates will have previous experience with US Agency for International Development grants. Fluency in English and Spanish is required, working knowledge of Portuguese is preferred. Read more here
Policy Associate, Federal Legislative Campaigns The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
Based in Arlington, Virginia, the Policy Associate will serve as liaison between TNC and federal, state, county or local municipal agencies and private groups. Ideal candidates will have at least four years of experience compiling research, policy initiatives, writing promotional material and communicating with government staff. Read more here
Senior Policy Director – Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition
Based in Seattle, Washington, the Senior Policy Director will develop strategy and implement a state-wide campaign to ensure state and federal funding for parks, trails, wildlife habitat and working farms and forests. Successful candidates will have at least five years of experience with issue advocacy, legislative affairs or political campaigns. Read more here
Junior Consultant Perspectives
Based in Alicante, Spain, the Junior Consultant will provide research for Perspectives thematic areas, contribute to the proposal writing process and support management and senior consultants. Ideal candidates will have a master’s degree and at least three years of experience as a consultant or analyst in the field of international climate policies, market mechanisms or energy policies implementation. Fluency in English and Spanish is required, French language skills are a plus. Read more here
Stakeholder Engagement Consultant, Thailand Global Green Growth Institute
Based in Seoul, South Korea, the Consultant will develop a comprehensive stakeholder engagement plan for Thailand’s draft Climate Change Master Plan. Ideal candidates will have five years of experience in stakeholder engagement, capacity building, development work, or project management plus familiarity with climate change issues. Fluency in Thai and English is necessary. Read more here
Senior Climate Analyst Union of Concerned Scientists (USC)
Based in Oakland, California, the Senior Climate Analyst will lead UCS’s work in California and the Western states to bring sound science, policy and economics to bear on building support for, developing, and implementing strong climate policies. Applicants should have a PhD in environmental science, economics or a related field. Ideal candidates will have seven years of related experience, including a background in environmental and energy economic policy development. Read more here
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