Carbon Credits vs. Energy Efficiency

I just listened to Uptime Institute's interview with Yahoo's Director of Climate and Energy Strategy at Yahoo.

According to Page, to help control the rising energy consumption of the data center Industry, carbon footprint benchmarking should become an industry norm in the next 12 to 24 months.  “I think it’s especially important because it looks like we’re going to have regulation around greenhouse gases in this country in the next several years,” said Ms. Page.

And this reminded me people are questioning the Carbon Credit market. WSJ post on Carbon Credits: UN raises questions.

Carbon Credits: U.N. Raises Questions

Posted by Jeffrey Ball

Is the booming global trade in carbon credits doing anything to curb global warming?

That’s the question we keep hearing in response to two recent stories we wrote in the Journal about the carbon market’s growing pains. How policymakers and the public answer it will say a lot about whether society is likely to muster the massive effort that would be necessary to really slash global-warming emissions.


Carbon-police headquarters. (Associated Press)

One story, on Saturday, explained how the United Nations, which oversees the growing trade in carbon credits from the developing world, is cracking down – largely because of concerns that environmentally questionable projects are getting through the system. At issue: Whether some of the projects would have happened even without the revenue from the sale of carbon credits, in which case that money would be going to waste. It’s a hot question, even in the U.S., where a small voluntary-carbon-credit market has sprung up.

Companies putting together those credits say the problem is different: They say the U.N. is changing the market’s rules midstream, raising the bigger threat that the market will stay small. Our story today focused on one of them: EcoSecurities Ltd. Its shares have fallen by nearly 70% since last fall, when it announced it was writing off a quarter of the carbon credits it had promised the market. A main factor in that write-off: the U.N. crackdown, which is slowing the market.

The carbon market so far has done little to curb emissions. Backers say its promise is as a first step. At issue in the debate over the legitimacy of carbon credits is whether the whole concept of using markets attack greenhouse-gas emissions will get a “black mark” in the eyes of politicians and the public, says William Pizer, a senior fellow focusing on climate policy at Resources for the Future, a Washington-based think tank. “If it turns out to be a failed model, it’s a question of how many more tries we would get,” he says. “There is a risk that there just becomes general skepticism” about the world’s ability to address global warming.

And to give a different opinion on this Market matters: High Energy Prices Reshape Climate Debate.

Market Matters: High Energy Prices Reshape Climate Debate

Posted by Keith Johnson

If the peak-oil crowd is right, and oil prices are stuck in triple digits regardless of what the dollar does or where commodities investments go, what does that mean for the shift to a new-energy landscape? Mark this: High energy prices could prove the most important factor in the debate over what kind of international system will replace the Kyoto Protocol when its caps expire in 2012.

Kyoto sought to wean the world off its fossil-fuel energy base at a time when fossil fuels were cheap. But high energy prices change things, says economist Ricardo Lagos, former president of Chile and a United Nations special envoy on climate change. “It is all an economic argument,” Mr. Lagos told us. “Yesterday, what wasn’t economically viable is viable today. But that’s true if and only if” oil stays expensive.


Ricardo Lagos says high energy prices change things. (Associated Press)

Higher energy prices make energy-efficiency a more-appealing option for many industries in many countries, he said, and that’s the cheapest and quickest way to get countries with very different political agendas moving in the same direction to cut emissions. Efficiency, forest protection, and a sector-by-sector approach are his preferred ingredients for the next big climate agreement.

The quest for Kyoto’s replacement has been dogged by rich countries balking at costs of curbing emissions while developing countries plow ahead with energy-intensive growth. But high energy costs can push industry even quicker than legislation can: Witness the scramble for fuel-efficiency improvements in aviation or cement manufacture, for instance.

The WSJ also ran an article about two carbon-market millionaires take a hit as UN clamps down.

Two Carbon-Market Millionaires
Take a Hit as U.N. Clamps Down

EcoSecurities Sees
Shares Slide 70%;
'In the Gray Zone'

April 14, 2008; Page A1

OXFORD, England -- Marc Stuart and Pedro Moura Costa have become multimillionaires in a booming new market designed to fight global warming.

Now, their empire is under attack.

[Marc Stuart]

Their firm, United Kingdom-based EcoSecurities Ltd., helps companies in the industrialized world meet their obligations to pollute less by selling them "credits" that fund clean-air projects in poorer nations. Last year, some $9.4 billion in these credits were traded, up from almost none four years earlier.

The market's anything-goes early days now appear to be ending. United Nations officials who regulate the trade have started questioning scores of proposed projects, from hydroelectric plants in China to wind farms in India. The issue: whether they provide real environmental gains, or are just padding the pockets of middlemen like EcoSecurities.

EcoSecurities' woes are a prime example of how tough it is proving to be to launch a coordinated world-wide attack on global warming. The carbon-credit industry's growing pains come just as Congress is considering similar pollution-cutting rules targeting U.S. industries.

EcoSecurities is one of the main players in an international market that was created as part of the Kyoto Protocol to combat global warming. A key premise of the system is that, because greenhouse gases damage the atmosphere no matter where they originate, society should attack them first where the cleanup is cheapest, in the developing world. But policing that far-flung market has proved to be tricky because it involves valuing a commodity, climate-warming emissions of gas, that is far less tangible than oil or gold.

What is the right Carbon Credit strategy?  It's not clear.