Posts Tagged ‘Carbon neutral’
- New study shows thriving jellyfish populations
- Time-lapse tools help people understand climate change
- Environmental and economic concerns emerge about forest bioenergy
The PICS News Scan is produced by ISIS at the Sauder School of Business and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS). To be added to the News Scan distribution list Subscribe Here or to provide content feedback and/or suggestions about interesting news items, please email: email@example.com.
Some highlights from the 100th News Scan:
- Getting to zero: a pathway to a carbon neutral Seattle
- Washington carbon tax: new model and analysis
- Climate change spurring new forestry practices
This is the 100th issue of the PICS weekly Climate News Scan! Much hard work has gone into achieving this milestone and we would like to thank all those involved in the process. The News Scan team won’t be resting on its laurels. In the next few weeks we will include a link to a survey and ask our readers to please complete a few short questions on how we are doing. The feedback you provide will be used to improve the product you receive. Here’s to the next 100!
The PICS News Scan is produced by ISIS at the Sauder School of Business in partnership with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS). To be added to the News Scan distribution list or to provide content feedback and/or suggestions about interesting news items, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
RESEARCH THEME I: THE LOW CARBON EMISSIONS ECONOMY
Washington carbon tax: new model and analysis
August 10, 2011. A new study produced in association with the Washington State Department of Commerce explores the fiscal and environmental impacts of a state-wide carbon tax. The in-depth report models a carbon tax scheme based on that of British Columbia, with a base rate of $10 per emitted tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2). The rate would increase annually by $5 per tonne of CO2 up to a capped rate of $70, which would help reduce the state’s emissions to 1990 levels by 2035. Like BC, the tax would be revenue neutral, with most of the funds going to offset taxes elsewhere in the economy. While the study makes an effort to consider policy features that would be politically acceptable, it does not consider the likelihood of such a policy actually being implemented by the state.
BC has undertaken an important experiment for other jurisdictions interested in developing a carbon tax scheme to follow, as evidenced through this study and the remarkably similar carbon tax design now being implemented in Australia. Moving forward, BC should look to actively foster partnerships with these jurisdictions and take a leadership role in the development of further carbon pricing schemes and the sharing of technical knowledge and expertise.
August 15, 2011. A report released last week by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives suggests that the forestry sector could do more to create green jobs, promote forest conservation, and develop more value-added products. As the lumber market has declined in North America over the past ten years, BC has been looking to new, emerging markets such as China to shore up some of the lost demand. BC continues to export raw logs to China, even as other provinces such as Ontario and Quebec have increased processed lumber sales. Sales of higher-value wood products in 2010 were $928 and $925 million for Ontario and Quebec respectively, while BC recorded only $345 million. BC has exported large volumes of low-value lumber while simultaneously depleting BC’s natural carbon sinks. Another critical lost opportunity for the province has been job creation. Ontario and Quebec generate one forestry job for every 200-300 cubic metres of wood, compared to just shy of 1200 cubic metres per job in BC.
While a higher wood exploitation rate per job in BC might on the surface appear to represent an improvement in efficiency, it is also symptomatic of low product diversification. Other regions produce higher-value lumber products and generate more jobs while cutting down fewer trees. Opportunities to diversify the forestry sector should include revenues from eco-system services, which explicitly recognize the value that intact forests offer through the environmental services they provide. A relevant policy report entitled Carbon in the Bank outlines the carbon savings that can be realized by maintaining existing old growth forests, and makes policy recommendations for creating ecosystem services in the BC forestry sector.
RESEARCH THEME II: SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
Getting to zero: a pathway to a carbon neutral Seattle
August 9, 2011. Changes in transportation modes and improved building energy efficiency are required if Seattle is to be carbon neutral by 2050. This is according to a report from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) commissioned by the city. Road transportation accounts for 40% of the city’s emissions, with the building sector comprising another 21%. The report notes that many of the suggested measures, from building retrofits to investments in transit and district heating infrastructure, will create healthier communities and provide foundations for new, green jobs. As in BC, reliance on hydroelectric power means the carbon footprint of grid electricity in Washington is negligible; efficiency gains will help to ensure that hydro resources can continue to meet a major proportion of electricity demand.
The key points of the SEI report will be familiar to BC, in particular Vancouver, which is cited several times as a successful model. One difference is the relatively minor impact of urban densification, i.e. the use of zoning restrictions to influence transportation choices, which has been central to Vancouver’s climate action discussions. Another difference, in this case with the report going beyond Vancouver’s Greenest City actions, is in accounting for embedded emissions in imported manufactured goods. While not an official policy document, the proven actions suggested in the SEI report will be difficult to ignore by Washington State policymakers.
RESEARCH THEME III: RESILIENT ECOSYSTEMS
Carbon emissions from soil could limit sequestration efforts – study
August 15, 2011. According to a new study, the carbon sequestration potential of tropical forests could be diminished significantly by releases of CO2 from decaying leaves and plant matter. The additional CO2 expected to enter the atmosphere in the coming decades will encourage overall plant growth in forests via a CO2-fertilization effect. Paradoxically, this will mean that more leaves will fall to the ground each year, stimulating the soil microbes responsible for breaking down organic matter, and releasing more carbon dioxide than before. Most estimates of the carbon sequestration capacity of tropical forests are based on measurements of tree growth. This study demonstrates that interactions between plants and soil can have a massive impact on carbon cycling. Models of climate change must take these feedbacks into account to predict future atmospheric CO2 levels.
Forest composition in British Columbia is different that of tropical forests, but the study’s findings raise questions about the realities of sequestration in BC’s forests. A 2008 White Paper from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) investigated a similar theme. The variety of BC’s forests in diverse regions – boreal, coastal, interior and mountain – will respond differently to climate change and will have different carbon sequestration potentials. Future findings will undoubtedly continue to influence BC’s Forest Carbon Offset Protocol.
Climate change spurring new forestry practices
August 15, 2011. 2011 has been declared the International Year of the Forest by the United Nations (UN), drawing attention to forests around the world and the significant role they play in peoples’ lives, both in terms of the economy and their part in the response to climate change. According to the UN, 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihood, and established research finds that forests account for the vast majority of carbon uptake. Much of this is being put into jeopardy as rising temperatures and a changing climate affect forests. As temperatures rise over the course of decades, tree species planted now will likely be faced with a very different climate at the point of anticipated harvest in future years. Warmer temperatures stunt tree growth and reduce overall yields, while also making the forests more susceptible to disease and insects.
In response to the effects of a changing climate, forestry researchers with BC’s Climate Change and Seed Transfer Research program are recommending that forest management practices be modified to reflect climate change concerns. For forestry practices in BC, this means that seedlings should be planted further north or at higher elevations to account for rising temperatures both now and in the future. Known as assisted migration, this type of climate change adaptation strategy has been shown to be cost-effective and successful, and was implemented for specific types of species in BC this summer. The Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium has also completed work on forest pests and tree species suitability in future climates, providing evidence to suggest that BC is emerging as a world leader in this field.
RESEARCH THEME IV: SOCIAL MOBILIZATION
WRI and partners launch Aqueduct Alliance to measure, map, and report on global water risk
August 16, 2011. The World Resources Institute (WRI), an environmental think tank, is launching a publicly available database of global water risk information, in partnership with several multinational companies. Coca-Cola, GE, Bloomberg, Dow Chemical and Goldman Sachs will all contribute formerly proprietary information as part of the interactive online maps designed to aid in decision-making in a water-stressed world. The WRI hopes that the project will provide investors with valuable information, and also facilitate engagement between public and private stakeholders seeking to address water risks, largely brought about by climate change and population growth.
The hydrological impacts of climate change in BC will impact on hydroelectric power generation, municipal water supplies, flood management and agriculture. The Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium has completed several research projects on BC’s changing water flows, and estimates from Washington State suggest a 30% drop in runoff from the Columbia River Basin summer watershed by the middle of the century. This may contribute to a reduction in agricultural productivity in BC’s interior, a significant concern given that over half of the province’s agricultural economy is based in the Fraser and Okanagan valleys. Industry partnerships such as the Aqueduct Alliance could help mobilize support for adaptive policies and investments in the face of ongoing climate change.
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