This Week In V-Carbon: Going Neutral

Japanese insurance company Nipponkoa just announced carbon neutrality for FY2012, purchasing 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) in offsets. Meanwhile, Seattle City Light, the first carbon-neutral public utility in the US, is feeling climate change’s heat as the snowpack that feeds their hydroelectric dams melts off earlier; they purchase 100,000 to 300,000 tCO2e in offsets a year.

Japanese insurance company Nipponkoa just announced carbon neutrality for FY2012, purchasing 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) in offsets. Meanwhile, Seattle City Light, the first carbon-neutral public utility in the US, is feeling climate change’s heat as the snowpack that feeds their hydroelectric dams melts off earlier; they purchase 100,000 to 300,000 tCO2e in offsets a year.

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

16 October 2013 | Many advocates of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) projects have been looking hopefully towards the California cap-and-trade market as a source of offset demand from compliance entities. But those hopes are slowly fading as recent developments indicate that REDD may remain squarely in the voluntary market for the short term.

“We have an MOU [memorandum of understanding] to observe development of sector-based projects in Chiapas and Acre, but no agreement to accept those projects,” said Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board (ARB), referring to California’s potential linkages with states in Mexico and Brazil to source REDD credits. The ARB does not yet have a REDD rulemaking scheduled.

In February, California State Senator Ricardo Lara introduced a bill to restrict eligible offsets to those originating in the US and possibly Quebec. The bill did not pass the Assembly before the end of this year’s legislative session but could be reconsidered next year.

International offsets are limited to 2% of a regulated entity’s compliance obligation, anyway, increasing to just 4% in the third compliance period (2018–2020). And despite the safeguards proposed by the REDD Offsets Working (ROW) Group, REDD credits face opposition by a subset of environmental and indigenous groups, causing some to wonder if the uphill battle is simply too steep.

For now, California is focusing on domestic projects (it just issued its first tonnes) and on its recent agreement to link its cap-and-trade program with Quebec’s under the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) starting in January 2014. Read Ecosystem Marketplace’s coverage of REDD in California here and our story on the California-Quebec “prenup” here.

Here at Ecosystem Marketplace, we are busy writing this year’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets report based on data we collected from suppliers all over the world. Stay tuned for details to come on the launch!

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V-Carbon News

Voluntary Carbon

Insuring carbon neutrality

Nipponkoa Insurance announced last week that it has gone carbon neutral for FY2012, making this the first time a Japanese insurance firm has offset all direct and indirect carbon emissions attributed to its business activities. To counteract its 46,964 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) in emissions, the company purchased 50,000 tCO2e of offsets, including those accredited under the J-VER (Japan Verified Emissions Reduction) Scheme from a reconstruction project involving the recycling of debris and rubber from the Great East Japan Earthquake, as well as Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) from a wind power project in India and wood biomass boiler installation project in Japan. Nipponkoa expects to maintain carbon neutrality even after its planned merger with Sompo Japan Insurance in 2014.

   – Read more


Clear vision

Berkeley, California-based ICU Eyewear announced carbon neutral certification in accordance with UK-based retailer The CarbonNeutral Company’s CarbonNeutral protocol. The firm is offsetting emissions associated with its Eco product line – including those from manufacturing and corporate activities. To start, the offsets will be sourced from the Chifeng wind power project in China and the Fiscalini Farms methane reduction program in California. ICU’s Eco line produces glasses from recycled metal and reclaimed plastic from the company’s factory floors. The company is known for its affordability: even most of the carbon-accounted glasses are priced under $25.

   – Read more


Zero-carbon utility feels the heat

Seattle City Light, the first carbon-neutral public utility in the US that serves about 1 million residents in the greater Seattle area, purchases 100,000 to 300,000 tCO2e offsets a year from Climate Action Reserve (CAR)-approved projects. The utility is motivated to purchase offsets because climate change is directly affecting its operations. City Light’s hydroelectric dams are fed by mountain snowpack, which is beginning to melt off earlier in the spring, threatening late-summer flow. “We want to do something about that,” said Corinne Grande, who leads the utility’s offset program. “Starting at home was a powerful motivator.” City Light produces 90% of its power from hydro but offsets its remaining emissions, including those from employee travel and equipment used in its operations.

   – Read more


Kamloops settles for less

The British Columbian city of Kamloops wanted to convert methane gas emanating from its landfill into renewable electricity, but instead it is collecting the gas and flaring it off. Why? One key reason is the drop in carbon credit prices from the anticipated $25 per tCO2e to $11 per tCO2e (as paid by Pacific Carbon Trust) – meaning carbon finance would no longer help as much in making a dent in the estimated $2.62 million project cost. The cost of the system to convert the gas to electricity to sell back to BC Hydro also climbed, causing the City Council to scale back its plans. Flaring off the gas is the second-best option but will still reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) impact 25-fold from the current business-as-usual scenario.

   – Read more


Mangroves offer carbon trove

Launched in October, the Mikoko Pamoja project will sell mangrove offsets in Kenya. The project will start by covering 117 hectares and including 3,000 people, and aims to raise around $12,000 a year. Part of the funds will be distributed for community education and health, while the remaining money will go toward planting new seedlings and protecting the mangroves. The people behind the idea, Professor Mark Huxham of Edinburgh Napier University and Dr. James Kairo from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, hope to expand it over time. The Mikoko Pamoja project is backed by the Earthwatch Institute, the World Wildlife Fund, Aviva and the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation programme. The project’s offsets are currently being verified by Plan Vivo.

   – Read more


Only a few golds short of Phelps

Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchey REDD+ Project became the first in the world to earn the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard’s “Triple Gold” designation. Oddar Meanchey benefits 13 community forest groups and more than 10,000 households by implementing a mixture of community water delivery, sustainable farming, and land tenure facilitation projects over a 50,000-hectare space. This effort has avoided more than 700,000 tCO2e between 2008 and 2011. It is now CCB and Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) verified. However, the project has struggled to find buyers.

   – Read more about the Triple Gold designation
   – Read more about the buyer search


Climate North America

“A perfect fit”…but are offsets welcome?

The chair of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) said he believes that the 9-state emissions trading scheme   is “a perfect fit” for the coming carbon regulations for existing power plants under section 111(d) of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Air Act. Speaking at the International Emissions Trading Association’s (IETA) Carbon Forum North America (CFNA) conference in Washington, DC two weeks ago, Collin O’Mara was hopeful that the EPA will allow states considerable flexibility in meeting the regulations, which are due in June 2014, so that RGGI states “don’t need to start from scratch.”

The coming carbon regulations for existing power plants have spurred speculation as to whether offset projects will be allowed under the rules. Many say the prospects are dim: any inclusion of offsetting would have to be approved by both the EPA and the Supreme Court, and the language of the New Source Performance Standards seems to prohibit emissions reductions that occur anywhere other than the source. But 111(d) also mandates the use of the most cost-effective and technologically feasible means of emissions reductions – which offsets might constitute in some cases.

   – Read Ecosystem Marketplace article


Welcome back, Jersey?

Could New Jersey be on a path to rejoin RGGI? The State Assembly’s Telecommunications and Utilities committee recently held a hearing on climate change and energy issues, including the need for the state to return to RGGI. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie famously withdrew his state from the regional carbon trading program at the end of the first compliance period in December 2011, after a campaign led by the Tea Party-linked Americans for Prosperity. But RGGI supporters hope that the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, as well as expectations that future storms will continually threaten the coastal state, will force Christie to reconsider his opposition to RGGI, although others believe that the governor is unlikely to reverse his stance.

   – Read more


Floating a sinkable carbon tax

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto floated the idea of a carbon tax that could raise up to $2 billion (26.6 billion pesos) and make renewable energy sources more competitive. The tax, however, would clash with an energy plan that bolsters the oil and gas industry, subsidies that support drivers and power producers, and Pena Nieto’s campaign pledge to cut electricity costs. Mexico could be the first developing country and the first major oil-producing economy to introduce a carbon tax. However, even members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party and the Green Party are skeptical that it will survive the legislative process.

   – Read more


Mastering a California agreement

At its CFNA Conference, IETA unveiled its California Emissions Trading Master Agreement (CETMA), which can be used by secondary market participants buying and selling allowances and offsets. California’s buyer liability provisions place the risk of offset invalidation on the buyers, but the CETMA shifts the exposure back to the seller – as the markets have typically operated. Flexibility is written into the 47-page agreement in anticipation of California and Quebec linking their emissions trading markets in January 2014.

   – Read the press release
   – Read the master agreement


Calling it quits

Eileen Claussen plans to step aside as President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), the nonprofit group that advocates for practical policies and action to address energy and climate change. The organization was a key advisor to the state of California and the Northeastern states participating in RGGI during development of their cap-and-trade programs and formed the Business Environmental Leadership Council, a group of US companies supporting mandatory policies to address climate change. Claussen will temporarily stay on as president of C2ES, formerly known as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, which she founded and led for 15 years while the organization searches for her replacement. C2ES aims to name a new president in the first quarter of 2014.

   – Read more


Washington capping it alone?

Washington Governor Jay Inslee wants to explore the possibility of an intrastate cap-and-trade program as part of the state’s efforts to meet its GHG reduction goals, adopted by the legislature in 2008. Washington was one of the five original members of the WCI, the cross-border carbon trading program that eventually grew to seven US states and four Canadian provinces. But Washington and its fellow US members of the WCI – other than California – eventually dropped out of the program amid the economic recession and political attacks against carbon trading. However, Inslee is a steadfast supporter of the cap-and-trade concept, playing a key role in the passage of legislation that would have established a national trading program to reduce GHG emissions as a member of Congress. The House of Representatives adopted the bill in 2009, but it failed to gain traction in the Senate.

   – Read more


Kyoto & Beyond

A 30,000-foot deal

After much heated debate among 1,400 delegates from 170 nations, the UN International Civil Aviation Organization agreed to a global deal on slashing airline emissions through a market-based mechanism, with the aim of achieving carbon-neutral growth by 2020. The deal is more like a roadmap for a deal: countries must agree on a market-based mechanism by 2016, and actual emissions reductions would go into effect in 2020. The global agreement precludes any regional programs and replaces the EU Emissions Trading Scheme’s (ETS) contentious emissions regulation of flights cruising in its airspace.

   – Read more in The Japan Times
   – Read more in Global Post


Farewell, carbon tax?

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott released a consultation paper and draft bills repealing the country’s carbon tax on Tuesday. He claims that the legislation will save households an average of AU$550 a year. Though the Coalition (Abbott’s party) has a comfortable majority in the lower house, Labor and the Australian Greens hold the upper house at least until July 1 next year and could block the legislation. Greens Deputy Leader Adam Bandt called Abbott a “climate change criminal” while Labor climate spokesman Mark Butler said his party is committed to moving from a fixed carbon price to a floating price ETS. Whichever way it goes, the 371 Australian companies subject to the carbon tax will have to continue to pay it under the current compliance period, which runs until the end of the financial year on June 30, 2014.

   – Read more


Perverse incentives

Last May, the European Commission banned industrial gas credits from the EU ETS, recognizing that this offset type creates perverse incentives for industry to overproduce GHGs, including the ozone-eating HFC-23. The ban, however, does not cover national emissions targets in non-traded sectors such as agriculture and transport. The Danish government initiated a voluntary commitment to close this loophole, and as of this week, 22 out of 28 EU member states have signed on. Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, and Spain are the holdouts. Though it looks like only Ireland and Spain will actually need to purchase offsets to meet their emissions targets, groups such as the Environmental Investigation Agency in London worry that the refusal to institute the ban means that these EU states aren’t taking their environmental commitments seriously.

   – Read more


Norway tosses a lifeline

Norway’s Ministry of Finance signed an agreement with the Nordic Environment Corporation to purchase up to 30 million UN CERs and Emissions Reduction Units between 2013 and 2020, the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The announcement comes as a small respite to a market experiencing vast oversupply and a massive price drop of as much as 99% since 2008. The Norwegian government included credit purchases in its revised budget in order to lend “legitimacy” to the international carbon market.

   – Read more in Investment Europe
   – Read more in Bloomberg


Science & Technology

Registering the reductions

UK-based IT company SFW Ltd announced its purchase of the GRETA (Greenhouse Gas Registry for Emissions Trading Arrangements) software from the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. GRETA has been used by 17 countries to manage allowances and verified emission reductions under the EU ETS. Its sale means the software may be reused by other emerging markets. SFW has maintained GRETA since 2009, updating the software to handle the new emissions limits set by the EU ETS and enhancing security controls.

   – Read more


Featured Jobs

Chief Technical Officer – American Carbon Registry

Based in Sacramento, CA or Arlington, VA, the Chief Technical Officer will oversee the ACR registration of California compliance and early action offset projects from listing through verification and offset issuance. The CTO is also responsible for ACR’s voluntary offset project registration as well as overseeing the development and/or approval of new carbon offset standards, methodologies and tools. Candidates should have a Master’s in the Environment, Forestry, or related field and at least 10 years of experience with environmental markets and five years of carbon market experience.

   – Read more about the position here


Program Assistant, Verification – The Climate Registry

Based in Los Angeles or New York City, the Program Assistant for Verification will support the day-to-day operations of the voluntary and mandatory verification programs of the Climate Registry’s GHG programs. The successful candidate will have a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, one to two years of professional experience, and an interest in climate change and/or corporate environmental management. The initial contract term is through May 31, 2014.

   – Read more about the position here


Regional Manager (Africa) – The Gold Standard

Based in Europe or Africa, the Regional Manager will play a key role in marketing and capacity building activities within Africa and contribute to the review and assessment of Gold Standard projects and methodologies. Candidates should have a Master’s degree in engineering, science or related discipline and at least five years of work experience within the carbon markets and/or other environmental markets.

   – Read more about the position here


Analyst – Climate & Energy Solutions

Based in Paris, France or Lisbon, Portugal, the Analyst will support Climate & Energy Solutions’ work helping clients define, fund, or evaluate their GHG reduction projects. Candidates should have two to five years of experience and knowledge of the economics of low-carbon technologies and carbon finance. The position is for 6 to 12 months starting in 2014, with the possibility of converting to a permanent position.

   – Read more about the position here


Head of Climate Programme – World Wildlife Fund, Hong Kong

Based in Hong Kong, the Head of Climate Programme will be responsible for strategic direction of the program and providing expert analysis of climate change and energy issues specific to Hong Kong and Southern China. The successful candidate will have an MSC/PhD and at least 10 years of experience, much of that in a managerial role. Excellent oral and written communication skills in both English and Chinese are preferred.

   – Read more about the position here


Mitigation Expert and/or Carbon Markets Negotiator – US Department of State, Office of Global Change

Based in Washington, DC, the Mitigation Expert for Low Emissions Development Strategies and/or Carbon Markets Negotiator will support the department’s Office of Global Change within the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. The successful candidate will have 7+ years of experience working on climate and energy issues and be able to craft proposals and policy recommendations with minimal guidance.

   – Read more about the position here





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