Mark Havel and Max DuBuisson of the Climate Action Reserve attended events held as part of Climate Week NYC. The schedule for Tuesday consisted of Carbon Forum North America, organized by the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) and held at the offices of Morgan Stanley in Manhattan. The venue for the event is notable, as it is an indication of the economic vitality of carbon markets that such a large investment firm is taking a serious interest. The attendees at this event included numerous representatives of state and provincial governments, as well as industry, NGO and carbon professionals.
The various speakers and panels throughout this event were all focused on issues related to the U.S. EPA’s proposed rules for regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. These rules are still in a proposed form, but they are extensive, so there was much in-depth discussion on the mechanics of the program and the potential impacts on the power sector and GHG emissions.
The morning began with a discussion between analysts of various organizations. This was a great way to get a sense of the market’s projections for how the impacts of these new GHG rules would unfold. One notable assessment was that the program would cost the U.S. approximately $9B annually if each state figures out compliance on its own, without coordination or trading between states. On the other hand, this figure could be less than $2B annually if all states work together. The consensus was that the final result will be somewhere in between, as different states have different levels of willingness, but that this fact will motivate increased cooperation among states. There was discussion of the possibility of additional states joining the two major cap-and-trade programs which are already underway (AB32 in CA and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the Northeast).
Later discussions included power industry representatives and state regulators. The impact of these rules will be felt differently by different power companies. For example, Pacific Gas & Electric is already subject to AB32 and thus will not have to take additional steps to reduce emissions to comply with the EPA rules. On the other hand, American Electric Power is in a situation where they do not currently operate under GHG emission restrictions, and much of their power is provided by coal. They will feel much more pressure when complying with these rules. The industry had two major problems with the proposed rules: (1) they think the timeline for initial compliance is impossible, based on the expected pace of final rulemaking by EPA, and (2) they disagree with a number of the assumptions used to calculate each state’s obligation, and would like to see the EPA revisit this issue.
The afternoon included some discussion of how the current cooperative structures work, and how these could potentially be expanded or adapted to include more U.S. states. There was widespread agreement among panelists and attendees that state-level cooperation is needed to reduce the uncertainty and cost associated with GHG regulation. In fact, one industry representative conceded that they would prefer a Waxman-Markey-style national cap-and-trade program over the current proposed regulation. While it is unlikely that anything of that scale could be achieved by the U.S. Congress in the near future, pressure for an alternative to the EPA rules may grow as implementation gets going.
The final discussion included panelists who had participated in the UNFCCC negotiation process. They spoke of their experience with the Kyoto Protocol, whereby the CDM framework for credit trading between nations was not specifically included, leading to a delay in implementation until a later summit where additional language was added. Based on this experience, they are proposing that the next international climate agreement contain specific text allowing the trading of credits between nations. Paul Bodnar from The White House posed the provocative suggestion that nations should not wait for an international climate agreement. He suggests that perhaps it would be more productive for nations to move forward with bilateral emission reduction agreements, which should be easier to achieve, and potentially more effective, than a major, international agreement. This spurred some spirited discussion amongst the panelists, and helped provide a window into not only how the UNFCCC process works, but also the fatigue with this process that is felt amongst some of the nations.
Wednesday morning began with a carbon-pricing event organized by IETA and the International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP) and hosted by the law firm of Latham & Watkins, with keynote addresses from Quebec, Germany, Norway, South Korea, State of New York (RGGI), and the World Bank, which all agreed that putting a price on carbon is necessary to achieve a working international agreement on climate change mitigation. The World Bank emphasized that it is poised and willing to help nations who wish to move forward with carbon pricing.
With agreement on a high level that a carbon price is necessary, the next panels delved deeper into how that price should work. A carbon price needs to be strong, predictable, and rising. Using market-based approaches drives down costs of meeting emissions reduction goals, and allows market participants, such as energy companies, to achieve more than would be economically feasible without the carbon market.
States and provinces with a carbon price have started to see the benefits of their systems. California’s “boring” cap-and-trade program (boring is a good thing as that indicates strength and stability) has generated $800M in revenue to date. Massachusetts has seen a proliferation of green tech start-ups, in part due to the state’s participation in RGGI. In British Columbia, the carbon tax windfall was used to reduce personal income tax.
Wednesday afternoon involved an event focused specifically on regional climate action, hosted by the law firm of Baker & McKenzie. Oregon and Washington are looking closely at what California is doing (all three states are part of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which also includes Alaska and British Columbia). And other regional opportunities abound. For example, four private companies are planning a large wind power project in Wyoming that will send electricity through Utah to serve southern California.
Linking programs achieves significant benefits associated with larger markets, including greater trade activity, price stability, lower costs, and more options for compliance. But linkage comes with its share of difficulties. Panelists cited that linking cap-and-trade schemes may be difficult due to potential differences in quantity, quality and/or governance/politics. Nevertheless, reports convey that Northeastern states successfully linked under RGGI, and California and Quebec’s linked programs are looking to further expand their partnerships geographically.
Overall, the atmosphere at Climate Week NYC 2014 was one of “bullishness” on carbon trading, which is not something we have experienced in recent years. Attendees and speakers believe that whether the proposed EPA rules are the final form it will take, we can expect some regulation of GHG emissions in the U.S. to begin soon. On the other hand, notably absent from these events were the governments of states which will likely fight the EPA on such regulation. It is safe to say the mood in those states is probably a bit more “bearish.”
written by Kasey Krifka, The Climate Trust
The Climate Trust recently purchased carbon offsets from The Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) Katahdin Iron Works conservation property in Maine. By encouraging natural forest growth on AMC’s 10,000-acre ecological reserve, the project preserves stored carbon in the forest and enables an additional revenue stream through the sale of carbon offsets. AMC’s property was established as part of the organization’s Maine Woods Initiative—a strategy for land conservation in the 100-Mile Wilderness region. The initial offset sale represents over 100,000 carbon reduction tons—the equivalent of removing 21,000 gasoline-powered passenger cars from the road—which have been retired on behalf of The Trust’s Oregon and Massachusetts Programs.
Forests cover about one-third of the United States and are of great importance as habitat for wildlife, to clean air and water, to supply timber and other products, and for recreation. However, these vital lands face continued pressure from development and conversion for other uses. The Northern Forest is threatened by fragmentation and development. Since the 1990s, when timber companies—who had owned large tracts of forest—began to sell these lands, the threat of fragmentation and loss of functional ecosystems and habitat has grown. Carbon markets provide an important incentive to preserve intact, healthy forests.
The carbon offsets have been verified under the Forest Project Protocol of the Climate Action Reserve. AMC is committed to continued monitoring and verification of the project to ensure that its climate benefits persist for a period of 100 years following issuance of any carbon offsets for greenhouse gas reductions achieved by the project. The protocol also includes standards that ensure the project is sustainably managed and ecological “co-benefits,” such as wildlife habitat and soil and water quality, are maintained.
“We see carbon credits as having the double benefit of supporting our overall climate policy by reducing atmospheric carbon, and providing financial support to conservation projects like our Maine Woods Initiative,” said Walter Graff, Senior Vice President of AMC. “We are pleased to be among the early users in the conservation community of forest carbon credits to support land conservation in New England.”
The Climate Trust was able to support this project because of funding received from a number of partners.
“The Climate Trust invested in Maine because the local environmental and social benefits such as recreation, forest education opportunities for children, wildlife habitat and water quality improvements perfectly fit our focus on land-based multi-benefit projects,” said Sheldon Zakreski, Director of Programs for The Climate Trust. “The offsets purchased from AMC’s project have enabled us to effectively fulfill our obligations for an innovative effort in Massachusetts several years ago to address carbon emissions from fossil-fired plants. This is a prime example of how states can partner together to tackle climate change.”
Proceeds from the sale of these offsets will be directed toward AMC’s conservation programs in Maine.
The Maine Woods Initiative is AMC’s strategy for land conservation in the 100-Mile Wilderness region, addressing regional ecological and economic needs through outdoor recreation, resource protection, sustainable forestry, and community partnerships. As part of this initiative, the Appalachian Mountain Club acquired and permanently protected 66,500 acres of forest land in the 100-Mile Wilderness region of Maine. Working with what was formerly industrial forest, AMC has set aside 21,000 acres as permanent ecological reserves where no timber harvesting will take place and the forest will be allowed to grow naturally. Other smaller, no-harvest areas have been designated to protect specific ecological, recreational or scenic values. The remaining area, about half of the property, is managed using sustainable forestry techniques.
More About The Trust’s Oregon Program:
As the nation’s first compliance carbon provider and manager, The Trust has a long history of meeting the unique needs of utilities and their stakeholders. We remain the only organization qualified to administer the Oregon Carbon Dioxide Standard, the first legislation in the nation to curb carbon emissions. New fossil fuel-fired power plants provide us with funding to comply with the law and we invest those funds into high quality projects that reduce pollution.
Since its inception, The Trust has managed over $19 million in carbon ﬁnancing for greenhouse gas emission reduction projects. The cornerstone of our business, the Oregon Program, has built a strong legacy of innovation that delivers results for our compliance partners and the environment year after year.
The majority of our projects and programs are locally focused, enabling The Trust to grow strong grassroots support for climate action. In fact, 60% of the money we invest on behalf of utilities stays in Oregon. Additionally, our Oregon-based projects are from diverse sectors, including transportation, renewable energy, forestry, biogas, energy efficiency, and landfill & waste.
written by Mercyhurst University
Mercyhurst University is a fully accredited, four-year, Catholic comprehensive institution, founded in Erie, PA, by the Sisters of Mercy in 1926. With our commitment to sustainability, Mercyhurst has been working on a variety of initiatives both for our campus, but also for the community.
One of Mercyhurst’s overarching sustainability goals is carbon neutrality. We have been working with the American University and College Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) since 2007 on monitoring annual carbon emissions while trying to decrease emissions where and when we can. In addition to actually decreasing carbon emissions, in 2003 Mercyhurst began purchasing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to help offset the carbon emissions produced through electricity consumption. In 2010, the purchase of RECs was increased to offset 100% of our electricity consumption. In 2014, the university’s sustainability committee decided to add carbon offsets to help offset transportation emissions which include commuter transportation and staff business or research trips. The carbon offsets are purchased from Blue Ridge Landfill, a landfill located near Chambersburg, PA, which captures the methane released from trash decomposition and uses it to produce electricity; this allows Mercyhurst to help support a local carbon offset project. Both the RECs and carbon offset purchases are funded in part by the Student Sustainability Fund, used only for campus sustainability projects. The cost of the offsets from Blue Ridge Landfill combined with the RECs was only a little more than last year’s purchase of just the RECs, which made the decision all that more easy to make. Between the annual RECs purchase and the new carbon offset purchase, Mercyhurst University now offsets 65% of the Erie Campus’s annual emissions.
Mercyhurst has been working on instituting and maintaining a fantastic recycling program on our campuses. Recycling has been condensed to single-stream, which should make recycling easier and more convenient for our students. In addition, all of our dumpsters on campus have been painted blue for recycling and green for trash to make recycling in the upperclassman housing area easier as well.
To assist with our efforts to reduce solid waste, the university’s Erie Campus installed two Earth Tubs in the fall of 2012, funded in part by the students, through their green fee, and through the university operations. The composters are a partnership between the Sustainability Office and Parkhurst Dining Services, the university’s dining services provider. The reason for composting is a simple one; it helps to close the loop on our food use. At Mercyhurst, we understand that we cannot move from the disposal of food waste in a landfill to composting all of it; it will be a slow process until we smooth out all of the wrinkles with the collection process and also until we have the ability and space to collect all of the food waste.
Our students have also contributed to our sustainability work by literally greening campus. The Senior Class of 2010 gifted a green roof to the Erie Campus, which was installed on the Ceramic Lab in our Zurn Hall. Two students during the spring and summer of 2013, planted an edible landscaping and perennial garden along the Mercy Walkway as a dedication garden to Sister Maura Smith for all of her contributions to the university’s environmental education and conservation efforts. Our largest garden effort, the Mercyhurst Farm, is heading into its fifth season, though it has moved from Girard, PA at our West Campus to North East, PA. at our North East Campus. The farm is run through the efforts of a full-time garden manager, student workers over the summer, and volunteers. All of the vegetables are grown organically and the food is either sold to our employees and students or the community, or donated to Second Harvest Food Bank.
Out in the community, we are working just as hard to educate about the need to live sustainable. We work with the Erie School District through education programs during the regular school year and during the summer. Topics include energy and water conservation, how to start a school garden or a a recycling program, and the idea of LEED buildings. We are also working with the Sisters of Mercy Erie Motherhouse with their Sustainability Task Force and their list of priorities, which include energy monitoring, energy conservation, and sustainability education for the sisters who live in the motherhouse. Our most recent effort was assisting with their recycling, and we were able to get bins donated from Busch Systems International, the company from whom we purchase our recycling bins.
written by The Climate Trust
Seattle City Light, a public utility serving 740,000 residents in Seattle, Wash., signed a contract with Portland-based nonprofit, The Climate Trust, to launch the first-ever national project to voluntarily purchase carbon credits sources from reductions made with organic composting. Seattle City Light purchased 35,000 carbon reduction tons (CRTs) of verified emission reductions from two organic material composting projects within the state, eliminating harmful methane emissions. The methane removal from these projects is equivalent to 6,200 cars being driven annually!
“Seattle City Light’s long-term goal is to meet all of Seattle’s electricity needs through conservation, new renewable sources, and with renewable energy credits to maintain zero net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” said Corinne Grande, Seattle City Light Power Analyst from the Environmental Affairs Division.
The projects operated by Cedar Grove Composting prevent the emission of methane into the atmosphere. Methane has a global warming potential 23 times greater than carbon dioxide according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Typically, food and other organic materials are sent to a landfill, where organics decompose in an anaerobic manner, generating high levels of methane. Composting breaks down organics using an aerobic process—which results in substantially reduced methane emissions.
Cedar Grove Composting worked with Environmental Credit Corp (ECC); an experienced carbon offset project developer, to develop the projects in adherence to CAR’s Organic Waste Composting Project Protocol; managing the verification process, and structuring carbon credit transactions. The two projects are distinguished as the first projects quantified and verified under this new protocol, and also as some of the first carbon transactions involving organics composting domestically. The facilities accept material from a variety of residential and commercial sources including Seattle and King County, Wash. as well as other counties in the state.
In addition to the credits purchased by Seattle City Light, other environmental and economic benefits of the methane reduction project include the ability to utilize recycled food material as compost; improving soil health and structure; increasing drought resistance; and reducing the need for supplemental water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
“This project illustrates that investment in innovation such as organics composting projects can pave the way towards more sustainable methods of handling long-time problems like community waste, in addition to helping protect the climate,” said Derek Six, Portfolio Manager & CFO for Environmental Credit Corp.
Utilities such as Seattle City Light have relied on The Climate Trust (TCT) to finance and effectively manage numerous greenhouse gas reduction projects on their behalf. While The Climate Trust is well-versed in helping businesses and utilities meet their carbon reduction commitments, the heart and soul of our operations is in working with project developers such as ECC to achieve our mission and help mitigate climate pollution. For more information on The Climate Trust, please visit www.climatetrust.org