The news out of the USA yesterday is not good. The US administration has said that there is now not enough time to get a binding agreement through congress - Guardian 05.11.09. This is bad news for us all and a refelction of the uphill battle that still has to be fought to get this through.
”We have to be honest in the process and deal with the realities that we don’t have time in these four weeks to put the language together and flesh out every crossed t and dotted i of a treaty,” said John Kerry, who chairs the Senate foreign relations committee.
In a show of unity that suprised everyone, the African nations staged a mini-coup and demanded immediate action by the Rich Nations to set real targets complaining that rich nations’ carbon cuts were far too small to avoid catastrophic climate change, and refused to participate until more was done. The move forced the UN to abandon several sessions and reschedule others to give rich countries more time to debate emissions cuts. Countries have agreed to devote 60% of the remaining time to those discussions. Link
So it is all happening and the political heat is rising about time too! Let’s hope that we actually get some thing that we can all work towards!
Very busy at the moment and having to get up with the birds and worms to get into work by 6am. One advantage, however, has been that I can listen to Radio 4 and to the joys of Farming Today and the weather forecast ( you know the one (Dogger, Biscay etc). Whilst I find the weather rather less than captivating, I have been fascinated in the debates taking place on Farming Today. In particularly this week, the programme has been looking at organic farming covering such issues as value, costs, market share, flexibility and today, brand and communication.
The brand advisor was saying that one of the biggest problems was that the message on organics remains, in his view, confusing. They are trying to sell too much and need to keep in simple.
This got me thinking about our brand and message. Here at base, we have been debating whether or not our message is clear enough or whether we need to simplify. We could sell so many things, but what is the most important. We have four steps to achieving PP;measure, reduce, invest, report. If there was one thing that we stood for, what should it be?
The reason for this debate is that we are getting some push back on our requirement for ‘investment to offset your unavoidable emissions’. That old offset debate again!! My personal position is clear; if we do not recognise and support poorer nations in their need for financial support into low carbon technologies, then there will be no solution to climate change.
The problem is that many people and companies still think that offsetting is a bad thing and that it should not be done for the foreseeable future until we have met our reduction targets. I can see the logic in this, but it sort of avoids tackling this massive issue and to me speaks of self-interest. I mean who else should take responsibility for the mess already created - its not the poorer countries carbon so we cannot expect them to agree to clean it up- so who else if not us….
So we are debating whether to drop or adapt the requirement for ‘investment’ and make it all about delivering reductions and voluntary offsetting.
I have just returned from a fantastic trip in Mexico and so have been off line for some time. The trip started in Mexico City where I was asked to give lecture to a real estate conference (ADI), then onto Valle de Bravo for a weekend break with an architect friend and then finally to a place called Troncones, near Zihautanejo on the Pacific Coast. We stayed at a Yoga retreat called Present Moment and I achieved a form of spiritual elevation whilst contemplating the sound of the wind in the palms and crash of waves on the beach. Fantastic and recommended.
Whilst I was basking in the luxury of my anti-oxidants, down the road people were living very different lives; ramshackle homes, broken windows and broken down cars. Now I am not saying they are not happy (I actually did not ask them), but they certainly lived very simple lives without the accoutrements of modern comfortable life that we all expect – cars, dishwashers, washing machines, toasters etc.
And so this is where the battle against climate change will be won or lost. According to a UN report, the world population will increase by 2.5bn over the next 43 years to 9.2bn. Much of this increase will be absorbed by less developed regions like Mexico. In turn this will lead to a pent up demand for growth, more washing machines and more power leading to an exponential rise in CO2 emissions.
I guess we are lucky that the developed nations are remaining steady in population for they emit almost 10 times more CO2 than people in Mexico, but we are faced with a massive challenge non-the-less. How do we allow these new growth centres to improve their way of life without incurring devastating carbon emissions that we all are responsible for?
For me this problem goes to the heart of the offset debate. If we, in the developed world, do not support these less well off people then they will follow our well trodden route of climate pollution and we will find ourselves in even worse shape than we do now.
In short this means an injection of financial and knowledge capital to ensure that they use only low carbon technologies. This is called carbon Offsetting or if you prefer a carbon tax ( except you chose where to spend it). There seems to be no other solution, am I right?
April 14th 2009
Two important pieces of important news yesterday
The UK Government announces a new mark for Carbon Offsetting
The UK Government releases a consultation paper on Carbon Neutrality.
Both are worthy of comment and both fall well short of where we should be.
New Offsetting Mark for Carbon Projects
Yet another mark! Fine but does this mean that it will compete with everyone else’s?
Having said that, it is good that the government is getting involved. However, my concern over the scheme is that they will only consider CER’ and EUA’s. What about Voluntary Emissions (VER’s) that meet the VCS standard- there are many projects that meet this standard that are very good. They must make this link.
Also if they are relying on the CDM board to pass CER’s before they get the UK standard, then why bother? Surely by passing as a CER that is enough. What we don’t need is another hoop to go through and on the face of it just seems like a rubber stamping and another way for the govt to make money.
The real need, is for regulation on the presently non-regulated voluntary market. Now that would be useful!
However, It is essential to build confidence in carbon projects and offsetting as part of the solution to climate change. Whilst this is a good step I question the continued use of the term ‘offsetting’. There is a clear opportunity to be bolder and make a clear break with a term that comes with substantial baggage. Surely, the word ‘Invest’ is much better as it implies a positive act and talks about what we are all trying to do. Invest in our future by investing in reductions.
Finally, it seems absolutely crazy that the only offset projects that can be bought are overseas! In the present financial crisis people will want to invest into their own communities and it is about time that the government stopped stealing our carbon credits. At Planet Positive we are actively looking at means of identifying carbon credits within the community along the lines as recommended by UKGBC.
My position on this is clear. Neutral is not enough, if we are going to make a real difference then we have to encourage carbon negative solutions ( i.e. net reduction in GHG emissions or at least rate of emissions). The term ‘carbon neutral’ falls FAR SHORT of what is needed - we must GO BEYOND NEUTRAL!
Other issues that jump out from the document ;
You can decide on your own boundary! – this is very weak and again leaves the term open to abuse. If a company uses the term you will have to then read the small print to work out what they are really doing. Most companies will take the easy route and just measure and offset scope 1 as it is the quickest and easiest route to CN
You don’t have to reduce!- whilst the govt states that companies are encouraged to reduce, there is no requirement to reduce—what a cop out! and what’s the point? Quite frankly this undermines everything else that they have done, as consumers will see it as just the same old ‘get out of jail free’ card where you can buy your way out, just by offsetting!
It is good that the government is engaging in the debate. It is good that they recognise that offsetting is a legitimate process. But they are missing a massive opportunity by limiting the target to neutral when we MUST GO NEGATIVE! They must also include VER’s and set reduction targets.
See link to Environmental Finance Magazine for other comments
On the 17th December the UK government published its proposals for achieving zero carbon developments. The proposed definition of a zero carbon home includes a very high level of energy efficiency plus the ability to import offsite and near site energy efficiency measures. See New Zero Carbon Targets.
A minimum level of carbon reductions that would need to be achieved (carbon compliance level) compared to today’s Building Regulations of between 44 and 100 percent of emissions from the home (not including cooking and appliances, which are not at present covered by Building Regulations).
The remaining carbon emissions (including from cooking and appliances) would need to be addressed via a proposed list of allowable solutions comprising:
i) Credit for any energy efficient appliances or advanced forms of building control system (such as smart systems which automatically adjust energy settings if the home is unoccupied) installed by the house builder that reduce the anticipated energy demand from the home
ii) Where, as a result of the development, low carbon or renewable heat (or cooling) is exported from the development itself, or from an installation that is connected to the development, to existing properties that were previously heated (or cooled) by fossil fuels, then credit will be given for the resulting carbon savings
Near-site carbon offsetting
iii) Credit for S106 Planning Obligations paid by the developer towards local low and zero carbon energy infrastructure
iv) Retrofitting works undertaken by the developer to transform the energy efficiency of existing buildings in the vicinity of the development
v) Any investment by the developer in low and zero carbon energy infrastructure (limited to the UK and UK waters) where the benefits of ownership of that investment are passed to the purchaser of the home
vi) Where offsite renewable electricity is connected to the development by a direct physical connection, a credit for any carbon savings relative to grid electricity
This is great news for not only developers, but also the climate and renewables industry as it is clear that the UK Government has finally recognised the fallacy of requiring 100% on-site renewables and has now allowed ( in consultation at least) the concept of carbon offsetting to meet demands.
The real question is where will this take us and what will it inspire…watch this space
January 5th 2008
Today the economist starts an important debate on offsetting. Is it good or bad?
In summary the ‘against’ ( Mr. Wara) argues that offsetting is too crude a tool and open to too much fraud to make it worthwhile. He also states that offsetting cannot be used instead of reductions.
This argument is out of date and for me misses the whole point. Yes, of course you have to reduce first and most businesses are doing this anyway. The point is that unless we support poorer nations in their desire to implement low carbon technologies (which cost more) then they will use the the old, and cheaper fossil fuelled ones - just as we have been doing for the past 200 years!
The offset process is a way of these poorer nations getting legitimate additional funding for better solutions, without which they just will not happen.
But I do agree with MW that the VER as a financial instrument is crude and imperfect. It remains open to abuse by carbon cowboys, but then what part of (financial) life isn’t subject to abuse from time to time. What we need is joint action and agreement around the world to create a single tool that can be policed and verified easily but effectively like the one produced by The Climate Group and used as a basis for our Planet Positive Project Protocol.
MW is berating an imperfect world - but this is the only one we have got and we had better get on with saving it QUICK!
4th December 2008