Tag Archives: greenhouse gas emission

cop21

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 (breakthroughenergycoalition.com). 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 (mission-innovation.net) 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

nuclear power plant

Nuclear – one necessary energy supply to fight climate change

Nuclear energy is necessary to fight climate change and decrease fossil fuel use. Wind and solar are often distributed energy sources which are always intermittent and variable. Nuclear, however, is continuously available and represents a much more concentrated source of energy than renewables, with a much higher production capacity. Both nuclear and renewable energy’s contribution to energy production on the planet must increase to a combined energy production level which is a little more than what coal alone currently provides.

In order to significantly cut down on the share of fossil fuels in the world energy mix, at least double the production of that which is illustrated in the chart above is needed by 2035. (A total of 40% of the world’s energy mix for renewable and nuclear energies combined is needed to reach significant GHG targets. Only 20+% of renewable and nuclear combined is projected in 20 years – by 2035).

In order for the entire planet to achieve at least 25% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction by 2025 compared to 2015 levels (a reasonable, yet challenging, GHG reduction goal for the planet), nuclear energy is going to have to augment truly clean, renewable energy in the effort to dramatically reduce fossil fuel use. Once it’s at the operational stage, carbon dioxide emissions from a nuclear reactor and the power plant’s site are minimal. Other than reduction of emissions, nuclear offers, by far, the most energy dense resource available.

Fossil fuels are more energy dense than renewable energy sources, but 1 kg of coal can only keep a light bulb lit for a few days, while the same quantity of a nuclear energy source will keep the same bulb lit for well over 100 years. Nuclear does this without any CO2, or most other GHG, emissions from the nuclear plant.

Current reactors, 1st and 2nd generation plants, rely on water and uranium. Therefore, these nuclear plants still deplete water supplies, create nuclear waste, use a fuel source that can be enriched to convert the material into a bomb, and represent a source of potential danger, as in the Fukushima disaster (although this risk is dramatically minimized in a 3rd generation plant).

A safer, cheaper, and still energy abundant and emissions-free design that uses relatively benign energy sources and relatively much less water than previous designs and operational plants, is being envisioned in 4th generation nuclear, and is currently available in 3rd generation designs.

Using a small fraction of the water as previous designs, the 4th generation nuclear plant designs are safe, cost-effective, environmentally-friendly and still offer tremendous potential for energy production. Molten salt reactors using depleted uranium, nuclear waste from other plants, or thorium, are being designed as 4th generation nuclear plants. 4th generation designs (and many 3rd generation plants, both planned and operational) are autonomous, smart plants that are even being designed to run on different fuel sources.

Thorium, instead of uranium, is being looked at as a fuel source, as it is abundant, much less radioactive than uranium, and also creates by-products from burning the fuel source, that can just be used again in the reactor. Thorium reactors are being designed with low up-front capital costs, and little manpower is needed to run and maintain 4th generation plants, due to the advanced computer technology set to be deployed in the plants.

Thorium, and depleted uranium, have a very low chance of being developed into a nuclear weapons, produce less radioactive waste, are abundant fuel sources, and are safer, cheaper and cleaner.

Thorium, in particular, is being looked at by developing nations like China and India because of the relatively low cost, increased safety, abundance of the material, and tremendous energy potential of this energy source. The U.S. has huge amounts of thorium, in places like Kentucky and Idaho, and there are large quantities in countries like India, Australia and Brazil.

The U.S., Europe and even some of the aforementioned developing countries also have large stockpiles of depleted uranium, with more being produced every day, which would work in many of the 4th generation designs. 3rd generation nuclear plants are already operating, and some 4th generation plants are projected to be developed and ready for operation by 2025. 4th generation nuclear promises to produce abundant, low-cost energy safely, and with little environmental impact.

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:

EU ETS:

http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/ets/index_en.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfNgsKrPKsg

The U.S. Northeast region:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2015/07/14/carbon-caps-help-northeast-economy-report-says/jPcTMPG6f6SjcRU8CBCSnO/story.html#

http://insideclimatenews.org/news/14072015/cap-trade-shows-economic-muscle-northeast-13-billion-RGGI-clean-power-plan

“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:

http://daily.sightline.org/2014/05/22/17-things-to-know-about-californias-carbon-cap

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rosaly-byrd/an-introdu 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

 

Carbon tax is a levy on pollution

Carbon tax – a levy on pollution whose time has come

A carbon tax is a levy on pollution, for the relative cost to humanity of the use of fossil fuels. This cost cannot be tabulated in exact terms, for it’s the accumulated cost of the damage to the environment, human health, and related costs of the use of fossil fuels that can only be estimated. The carbon tax itself is a fee on the production and distribution of fossil fuels. The government sets a price per ton on carbon, then that translates into a tax on oil, natural gas or such things as the electric bill.

Businesses and utilities then have the incentive to reduce consumption, and/ or maintain the market price and absorb the cost of the tax, or pass the added fee on to individual consumers. Individuals would then have the incentive to reduce consumption, increase their energy efficiency habits or face a steeper cost for energy and gas.

The principle of mitigating negative externalities (such as the damage caused by fossil fuels), and having the relative costs of pollution paid for, is the primary purpose of the carbon tax. Who bears the ultimate burden of the tax is a hypothetical question that has a couple of answers. The businesses that produce and distribute fossil fuels should consider bearing the brunt of the tax. In practice, individuals pay more.

A carbon tax is enacted to lower greenhouse-gas emissions. Public transportation, energy efficiency products, and things like clean coal technology become great alternatives to traditional means. One other benefit of a carbon tax, besides the incentives to reduce consumption and increase energy efficiency, is the increased attractiveness of the cost of alternative energy, which is made closer to cost parity with fossil fuels.

 

Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK have all successfully implemented a partial carbon tax on some goods and services, while not being able to implement a broad, universal carbon tax. Generally, reports of lower greenhouse-gas emissions follow the passage of a carbon tax. In addition, India and Australia, among many other countries, have also successfully enacted carbon tax policies. The province of British Columbia, in Canada, has reported drops of around 5% annually of greenhouse gas emissions due to its aggressive carbon tax policies. 

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 http://www.greencitytimes.com/Sustainability-News/vancouver-greenest-city-2020.html for the whole article.