We here in the US do not yet have full national support for reduction of greenhouse gases through a greenhouse gas rule linked to cap and trade. We do in California, and I have mentioned in previous articles, cap and trade occurs on a voluntary basis in (what used to be 10) Eastern states (New Jersey withdrew) under the auspices of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) for emissions from the power sector.
But just suppose we did have such a national standard with cap and trade. We would be much more like Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, parts of Africa and almost all of Asia. Hey, that’s almost the rest of the world! Well let’s put aside the fact that much of our current Congress is still bent on denying the existence of climate change, and pretend that we do care about what happens to our coast lines, our plains states, our planet, heck, the world. We are a large part of the global economy, so truly, we should recognize the global climate as something to which we also contribute.
If we were conscious of the amount of carbon emitted from our various industries, transportation, and power generation, we should know an order of magnitude estimate. The UK has just launched the Centre for Carbon Measurement (CCM) whose mission is best expressed by David Willetts, the Minister of State for Universities and Science:
The Centre for Carbon Measurement …brings together academic and business partners with government and is designed to ensure that we can have confidence in the measurements we need to improve our understanding of the global climate, deliver policies for mitigating climate change, and accelerate the development of low carbon technologies.
It is the last part of this statement that is perhaps most relevant to the current state of affairs here at home in California where we lead the US in investment in clean technology. California State Assemblywoman Diane Kehoe, (D-San Diego) stated in a televised hearing on March 27, that California raised $2.8 billion for clean technology in 2011. Rather than being a drag on our economy, it is a very important boost. Solar City used to have a few dozen employees and now, according to California Senator Fran Pavley (D-23rd District), it now employees thousands of people in California.
If you are interested in getting a sense of how the rest of the world is measuring carbon emissions and how they are responding, then spend a little time on CCM’s website. The Carbon Markets & Accounting section is a really good insight into how cap and trade works, who benifts, and how. It is not a partisan tool but is a real world application of best practices, case study review, and information to help decision-making and policy. California has the right idea and is ready to test the cap and trade process later this year. Cap and trade has been dubbed “California’s New Gold” by Dallas Burtraw of Resources for The Future; the company that reviewed California’s program. Mr. Burtraw presented the findings of that review at the AB32 Hearing on March 27 and stated that by 2015, pollution coltrol measures could be worth up to $16 billion per year.
Estimates discussed in the March 27 hearing indicated that the revenues generated by cap and trade can be used, for example, to return funds to energy consumers, to provide program related investments, and to contribute to California’s General Fund. There are, of course, legal limitations to revenue use as protections are designed to limit, for example, budgetary raids from non-related programs. More information on the specifics of cap and trade in California can be found at the Air Resources Board website.
Rather than being afraid of carbon emissions we can embrace the opportunity to respond to the challenges ahead of improving energy efficiency, reducing consumption, and putting incentives on the table that encourage innovation in energy production. It all starts with acknowledging our responsibility so we can manage what we measure.