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This Week In V-Carbon: Driving Down New Paths

Automaker Chevrolet’s announcement about a new carbon offset program aimed at US colleges and universities capped off a particularly busy week. The Verified Carbon Standard launched a new tool for estimating leakage in reduced emissions from REDD+ programs and the California Air Resources Board reaffirmed its commitment to considering international sector-based offsets such as REDD.

Automaker Chevrolet’s announcement about a new carbon offset program aimed at US colleges and universities capped off a particularly busy week. The Verified Carbon Standard launched a new tool for estimating leakage in reduced emissions from REDD+ programs and the California Air Resources Board reaffirmed its commitment to considering international sector-based offsets such as REDD.

This article was originally published in the V-Carbon newsletter. Click here to read the original.

25 February 2014 | In 2013, automaker Chevrolet ditched its old advertising slogan in favor of a new tagline: “Find New Roads.” That motto could easily apply to Chevrolet’s efforts to find new ways to meet its emissions reduction commitments. The automaker, a major player in the voluntary carbon market, has unveiled an innovative program that could unlock a potentially significant new source of carbon offsets: US-based colleges and universities.

The company financed a new methodology under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) to quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions from clean energy and efficiency projects implemented by US-based higher education institutions. But Chevrolet has gone beyond just paying for the methodology by committing to buy at least 400,000 to 500,000 tonnes of offsets from the schools.

“We wanted to support innovative ways people are reducing carbon across America,” said David Tulauskas, director of sustainability for General Motors, Chevrolet’s parent company.

 

A major benefit of the commitment by Chevrolet is that schools constrained by tight operational budgets will have a critical financing source to tap in support of their clean energy and efficiency initiatives, said Robert Koester, professor of architecture and chair of the Ball State University Council on the Environment. Chevy has committed to buying thousands of tonnes of emissions reductions generated by Ball State over the next three years.

 

About 15% of the roughly 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States are engaged in an aggressive effort to reduce their carbon emissions. Chevrolet hopes other corporates committed to carbon reduction will tap into a built-in base of students already passionate about addressing the climate issue and follow its lead by purchasing voluntary offsets from these higher education institutions, Tulauskas said.

 

The announcement capped off a particularly busy week for the VCS, which also released a new tool that will allow reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) programs to estimate leakage emissions, a critical tool for the development of jurisdictional programs. In addition, a new VCS methodology to quantify net GHG emission reductions and removals resulting from projects to restore tidal wetlands just went out for public comment. See the Science & Technology section below for additional details.

 

Meanwhile, the path for inclusion of REDD projects in California’s cap-and-trade program has appeared very shaky of late due to growing political opposition. However, the California Air Resources Board (ARB), the agency charged with overseeing the program, reaffirmed its commitment to considering international sector-based offsets such as REDD in a proposed update to its scoping plan, the document governing its implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

 

These and other stories from the voluntary carbon marketplace are summarized below, so keep reading!

 

Here at Ecosystem Marketplace, we’ll soon launch data collection for our 2014 State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets report. Every year, we rely wholly on offset market participants to financially support this research. In return, sponsors ($7.5k+) and supporters ($3k) benefit from the report’s growing exposure, early insight into our findings, and opportunities to engage directly with Ecosystem Marketplace in report-related outreach and events. Interested organizations should contact Molly Peters-Stanley (mpeters-stanley@ecosystemmarketplace.com)


V-Carbon News

Voluntary Carbon

Inspiring people to care about the planet(‘s forests)

The last installment of Ecosystem Marketplace’s “buyer series” explores why the National Geographic Society – perhaps best known for the stunning photos featured in its magazine – has been investing in forest carbon. Nat Geo purchases carbon offsets to neutralize discrete aspects of its operations: offsets from a reforestation project in Panama cover emissions from natural gas use in its buildings; offsets from an avoided deforestation (REDD) project in Brazil cover emissions from business travel; and offsets from another REDD project in the Yaeda Valley of Tanzania cover emissions from its adventure travel operations in the area. Read more in this Ecosystem Marketplace exclusive.

Read more from Ecosystem Marketplace here

Thank you for your hospitality

Hilton Worldwide is boosting its carbon offset program in Southeast Asia by investing in a biomass and two hydropower projects in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Combined, the three projects are expected to offset more than 900,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year. The hotel chain has previously invested in offsets from the Borneo rainforest rehabilitation project in Sabah, Malaysia, which prevents about 140,000 tonnes of CO2e per year In October 2012, Hilton began offsetting the emissions generated by meetings and events held at its properties, at no costs to its guests.

 

Read more from the Hilton website
Read more from the Nation

Windows into the forests

Microsoft is at it again. The software giant – in partnership with UK’s The CarbonNeutral Company –reaffirmed its affection for forestry projects by agreeing to purchase offsets from the government of Madagascar’s REDD+ project in the Makira Natural Park. The transaction will finance long-term conservation of rainforest ecosystems, with half the proceeds supporting education, human health and other projects in the surrounding areas, according to park manager Wildlife Conservation Society. Last September, 710,588 tCO2e of carbon offsets were certified for sale from the project, which has been verified by the VCS and received gold-level validation from the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance.

Read more from newswise
Read more from Microsoft
Read more from Ecosystem Market Place

Singling out Singapore

High-tech Singapore has been slow to embrace the voluntary carbon markets, but two in-country projects just sold their first offsets to fund massive upgrades to green LED light bulbs and improved cooling systems. “[Singapore] has a great track record in technology so energy efficiency is a good fit,” explains Grattan MacGiffin, a manager at Ecoinvest Services, about the Swiss-based company’s decision to obtain 8,469 Verified Carbon Units from both projects. Southeast Asia’s contribution to the world’s voluntary offset supply has been growing, but until now Singapore was noticeably absent.

Read more from Ecosystem Market Place

Olympics falling short of carbon gold?

The Sochi Winter Olympics have fulfilled a pledge to offset (some of) its carbon emissions, according to organizers who highlight the offsetting of emissions related to power consumption and transportation of some attendees to and from the games. But the Olympics can’t even medal in its own event, argue environmental experts who say the carbon neutral commitment fails to take into account emissions generated by the massive construction that was required to build the Olympic venues hosting the events. Meanwhile, a Russian crackdown on environmental protestors has raised concerns from human rights organizations.

Read more from the New York Times
Read more from rsport
Read more from Mashable

Sudan wins gold

The Gold Standard has issued the first offsets to a carbon project in Sudan, a country plagued by civil war. The Darfur Efficient Cookstoves Project, developed by Carbon Clear and NGO Practical Action, will deliver 10,000 energy efficient and clean-burning cookstoves to replace wood and charcoal fires and reduce carbon emissions while providing social, economic and health benefits. Given the reluctance of emissions auditors to send staff to the war-torn area, the Gold Standard created rules to allow objective observers from NGOs or United Nations (UN) staff already deployed in Sudan to help with monitoring and verification. “It is essential that carbon finance reaches poorer countries, regions and communities – and it must deliver both climate and development outcomes,” said Gold Standard CEO Adrian Rimmer.

Read more here

Climate North America

US Northeast takes it down a notch

Carbon emissions in the nine Northeastern states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) declined for a third straight year. The RGGI region emitted about 86 million short tons of carbon in 2013, falling below the new cap of 91 million short tons set for 2014 by the RGGI states, amid mild temperatures and increasing use of natural gas, as well as expanded energy-efficiency programs that were financed in large part by revenues generated by RGGI’s allowance auctions. The first allowance auction under the new cap will be held on March 5.

Read more here

EPA walking a fine line

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to strike a delicate balance in crafting new regulations to curb carbon emissions from the 1,500 power plants in the US. The new rules must have sufficient environmental impact without risking soaring electricity bills and power blackouts, as well as legal challenges. But opponents of the upcoming rules aren’t waiting for the EPA to finish its work. Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) plans to introduce a bill that would allow states to opt-out of the regulations out of concern that the forced shutdown of coal-fired power plants could cause energy shortages.

Read more from the New York Times
Read more from the Hill
Read more from eNews Park Forest

Kyoto & Beyond

Back-loading fast track front-loads expert concerns

The European Parliament agreed to fast-track a plan to bolster the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) by withholding 900 million permits from 2014-2016. The temporary fix has some experts concerned about market volatility and the impact of reintroducing the credits in 2020. The back-loading of permits may also cause temporary shortages for European manufacturers. Prices jumped 6.2% after the 6 February vote and closed at the highest level in more than a year on the ICE Futures Europe exchange, but retreated after an official cast doubt on the notion that the backloading could start in March.

Read more from Bloomberg

Global Policy Update

Iran drops hints of ETS in line with lifted sanctions

Iran is the latest country to embrace the carbon markets, with its recent 5-year plan outlining Iran’s intentions to limit emissions, particularly from the energy sector. The country’s last report to the UN’s climate body in 2011 noted that sanctions had prevented the country from modernizing its fleet of power stations. Although the specific details of the planned market are still unknown, some industrial facilities will be allocated credits to cover a limited amount of their carbon emissions and would have to buy permits in the market to cover the rest, a nod to growing acknowledgement of the role of fossil fuels in global warming and the need to slash increasing demand for fuel within the country. Iran, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of crude oil.

Read more here

No pain, lots of gain

Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s staffers may have been guilty of the ultimate Freudian slip when they sent out a press release claiming the government’s carbon tax is “still inflicting plenty of gain, with no environmental pain.” Hunt was appointed to his position in September 2013 by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a steadfast opponent of the carbon tax. The minister’s staffers later claimed that the words pain and gain were inadvertently switched. Hunt, who refused to attend the UN climate negotiations in Poland last November, publicly denounced the tax, which added a lower-than-expected $4.1 billion to the government’s coffers in 2012-13. Supporters appear to have enough votes to prevent repeal until the new Senate takes control in July.

Read more from The Brisbane Times
Read more from UPI
Read more from The Sydney Morning Herald

New Zealand on the wrong track

A group of more than 60 Maori tribes plan to sue the New Zealand government for NZ$600 million for what they say are estimated losses for their forests caused by a pricing freefall in the country’s ETS. An influx of inexpensive carbon offsets from China and Russia put significant pressure on prices in the New Zealand ETS, which declined from NZ$20/t in 2010 to NZ$3.25/t as of 14 February. The tribes blame the government for failing to follow through with initial plans to restrict the use of foreign offsets in the program.

Read more from The South China Morning Post

Costa Rica dreamin’?

Costa Rica aims to be the first country to become carbon neutral by 2021, in large part by reducing its dependence on fossil fuels and increasing forest cover to offset unavoidable carbon emissions. However, some experts argue this is an unrealistic goal because the country will need more time to achieve neutrality and must integrate its climate policies with other public policies, particularly those aimed at the transport sector, which generates 42% of its carbon emissions. Reaching this goal will also depend on the level of priority given by the next president, who will be elected in April. Meanwhile, the country’s forest sector continues to advance implementation of its REDD+ jurisdictional program, as the first recipient of funds channeled through the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.

Read more from the Independent European Daily Express

Be careful what you wish for

The EU ETS has been plagued by an economic crisis that led to lower-than-expected GHG emissions and a glut of allowances. But South Korea’s ETS, scheduled to launch on 1 January, 2015, could have the exact opposite problem. The South Korean government is sticking with a forecast for 2020 emissions that may be too low, according to an analysis by Thomson Reuters Point Carbon, and could cause carbon prices to skyrocket up to $93/tCO2. The country has set a target of reducing emissions by 20% below business-as-usual levels by 2020.

Read more from the Environmental Reader
Read more from Reuters

Carbon Finance

Risky business

Investors have filed shareholder resolutions with 10 fossil fuel companies to force them to improve their assessments of carbon-related risks to their infrastructure and business operations, amid growing concern these companies are not preparing for the possible impact of carbon regulations. In February 2010, the US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) released guidance on how to report “material” regulatory, physical and indirect risks and opportunities related to climate change, but a recent Ceres report found that 41% of Standard & Poor’s 500 companies failed to address climate change in their 2013 filings. The investor coalition urged the SEC to focus on ensuring companies provide adequate disclosure of climate issues.

Read more from P&I
Read more from Ceres

Science & Technology

VCS springs a new leak…

Last week, Naomi Swickard, VCS Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses (AFOLU) Manager, alerted market participants to the standard’s release of a new Leakage Tool for Jurisdictional Nested REDD (JNR) programs implemented at the subnational scale. VCS highlights two modules that account for leakage –or the idea that deforestation avoided in one place might ‘leak’ to another – from the production of global commodities by applying an “Effective Area Approach” or a “Production Approach”. Jurisdictions can alternatively apply a simplified default approach. VCS will host two webinars on 27 February 2014 to present the tool and modules.

Read more

…And rides a tidal wave

Restore America’s Estuaries proposed a new VCS methodology for Tidal Wetland and Seagrass Restoration, which went up for public comment 11 February. Wetlands store more carbon than almost any other land type, and their draining and degradation – largely human-induced – releases large quantities of GHGs. Restoring tidal wetlands should slash these emissions, and this methodology is a new attempt to quantify and monetize them in order to incentivize restoration projects. VCS will hold a webinar about the methodology on 20 February, and the public comment period will end 13 March.

Read more here

Burning the midnight oil

The American Carbon Registry has approved a new methodology to generate carbon offsets by recycling transformer oil. The methodology quantifies emission reductions produced by diverting highly refined used transformer oil to a refining facility that processes the oil for re-use. Refiner Hydrodec plans to verify and issue its first offsets under the new methodology in the first half of 2014. The company’s oil product would represent about 60,000 tonnes of saved carbon emissions as offsets that can be sold on the voluntary carbon market.

Read more
Read more from Stock Market Wire


Featured Jobs

Post-Doctoral Fellow – Targeting Climate-Smart Development Interventions Under Multiple Uncertainties, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, the post-doctoral fellow will work for one year with the decision engagement and analytics team at ICRAF to develop methods for targeting interventions under uncertainty, and for projecting likely impacts of such interventions. The successful candidate will have a PhD in economics, decision analysis, business analysis, development or related field; excellent quantitative analysis skills; good understanding of Bayesian networks, Monte Carlo simulation and other approaches to modeling under uncertainty; advanced programming skills; proficiency in oral and written English; and track record of publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Read more here

Post Doctoral Fellow – Mitigation Options & Poverty Reduction, ICRAF

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, the post-doctoral fellow will lead the development and testing of tools

and approaches to assess farming practices that contribute to both GHG reductions and farmers’ livelihoods. The successful candidate will have a PhD in agronomy, agro-ecology, environmental sciences or related field; expertise in modeling with programming skills, integrated assessments and GIS/database applications; proven experience working in an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural team; strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals; and proficiency in English. Working knowledge of French and/or Spanish, and field experience in the tropics preferred.

Read more here

Analyst – ICIS

Based in San Diego, California, the analyst will join ICIS to assist the Director of US Emissions Markets in product development, and will work closely with colleagues based in Europe and Asia to help to tailor product offerings to the evolving market needs. The ideal candidate will have a degree in public policy, economics, business, finance, or related field; experience in US energy markets and political analysis; knowledge of legislation and markets (California ARB, Western Climate Initiative, EPA, etc.); and programming/modeling skills.

Read more here

Project Manager – Global Footprint Network

Based in Orissa, India, the project manager will join Global Footprint Network for 18 months, and will lead the successful execution of the Sustainable Development Return on Investment project in a timely manner and under a budget. The ideal candidate will have at least four years of experience managing international development projects, expertise in metrics, and an advanced degree in a related field. Strong leadership skills and proven ability to inspire an international cross-cultural team are required.

Read more here

Business Carbon Footprinting Intern, Carbon Footprinting, Planet First

Based in London, England, the intern will join Planet First for three months, and will play a fundamental role in consultancy operations that offer solutions for business sustainability. He/she will help to deliver sustainability reporting including the measurement of carbon footprints and social performance for a wide range of organizations as they aim to achieve The Planet Mark, a sustainability certification. Eligible candidates will have a strong mathematical background, close attention to detail, high proficiency in Excel and Word, great communication skills, and a desire to learn more about environmental issues.

Read more here


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