Current Perspectives on Carbon Trading

Current Perspectives on Carbon Trading

Despite these worries, carbon offsetting has become a very popular choice for both corporations and individuals who seek a faster, easier way to reduce their carbon footprints and become more carbon neutral. The United States has been particularly involved in carbon offset schemes, reasoning that it is cheaper for U.S. businesses to purchase emissions permits from other countries than to take drastic and expensive measures to reduce its own emissions. This was the major reason for the 2003 U.S. withdrawal from the international treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement signed by 160 countries promising to reduce future carbon dioxide emissions. In the same year, several states in the northeastern U.S. joined together to form a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The initiative calls for the use of carbon offset projects and carbon trading to reduce power station carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent by 2020.

Historically, the European Union (EU) has opposed carbon offsetting and carbon trading, emphasizing the importance of global legislation to reduce emissions at the root rather than transfer the problem from country to country. However, the EU itself has had an internal system of emissions trading since 1998, though it has attempted to limit the amount of emissions reductions that can be accomplished through trading rather than fundamental changes in industrial processes. The EU also founded an Emissions Trading Scheme in 2005.

Many companies are voluntarily choosing to offset their carbon footprint, especially in the transportation industry which accounts for 25 percent of CO2 emissions, with air travel accounting for 3 to 7 percent. This is important since air travel adds 2 to 5 times more to global warming than automobile travel. In addition, many companies and organizations are opting for phone/video conferences and online meetings rather than traveling long distances for a conference. Those in the entertainment industry also try to green their tours and travels, including the Rolling Stones, Cold Play, Pink Floyd, and Leonardo Di Caprio.

To keep the planet from warming by more than four degrees Fahrenheit, efforts must be made to decrease CO2 emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. The global carbon offset market is growing extremely quickly: the total value of its transactions in 2006 was an estimated $90 million consisting of 30 to 40 providers, three times what it was worth in 2005. The providers offer offsets per ton of carbon, typically costing from $5 to $35 per ton.

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