Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Debating Emissions Trading

In yesterdays Reading Roundup, I included a link to an interview on Celsias with Kevin Smith and Jutta Kill. Their position is that carbon trading schemes aren't a real solution for reducing emissions for a number of reasons. Continuing the conversation, Shayle Kann rebuts the four central points of the interview. My issue with Smith and Kill is that, at least in the context of the interview, they didn't have an alternate idea. In this debate, its too easy to say, sorry, don't like that without productively making an alternate suggestion. Shayle also points out that while the solution deployed in Europe, and possibly coming to the US, isn't perfect, trading schemes are putting a cost and setting limits on emissions. As has been pointed out, the biggest issue in the European Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is the direct allocation of permits to polluters, such that those who can reduce their emissions cheaply will make a windfall selling their freely obtained permits to those who can't afford to reduce their own emissions.

It is a well taken point from both articles that planting trees is an ineffective, inefficient and of questionable utility for reducing atmospheric CO2, especially when purchased as offsets. I also believe that in most cases, voluntary offsets are being sold at a price that doesn't even close to approximate the cost of offsetting the emissions. For instance, is it reasonable that at Consumer Electronics Showcase (CES), the emissions of the 140,000 people at the show only cost $108,000 or $5/ton to offset? That doesn't jive with predictions of $50/ton and up for emissions certificates. (see "How Green is CES?" at Green Wombat on CES offsets)