Category Archives: green city


COP21 – good news for the planet

 On the 12th of December, 2015, high-level representatives from 195 nations, including many presidents and prime ministers, agreed to try to hold warming “well below” 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures. On April 22, at the UN in NYC, the agreement takes full effect (once nations representing a majority of the planet’s GHG emissions sign the agreement). Unfortunately, the truth is that, even if the agreement in Paris is carried out by every nation, and to the letter, global temperatures will still be on course to rise by around 2.7°C by the end of the century.

Luckily, the best news of the entire COP21 came on Day 1 with the announcement of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition ( The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is a group of more than 20 billionaires (including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg {CEO of Facebook}) who have agreed to invest in innovative clean energy. The Coalition wouldn’t be able to fund and meet all of its goals without the most important international commitment by governments to invest in clean energy to date. Mission Innovation ( is a group of 20 countries including the U.S., Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, who have pledged to double government investment in clean energy innovation and to be transparent about its clean energy research and development efforts. In a statement from the Coalition, the importance of both groups is highlighted –

“THE WORLD NEEDS WIDELY AVAILABLE ENERGY that is reliable, affordable and does not produce carbon. The only way to accomplish that goal is by developing new tools to power the world. That innovation will result from a dramatically scaled up public research pipeline linked to truly patient, flexible investments committed to developing the technologies that will create a new energy mix. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is working together with a growing group of visionary countries who are significantly increasing their public research pipeline through the Mission Innovation initiative to make that future a reality.”

Brazil was one of the last countries to join the ‘high ambition coalition’, while China and India were hold outs to this section of the pact. The ‘high ambition coalition’ are a group of countries, including most of the “Mission Innovation” countries and a group of the most vulnerable (smaller generally, and poorer) nations, that are looking towards a more ambitious goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. China and India are the major emitters in the developing world, and were the last agree to the main pact, but not the high ambition goal, at COP21.

Below are some major resources for more information on the COP21:


COP21 Paris – breakdown of the event

coal plant

Stabilize greenhouse gasses

There are numerous ways that we can stabilize greenhouse gasses, thereby “stopping” climate change. Governments of 1st world and even developing nations must implement some of the following policies (and most might, at least implement some of the following, especially after the upcoming COP meeting of the UNFCCC in Paris). Clearly, the path to stabilize GHG emissions includes making it a priority for governments to financially invest in at least some of these solutions:


1. A carbon tax, or carbon cap-and-trade system, or both

2. Further investment in, and development of all forms of renewable energy including: wind, solar, geothermal and biomass/biofuel etc…

3. Carbon capture and storage

4. Widespread adoption of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, as well as sustainable mass transportation using biofuel or electricity (bus systems, light rail etc…)

5. More use of, and development of smart grid infrastructure – smart meters, home energy management systems etc…

6. Energy, especially renewable energy, storage



This is certainly an incomplete list, so please feel free to add points.

coal plant

Carbon Cap and Trade: putting a price on carbon

Carbon cap and trade systems are plans in which countries, provinces, states and even cities set regulations (a cap) on the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions industries/ power plants can emit, and then implement an Emissions Trading System (ETS). Companies included in cap and trade systems, often companies that operate power plants, have a limit (cap) on the amount of GHG emissions they can produce that is set by the government. Governments may either “grandfather in” GHG allowances (essentially give away credits based on past GHG production) or auction allowances off. Companies with extra carbon credits because their plants go under the limits can then trade their excess carbon allowances to companies that need to buy carbon credits to avoid going over the limit.

Auctions for carbon permits (one carbon permit is usually = to 1 metric ton of GHG pollution) are an essential part of the carbon cap and trade system, helping to establish a price on carbon, and are  much more effective than the system where credits are just ‘”grandfathered in”. The cost of carbon permits is essentially the price of carbon. As GHG emission credits are auctioned off, a price on carbon is established. Companies can also keep carbon credits for future use in trading or for their own allowances. For companies that run over their GHG emissions limits and don’t cover their allowances, a heavy fine is imposed. Carbon cap and trade systems are designed to lower the cap annually, gradually reducing the allowable limit of GHG pollution for those industries targeted by the cap and trade system.

There are trades that offset GHG emissions; trades for credits with companies that have forestry projects and that are reforesting areas or that limit deforestation, or companies that have livestock projects that incorporate sustainable practices, or companies that invest in clean coal technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) or other carbon sequestration measures. To make cap and trade systems even more effective, there should be more offset credits allowed for trades with companies that implement GHG emission saving and energy efficiency technologies like renewable energy, integrative gasification combined cycle (IGCC), and anaerobic digestion (AD), combined heat and power (cogeneration) (CHP) etc…

For some companies, it might make more financial sense and be more cost-effective to make the effort to reduce emissions through emission saving and energy efficiency technologies and/ or expanded use of renewable energy, and then sell their allowances to companies that are over their GHG limit. However, usually most companies tend to buy carbon allowances if it’s cheaper to buy them than to try to lower emissions. Carbon permits can be invested in by businesses, industries, or even the public in some regions, via a carbon futures market.

Carbon cap and trade systems are in effect in about 40 countries and 25 states/ provinces/ cities globally. The largest market for cap and trade is in the EU with the European Union Emissions Trading System. The EU ETS covers more than 11,000 power plants and industrial stations in over 30 countries, as well as airlines (for flights within Europe until 2016). The primary focus of the EU ETS is to fight climate change by lowering GHG emissions.

The EU ETS remains the largest (and first) international trading organization for trading GHG emission allowances. The EU ETS has successfully put a price on carbon, with its system of trading allowances of GHG emissions, and has also watched GHG emissions fall by a few percent annually since it began in 2005. The cap, or limit, set on GHG emissions will be, on average, over 20% lower on all power plants and industries by 2020 from 2005 levels (when the program started), as the EU continues to make efforts to reduce pollution.  Clean, energy efficient, low-carbon technologies like CCS, IGCC, CHP and AD, as well as renewable energy, have grown in popularity throughout Europe, in part, because of the rising price of carbon resulting from cap and trade programs.

All countries deal with cap and trade differently. Most have cap and trade for industry and power sectors. South Korea has cap and trade for heavy industry, power, waste, transportation and building sectors. China has six provinces testing out cap and trade, and along with South Korea, represents a very large carbon market (with just those 6 provinces China is a large market, the entire country represents the single largest carbon market, by far). The U.K., Ireland, Iceland and the Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden and Finland have legislated both a carbon tax and cap and trade programs.

The nine state agreement in the U.S. northeast (the Regional Greenhouse Gas InitiativeRGGI) is another major carbon cap and trade trading pact, and is, at least partially, based on the pioneering EU program. These states have auctioned off carbon allowances to industries in RGGI states, and have thereby collected well over $1 billion from carbon cap and trade programs, much of which has been reinvested in energy efficiency, renewable energy and other clean energy programs. Since carbon cap and trade has started in the U.S. northeast, GHG emissions have steadily dropped. Like the EU, this in part due to investment in clean energy technologies, but also because some companies in the U.S. northeast have switched from dirtier fossil fuels like coal to cleaner natural gas generators in power plants, or to renewable energy.

Some carbon cap and trade markets are:


The U.S. Northeast region:

“To comply with the federal Clean Power Plan’s requirements for cutting carbon pollution from power plants, states have several options—including joining RGGI or similar schemes such as California’s cap-and-trade system.” – from: Cap & Trade Shows Its Economic Muscle in the Northeast, $1.3B in 3 Years (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative offers blueprint to all states as they begin to think about how they will comply with Clean Power Plan.) By Naveena Sadasivam, InsideClimate News

The RGGI states and California are ahead of the curve as far as complying with the Clean Power Plan.

California, Quebec: put a quotaction-to-carbon-cap-and-trade_b_6737660.html

Please also see: Carbon Tax – a levy on pollution whose time has come

cap and trade


Green City Times

Top 5 greenest cities in the world

Visit for more on:

A Canadian city that is striving to be the greenest city on earth, consistently ranking as one of the most livable cities on the planet…

A European city that averages between 2-5 inches of rainfall each month, has rain year-round and temperatures between 30-50° F for at least half of the year, however is still considered Europe’s “solar city”….

An American city that leads the nation in recycling, and is planning on having a 75% recycling rate for all of the city’s reusable waste by 2015…

The city whose metropolitan population is among the largest in the world, yet still maintains almost 40% of its area as either green space or water (a sustainable metropolis)

A couple of European cities that make use of their tremendous natural resources to provide a supply of renewable energy for most of their heating and electricity demands. This energy is sourced from the natural environments of: volcanoesgeysers and forest

A South American city that serves as one of the world’s premier examples of urban planning and boasts the finest bus system in the world….

Vancouver - Greenest City 2020

Vancouver – Greenest City 2020

Vancouver is attempting to become the world’s greenest city by 2020. In order to achieve this, the city formed GCAT (Greenest City Action Team) from their city staff. The goals for GCAT are:


·       by 2020, create 20,000 new green jobs and become a center for green business

·       by 2020, reduce carbon emissions by 33% compared to 2007, and become a leading city in fighting climate change

·        by 2020, increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce the demand for energy (over 90% of the city’s energy already is r.e., mostly hydroelectricity)

·        by 2020, all new industrial/ municipal construction to be carbon-neutral, improve efficiency of existing buildings by 20%

·        by 2020, over 50% of commutes by walking, biking or public transport

·        by 2020, reduce waste heading to landfills or incinerator by 40%

·       by 2020, plant an additional 150,000 trees so every resident lives within 5 minutes of a beach, park, greenbelt or other open space

·        by 2020, reduce per-capita ecological footprint by 33%

·        by 2020, beat WHO’s (World Health Organization) drinking water standards

·        by 2020, beat WHO’s clean air standards

·        by 2020, reduce carbon footprint of food production by 33% – focus on organic, local food production

·        Wind and solar farms also are energy sources to be used in the plan – through clean energy, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 1/3 by 2020

The priorities for implementing what are termed as “quick start actions” (initial actions to ensure Vancouver reaches the “greenest city” goal) are to reduce fossil fuel dependency and to create green jobs. Vancouver’s greenhouse gas emission targets are to get to 33% below 2007 by 2020 and 80% below 1990 by 2050. GCAT has begun to create their Green Economic Development Strategy (GEDS), implement a green jobs pilot project and begun to seek funding from the federal government and provincial governments for the new green economy…



Please see for the whole article.

Vauban's solar ship

Europe’s greenest city district

Vauban, Germany is a sustainable town for every other city in the world to emulate. Vauban is a “zero-emission” district in Freiburg, Germany.

The town is not completely carbon neutral, as cars are actually allowed, if you pay at least $23,000 USD for a parking spot on the outskirts of town. Thus, the majority of residents don’t own a car, choosing instead to use the tram, cycle or simply walk. Most streets don’t even have parking spaces.

The radical culture of Vauban has roots in its dramatic history. Ironically, Vauban was a military town through WWII and into the early 90’s. When the military left, the vacant buildings were inhabited by squatters. These vagabonds eventually organized Forum Vauban, organizing a revolutionary eco-community. Today, Vauban is modern, beautiful and represents the very cutting edge of sustainable living.

Careful urban planning helped to create a city layout which lends itself to cycling as the primary mode of transit. The terms “filtered permeability” and ”fused grid” refer to a plan that ultimately means connected streets throughout the town, as well as plenty of pedestrian and bike paths. Residents primarily live in co-op buildings, such as the “solar ship”, a large area of co-op buildings that run strictly on renewable energy…