California Dream 2.0

California’s Carbon Market Could Help Stop Amazon Deforestation

(This post first appeared in Point Carbon North America)

By Juan Carlos Jintiach, Shuar indigenous leader from the Amazon basin, and Derek Walker, Associate Vice President for the US Climate and Energy Program at Environmental Defense Fund

From left to right: Juan Carlos Jintiach, Megaron Txucarramae (a leader of Brazil’s indigenous Kayapo tribe), Lubenay.

A recent article in the Journal of Climate predicts that destroying the Amazon rainforest would cause disastrous drought across California and the western United States. Californians are already no strangers to drought – the state is suffering one of its worst on record. But the research adds an interesting dimension to what we already know from numerous studies about deforestation: that greenhouse gas pollution in California and around the world makes forests, including the Amazon, drier and more susceptible to widespread fires. California may be thousands of miles away from “the Earth’s lungs,” but how we treat our diverse ecosystems directly affects the one atmosphere we all share.

It is good news for everyone that California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) – which includes the world’s most comprehensive carbon market – is already helping reduce the state’s greenhouse gas pollution. Amazon states and nations have also greatly reduced their greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, which collectively accounts for as much greenhouse gas pollution as all the cars, trucks, and buses in the world. California now has a terrific opportunity to show global environmental leadership by helping Amazon states keep deforestation rates headed for zero while helping save money for companies and consumers in the Golden State.

The current world leader in greenhouse gas reductions is Brazil, which has brought Amazon deforestation down about 75% since 2005 and kept almost 3 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere. Indigenous peoples and forest communities have played an essential role in this accomplishment. Decades of indigenous peoples’ struggles against corporate miners, loggers, ranchers, and land grabbers and advocacy in defense of their land rights have resulted in the legal protection of 45% of the Amazon basin as indigenous territory and forest reserves – an area more than eight times the size of California.

Credit: Dylan Murray

Credit: Dylan Murray

These dedicated indigenous and forest lands hold about half of the forest carbon of the Amazon, and have proven to be effective barriers against frontier expansion and deforestation. In a real sense, indigenous and forest peoples are providing a huge global environmental service, but that service is almost entirely unrecognized, let alone compensated. And in Brazil, where agribusiness is pushing back hard against law enforcement and reserve creation, deforestation is back on the upswing – increasing nearly 30% last year.

California has a role to play in keeping Amazon deforestation on the decline and giving indigenous and forest communities the recognition and support they need. A program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) gives countries or states that commit to reducing deforestation below historic levels “credits” they can sell in carbon cap-and-trade markets. Getting these programs recognized by California’s carbon market would send a powerful signal that forests in the Amazon and around the world are worth more alive than dead, and would also provide real incentives for further reductions.

A few weeks ago, indigenous leaders from Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico are in California engaging state leaders and policymakers on the issues of deforestation, indigenous and local peoples’ rights, and potential partnership with California’s carbon market. California should insist that only jurisdictions that respect indigenous and local peoples’ rights, territory and knowledge, and ensure that they benefit from REDD+ programs get access to its market.

The successful adoption and implementation of AB 32 is proof that California is leading the nation on effective, market-based climate change policies. But it’s time to take that another step forward. By allowing credits from REDD+ to play a role in the AB 32 program, the Golden State can be a world leader on one of the most significant causes of climate change and take action to protect the health and prosperity of a threatened land and its people.

 

Learn more about REDD+ and California:

Also posted in General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 / Comments are closed

Does the future of the Amazon rainforest lie in California?

(This post first appeared on EDF Voices)

By Derek Walker and Steve Schwartzman.

Over the past year, California’s new carbon market has held five auctions, generating $530 million for projects that reduce climate pollution in the state. This is just the start, however, as we believe the program has potential to achieve substantial environmental benefits half a world away in the Amazon rainforest.

We are working with community partners, scientific and business leaders, and California policy makers to craft a rule that permits credits from REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) to be used in California’s carbon market, rewarding indigenous and forest-dwelling communities with incentives for ecosystem protection.

From left to right: Lubenay, Juan Carlos Jintiach, Derek Walker and Megaron Txucarramae (a leader of Brazil’s indigenous Kayapo tribe).

Using California’s new carbon market to reward rainforest protection would be a powerful signal to Brazil, Mexico, and other tropical countries—and to the world—that leaving forests standing is more profitable than cutting them down.

With the right rules in place, California could create an international gold standard for REDD credits that could be adopted by emerging carbon markets in China, Mexico and beyond.

The right technology

There’s a misperception about how hard it is to measure whether forests are being destroyed or protected. Current technology makes it possible, right now. Satellite and airplane-based sensors are already capable of recording what’s going on with high accuracy. This technology enables us to measure emissions reductions across whole states or countries, the best way to ensure that the reductions are real.

The right partners

We need to help pull together the best policy experts, scientists, and environmental organizations to help California government officials write model rules for REDD that can create a race-to-the-top for forest protection around the world. We need to show that trailblazing states – like Acre in Brazil and Chiapas in Mexico – are ready to be partners with California and can deliver the rigorous level of enforcement and program implementation that California requires.

The right time

There’s real urgency to linking California’s carbon market with REDD. Even though Brazil, home to the world’s largest tracts of tropical forests, has cut deforestation by about 75% from its 1996-2005 levels and consequently become the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that progress is fragile. Over the past year, agribusiness has been pushing back hard against law enforcement and the creation of protected reserves, and deforestation increased nearly 30%. If we want Brazil to continue reducing its deforestation towards zero, we must provide economic incentives to protect the Amazon, and California can be an important catalyst in doing that.

Also posted in Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 / Read 1 Response

13 for 13: The Stories that Defined California Environmental Leadership

There is never a dull moment on the California environmental policy scene, and 2013 was particularly action-packed.  Everywhere you turn there seems to be a new innovative solution or a fresh example of a company, city, organization, or individual making a profound difference in putting the Golden State on the path to a clean energy future.  Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has the privilege of being in the middle of many of these groundbreaking developments, and in the past 12 months, California has taken a number of exciting steps forward.

What follows is our “13 for (20)13” recap of the most consequential stories in the California climate change and energy policy world, in our own words.  From celebrating the one-year anniversary of a successful carbon market to forging partnerships with other states and countries to marking continued innovations and opportunities in clean energy and fuels, it has been quite a year.  Here’s to an even better 2014.

 

1. California’s Carbon Market Caps off Successful First Year of Auctions:

The results of California’s fifth carbon auction were released today, marking an important environmental milestone for the state – one year since the debut of its cap-and-trade system.

2. California’s LCFS Ruling is a Win for Consumers and Alternative Fuels Companies:

Last week, we saw a big win for California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) – a regulation to diversify the state’s fuel mix with lower carbon sources of energy.  After almost a year of deliberation, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals filed a decision in the case Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, et al. v. Corey, in favor of California.

3. LASER: Turning the climate threat into a story of opportunity for Los Angeles:

I’m an L.A. guy, so I like to think about things in epic story lines. And with today’s launch of EDF and UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation new “LASER” maps (Los Angeles Solar & Efficiency Report), I think we’ve got a real blockbuster on our hands.

4. A Blueprint for Advancing California’s Strong Leadership on Global Climate Change:

A key reason California has become a global leader on climate change is its ability to successfully adopt the Global Warming Solutions Act, the state’s climate law that uses market-based tools to significantly reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emission levels. A group of tropical forest experts has now presented a blueprint for how California can secure significantly more reductions in global warming pollution than the law requires, while keeping pollution control costs down and helping stop the catastrophe of tropical deforestation.

5. Scoping Plan 2.0: Taking Action Today for a Clean Energy Future:

Today, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its draft 2013 Scoping Plan, the blueprint outlining how the State will address climate change over the next five years, reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and create a path for even deeper reductions beyond 2020.

6. Seeing Green: Emission Reducing Fuel Policies Help Lower Gas Prices:

Californians struggling with high gas prices should feel optimistic about the future.  A new memo [PDF] by economists from EDF and Chuck Mason, a prominent economist at the University of Wyoming, demonstrates that policies established to reduce emissions and help the state reach its climate change goals also help to arm consumers at the pump

7. At a Key Moment for Energy, California Should Seize Demand Response:

Traditionally, if an area’s population grows — or it loses a power plant — it needs more energy. But California and some other states can approach it differently and reduce the use of fossil fuels. Instead of asking, How can we add more energy?” the real question becomes “How can we reduce demand?”

8. Offset Market Alive and Well in California:

Congratulations to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as they announced plans to issue the first CARB Offset Credits or ARBOCs.  These 600,000 metric tons of offsets helps the state move closer towards our emissions reductions goals.  Compliance entities, such as utility and oil and gas companies, can use these offsets to meet up to 8% of their compliance obligation

9. Environment: California didn’t do so badly this year:

Despite some particularly unexplainable losses if you care about protecting the environment, the California Legislature made progress in 2013. The range of bills on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature confirms that California remains the stalwart energy and climate leader in the country.

10. Historic Agreement Demonstrates Broad Commitment to Build Clean Energy Economy:

With the stroke of a pen, North American efforts to combat climate change and promote clean energy reached a new level today.

11. Hopeful signs for U.S. and Chinese Cooperation on Climate Change:

The past week has offered a thrilling glimpse into the future for the millions of people around the U.S. and across the world who are yearning for real solutions to climate change.  On June 18, Shenzhen, an economically-vibrant city of 15 million on the South China Sea, launched the first of seven Chinese regional pilot carbon market systems slated to begin by the end of 2014.

12. Major California Refineries Logging Big Pollution Reductions Under AB 32:

It is well-documented that petroleum refineries release large amount of pollutants that are harmful to the environment and make people sick.  In California, these refineries are among the largest sources of carbon dioxide, accounting for 7 of the top 10 sources for climate pollution. According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, refineries can also emit large amount of toxic compounds, including carcinogens and respiratory irritants.

13. Ruling gives bright green light for investment in pollution reduction projects in California:

California’s landmark clean energy bill AB 32 received a big boost today from the San Francisco California Superior Court in the case Citizen’s Climate Lobby et. al., v. California Air Resources Board.

Also posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Engaging Latinos, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Linkage, Low Carbon Fuel Standard / Read 1 Response

From the ozone to your refrigerator, putting the chill on climate change

oconnor_tim_287x377(This post originally appeared on EDF Voices)

Back in the 1980s, an international alarm was sounded when a growing hole in the Earth’s ozone layer was discovered over the Antarctic. This phenomenon was caused, scientists said, by the presence of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) like the gases used in air conditioners, refrigerators and elsewhere.

There were predictions, if the ozone hole were to spread, of massive crop failures, an explosion in skin cancer rates, and mass extinction of species. Concern over the problem became so widespread that it even became the subject of a skit on “Saturday Night Live.”

Ultimately, however, the world community acted: In 1987 theMontreal Protocol was signed  by 46 nations, mandating a global phase out of ODS. Since then, scientists have shown that the production phase out of ODS has helped to shrink the hole in the ozone layer, while at the same time helping slow climate change.

Replacing chemicals that are 10,000 times more potent than CO2 as accelerants of climate change with ones that are a few thousand times stronger is no solution. ODS substitutes still make their way into the atmosphere when refrigerators are recycled and air conditioners leak. Furthermore, as globalization and economic growth makes refrigeration increasingly available in the developing world, the climate change problem associated with growing use of ODS substitutes is getting worse.

Studies have revealed that cooling systems in places like grocery stores and office buildings in Southern California regularly leak 15% to 30% of their refrigerant per year. That means that, worldwide, millions of tons of climate change pollution is being released every year.

NASA Goddard Photo and Video/flickr

There are simple fixes to this leakage problem. In California, for example, equipment inspection and leakage standards have been adopted as part of the state’s global warming law (AB 32). This has resulted in reduced ODS substitute losses into the air and savings for businesses that otherwise would have to buy recharge chemicals. In addition,companies are popping up to help manage refrigeration use, and some equipment operators are demonstrably leaking less.

In June 2013,President Obama and President Xi of China agreed to work together to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a key ODS substitute gas. This a pact that has the potential to reduce about 90 gigatons of CO2equivalent by 2050 (that’s equal to roughly two years’ worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions).

The U.S.-China pact could point the way toward a national and international policy on ODS substitutes. In the face of the growing urgency over climate change, we need a comprehensive solution to this problem.

Also posted in Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 / Comments are closed

Plow, or Preserve and Profit?

Konza Prairie Biological Station

This weekend, long-time Minneapolis Star Tribune outdoors columnist and reporter Dennis Anderson wrote a revelatory call to arms about the dire state of conservation in Minnesota:

“This ain’t working, and we need to try something different. Radically different.”

Directly to the West of Minnesota in the Prairie Pothole Region of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, annual losses of native grasslands have averaged approximately 50,000 acres per year since 2007, leading to a significant loss of soil carbon. High prices for commodity crops make it much more attractive to plow grasslands than to keep them intact.

What if a market-based initiative paid farmers and ranchers for keeping grasslands grass? A new carbon offset protocol announced yesterday may just do that.

The protocol officially titled the “Avoided Conversion of Grasslands and Shrublands to Crop Production” was developed through a partnership effort including Environmental Defense Fund, Duck’s Unlimited, The Climate Trust, The Nature Conservancy and Terra Global Capital and was funded in part by the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Innovation Grant.

Just approved by the American Carbon Registry, this first of its kind voluntary protocol will be best applied to grasslands in the Midwest. Producers of these offsets can sell them to any willing buyer in America. Ranchers in the Midwest already recognize the value of their land lies in the soil health below ground where the soil translates to healthy food for their cattle. Now these same producers can quantify this value and sell it through new environmental markets.

“This project provides Northern Great Plains producers with new ways to earn income from conservation activities, expanded opportunity for outdoor recreation and an opportunity to create jobs in their communities,” said Robert Bonnie, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment. “The American Carbon Registry’s approval of this innovative ACoGS protocol enables vital projects like our partnership with Ducks Unlimited to preserve a treasured national landscape, while also preventing the release of greenhouse gas emissions.”

This first project the Under Secretary mentions, is estimated to perpetually conserve 5,000 – 6,000 acres of native mixed-grass prairie. The protection of grasslands will also indirectly protect 500-600 acres of seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands situated in the protected grasslands.

And these lands are protected not through onerous regulations or hollowed out federal conservation programs but through innovative new revenue streams for the agriculture sector from emerging environmental markets such as California’s carbon market.  Between now and 2020, companies in California can purchase more than 200 million metric tons of offsets.  This protocol has the opportunity to help supply that demand.

This is an exciting step forward for Midwest producers. By making ecosystems a part of the economy ranchers and their families will benefit from diverse opportunities to make more money off their land.

 

Also posted in Climate, Ecosystem Restoration, Ecosystem Services, Sustainable Agriculture / Tagged , , | Read 1 Response

611,622 Offsets and Counting!

Yesterday the California Air Resources Board (CARB) delivered a total of 611,622 offsets to four offset project operators.  These offsets can now be used by California compliance entities to meet their obligations under the cap-and-trade requirements of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32).

This is an historic accomplishment for California.  Not only are these the first compliance offsets to be generated for the state’s landmark cap-and-trade program, but it sends a strong signal to compliance entities that there is supply.  It also creates a win-win for developers, like U.S. farmers and ranchers, giving them  the opportunity to generate a new revenue stream for their operations while helping California fight pollution in the process.

EDF looks forward to the further offset issuance from CARB.  There are 62 Early Action Projects under review and we expect those credits to be issued in the upcoming weeks.  In addition to Early Action Projects, offset project operators can develop projects under one of the four CARB compliance offset protocols – Forest, Urban Forest, Livestock, and ODS.  This is an exciting time for the cap-and-trade program.  Offsets are valuable, high quality reductions that have already been achieved.  As Board Chair Nichols said “These offsets have undergone the most rigorous verification of any existing program. They achieve real greenhouse gas reductions under ARB-approved protocols, and deliver a range of additional environmental benefits.”

Also posted in Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Sustainable Agriculture / Comments are closed