CLIMATE CHANGE ROUNDUP: Public Transit Seen as Best Way to Cut San Diego GHGs

By Published On: October 30, 2009

Getting people to ride public transit, drive electric vehicles, and make their buildings more energy efficient may be the most effective strategies for cutting greenhouse gases in the San Diego region, said the Energy Policy Initiatives Center in two reports released October 27. The center, housed at the University of San Diego Law School, evaluated a range of local policy options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the two largest sources: buildings and personal transportation, such as cars and trucks. “Based on our study, it is clear that to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation we must increase use of public transportation and pursue electric-based vehicle options. To reduce emissions associated with buildings we must increase efficiency in existing buildings, particularly in the residential sector,” said EPIC director Scott Anders. “Also, regardless of the relative cost effectiveness of the policies we evaluated, it appears that implementing all of them to some degree may be necessary to reach our long-term emissions reduction targets.” The project was funded by a grant from the San Diego Foundation’s Environment Program and Blasker-Rose-Miah Fund. * * * * An agreement in principle to slash carbon emissions by major polluters, including the U.S. and China, was reached following a two-day meeting in Copenhagen October 24-25. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chinese Congressmember Wang Guantoa authored the proposed blueprint that seeks to ensure emissions are cut by 70 percent by 2020 and to increase the odds of meaningful climate change deals coming out of the international global warming summit being held in the Danish capitol in December. The principles hammered out last weekend also aim to motivate national action in the areas of renewable energy development, efficiency standards for buildings, appliances, and vehicles, as well as forestry protocols to reduce deforestation. The international group of legislators, who met last weekend, included lawmakers from Brazil, India, France, Mexico and the United Kingdom. They signed a joint statement calling for countries participating in the UN Climate Change summit at the end of the year to agree to emission goals for developing countries beginning in 2020 through 2050. It calls for providing incentives to countries with rich forest resources to thwart deforestation. The participants also agreed on the need for a minimum “$100 billion per year in financing assistance from public and private sources, including developed countries, to meet the costs of adaptation to a changed climate.” according to the Times of India. The 27-countries that form the European Union are meeting October 29-30 and will attempt to reach agreement on climate change funding for developing countries * * * * A study published in Science October 22 found that carbon losses to the atmosphere due to a massive move to biofuels may be twice as high from indirect land-use changes as from direct land-use changes needed to clear land for crops. The study, led by Marine Biological Laboratory senior scientist Jerry Melillo, also predicted that increased fertilizer use for biofuels production will cause nitrous oxide emissions to become more important than carbon losses, in terms of warming potential, by the end of the century. Direct land-use emissions, the study noted, are generated from land committed solely to bioenergy production. Indirect land-use emissions occur when biofuels production on cropland or pasture displaces agricultural activity to another location, causing additional land-use changes and a net increase in carbon loss. Massive conversion of transportation fuels to biofuels will result in more land being used to grow crops for fuel than for food by the end of the century, the researchers further said. The researchers found too that carbon accounting used in the Kyoto Protocol and other climate legislation, including the European Union’s cap-and-trade law and the American Clean Energy and Security Act, does not factor carbon dioxide released from tailpipes and smokestacks utilizing bioenergy or count emissions resulting from land use changes when biomass is harvested or grown. This, the scientists said, erroneously treats all uses of bioenergy as carbon neutral, regardless of the source of the biomass, and could create strong economic incentives for large-scale land conversion as countries around the world tighten carbon caps. * * * * Clean technology industry leaders believe cap-and-trade legislation will ultimately help the U.S. economy and help reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but they are not optimistic legislation will pass in the near term. That’s according to an October 27 survey of clean technology entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and other industry professionals conducted by law firm Cooley Godward Kronish. If legislation does pass, 80 percent of respondents believe it will ultimately help, not hinder, the U.S. economy. Seventy-one percent said that a cap-and-trade system will be effective in reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. However, 45 percent of those surveyed said cap-and-trade legislation will not pass until the second half of 2010. Nearly 30 percent said the legislation will not pass during President Obama’s first term. Only 20 percent believed it will pass in the first half of 2010. A vast majority of those surveyed--85 percent--said cap-and-trade legislation would not play a significant factor in their business plans. Instead, the respondents listed raising capital (56 percent) and navigating government affairs (32 percent) as the greatest challenges to success. Twenty-six percent of respondents viewed legislation as a major challenge.

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