Category Archives: #SaveMiami

Game Over: The Carbon Credit Arcade

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“A voluntary carbon credit program won’t guarantee deep, real cuts in emissions – it’s tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs as the climate ship is going down.”

Rachel Cleetus
Policy Director & Lead Economist
Climate and Energy Program
The Union of Concerned Scientists

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Money continues to be a main topic of discussion here in Egypt as evidenced by Wednesday, what’s called “Finance Day” at COP27, when the United States announced the creation of a carbon credit financing device called the Energy Transition Accelerator. It was one of the biggest, yet also most controversial, pieces of news here in Egypt when U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, the Bezos Earth Fund, and The Rockefeller Foundation announced the creation of the Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA) as a tool that they are touting as a catalyst of private capital for the clean energy transition in emerging and developing economies. Joining them in support of the ETA were Chile, Nigeria, SEforALL, EDF, PepsiCo, Microsoft, RMI, C2ES, CPI, and Global Optimism.

“If we’re going to phase out fossil fuels in our energy systems, we believe voluntary carbon markets have a role to play. They must have high standards on both the supply side and demand side with appropriate environmental and social safeguards. The purpose of the proposed scheme is precisely to design and agree to such standards, then to move to implementation. The need is urgent, and we must bring people together to move the needle forward.”

Andrew Steer
President of the Bezos Earth Fund

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, according to the IEA, the world needs upwards of four trillion dollars in clean energy investment annually, half of which is required in developing and emerging economies. The newly announced ETA process aims to design a new carbon credit program to channel private sector investment to phase out fossil fuels and accelerate renewable energy. While every idea to reduce the world’s carbon footprint should be considered, and perhaps there will be occasions where carbon credits are helpful, my fear is that allowing businesses to obtain credits for their own carbon output by making sustainable investments elsewhere is not the same thing as actually eliminating fossil fuel and gas use.

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Many fear that this credit system will not be sufficient enough, when we should be demanding serious solutions to the most serious problem our planet faces. The key is to reduce our green house gas emissions and this idea of carbon credits is more akin to an arcade game where you earn credits towards winning a prize. Of course, our climate crisis is not being played in an arcade or for tokens, but in the real world impacting real people and our natural environment.

“Rapidly decarbonizing the power system around the world is fundamental to tackling the climate crisis. We appreciate that the US State Department is pursuing an innovative approach to scaling up investments and private capital to accelerate developing countries’ transition to cleaner energy. Done right, leveraging voluntary carbon markets can help unlock billions of dollars from the private sector to accelerate the energy transition. There is a reason that carbon offsets have been associated with greenwashing, which must absolutely be avoided.

I agree wholeheartedly with UNSG António Guterres that the only credible pathway to reaching net-zero starts with companies making deep emissions reductions within their own operations and value chains. At the same time, we very much welcome companies investing in high-quality carbon credits that promote climate action beyond their value chain while generating much-needed funding to hasten the energy transition in developing countries.”

Ani Dasgupta
President & CEO
World Resources Institute

Burning fossil fuels for power generation in emerging and developing economies accounted for 9.8 billion tons of CO2 emissions in 2020, double the annual emissions of the United States. Without sufficient investment to reduce these emissions it will be impossible to prevent the worst of the climate crisis. The creators of the ETA feel that a fair energy transition will offer the opportunity to connect billions of people to reliable, renewable electricity, many for the first time.

“Humanity is already being battered by climate change—at 3 degrees of warming, life for too many people will be not only hot but harsher, poorer, and more fragile. To avoid that fate, the world must come together in new ways and behind new innovations like the ETA, which could, for the first time, unlock the true potential of carbon markets to scale resources needed for clean energy transitions. Our teams will work in the year ahead to answer the hard questions required to reimagine what’s possible.”

Dr. Rajiv J. Shah
President of The Rockefeller Foundation

Over the next year, the plan is that the Bezos Earth Fund, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the U.S. State Department will engage with developing countries, political and thought leaders, climate champions, and the world’s foremost experts to design the ETA. The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI), the Voluntary Carbon Markets Initiative (VCMI), the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM), and WRI for the Greenhouse Gas Protocol will be consulted to ensure broad alignment with best practice environmental and carbon market standards.

The intent of their plan is to gather input and expertise from the people and institutions with the know-how and networks to design an ETA that produces verified greenhouse gas emission reductions which participating jurisdictions will have the option of issuing as marketable carbon credits. The idea is that the credits could then be purchased by companies, including through advanced purchase agreements, which would create a predictable finance stream to de-risk and leverage other forms of finance. The process will focus on a methodology designed to operate at a broad or jurisdictional scale while steering carbon finance to discrete projects.

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Any revenue eventually raised through the ETA would, the partners say, supplement other sources of finance being mobilized by governments, donors, and multilateral and private financial institutions in support of developing countries’ energy transition. The ETA partners plan to have 5% of the value of all credits generated through the ETA dedicated to international support for adaptation, and over the next 12 months they plan to address several challenging topics including:

  • A methodology which contains rigorous protocols for crediting and for monitoring, reporting, and verification so that any carbon credits generated are real, additional, and permanent;
  • Rules and safeguards, which ensure that the use of carbon credits by companies is consistent with a science-aligned net zero pathway. Participating companies will need to achieve deep reductions in their own value chain emissions, with emission reductions generated through the ETA supplementing their internal abatement;
  • Parameters that maintain integrity while ensuring sufficient supply (i.e. developing country participation) and demand (i.e. company participation);
  • Guidance for social safeguards, benefit-sharing arrangements and support for job creation and training in participating jurisdictions;
  • Stringent end-to-end transparency guidelines.

“All that matters now is speed and scale. Corporations must urgently reduce emissions in line with a 1.5 degree pathway and they must also be part of providing much needed finance flows to support the energy transition around the world. I hope many take that opportunity.”

Christiana Figueres
Former Executive Secretary UNFCCC
Co-Founder of Global Optimism


Carbon crediting has long been a controversial topic among many in the climate movement who, like me, want to see a transition that starts with an actual reduction followed by the elimination of fossil fuels and gases by all stakeholders as soon as possible (see video above). And with that in mind, allow me to end this post as it began, with the words of Rachel Cleetus from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“Carbon offsets are not an answer in a world already on fire, under water and facing mounting climate losses and damage. While the exact details are still unclear, the outlines of the US proposal are out of step with the science, which calls for steep, absolute emission reductions as soon as possible if we are to have any chance of meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. The private sector can and must play an important role in tackling the climate crisis.

Low- and middle-income countries need grants-based public finance from richer countries to help them quickly transition away from fossil fuels, alongside the rest of the world. That’s what the U.S. must deliver, rather than questionable carbon offset schemes that risk allowing companies to pollute at the expense of the planet.”

Rachel Cleetus
Policy Director & Lead Economist
Climate and Energy Program
The Union of Concerned Scientists

Life Over Death

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One of the speakers at COP27 here in Egypt yesterday, Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan, made me think of the day a few years ago when I had the honor to speak to the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York City and was joined on stage by an amazing group of children from all over the world. Some of those children with me on stage that day came from the Republic of Seychelles, a remote island country located in the Western Indian Ocean 1,500 miles off the coast of Africa.

“Like other islands, our contribution in the destruction of the planet is minimal. Yet we suffer the most.”

Wavel John Charles Ramkalawan
Seychelles President

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Seychelles is one of earth’s absolute natural wonders with breathtaking, untarnished environments on and around its 115 islands. The residents there know the value of their natural environment and prove their dedication by implementing laws to protect nearly half of their entire country from any sort of development. Unfortunately, their thoughtful protections aside, Seychelles has a dire problem because 90% of its 100,000 residents live in three coastal communities which have an average elevation of only about 2 meters (6.5 or so feet). Folks there have lived along the water’s edge for as long as man has occupied Seychelles because the ocean is how they feed their families. Today Seychelles’ entire economy is dependent on the water as a fishery, a tourist destination, and as a port of call. And just like special places all over South Florida where I am from (places like the Florida Keys, Miami Beach, and the Everglades), these communities in Seychelles are at risk of becoming submerged from rising seas caused by a climate crisis that its residents played nearly no role in creating.

Small and large communities all over the world are using this year’s COP27 meeting here in Egypt to voice their concern over being subjected to the impact of our climate crisis but not having caused it in any material way, as compared to industrialized nations such as the United States, China, the European Union, and others. In some cases, those small, often poor, and developing nations that cause little of the world’s pollution are calling for climate-oriented reparations for what the United Nations is calling their ongoing “loss and damage.”

“This COP27 gathering offers us an opportunity to either make history or, if you like, be the victim of history. Those that pollute the most should pay the most in order to get our planet off this track of climate crisis”

Macky Sall
President of Senegal
Chairman, African Union

In fact, COP27 began this week with news of a diplomatic agreement to officially make the discussion about climate-oriented reparations part of this year’s Conference. Developing countries have been asking to debate climate reparations since 1991 when the tiny island nation of Vanuata first publicly questioned who should pay for the climate catastrophe. In fact, it’s likely that one of the biggest stories from this year’s conference will be the news that this topic will be officially discussed and debated. Ultimately, the agreement to discuss climate reparations here at COP27 centers on what the United Nations calls “cooperation and facilitation,” rather than actual “liability and damage compensation” as smaller nations were demanding. The hope here at COP27 amongst those advocating a discussion on climate reparations is to have decisions on “loss and damage,” as it’s called, by 2024. And I, for one, for now think that that’s a wise decision.

Developed nations, and that most certainly includes the United States, have not made nearly enough progress towards the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to one based on sustainable energy, nor in reducing its carbon output. In fact, the lack of progress in the United States is nothing short of pathetic. Shameful even. So, if we are to ever fix the climate crisis, we have a great deal of work to do, work that will be costly, and it needs to happen much faster than has been the case thus far.

But just as our renowned space agency, NASA, has led exploration amongst the stars, America must lead the world towards eliminating every possible drop of fossil fuel use as soon as absolutely possible. And it is my belief that if the United States truly makes solving our climate crisis a priority by both government and industry, we will not only transition our economy to one fueled by sustainable energy but that the world will follow America’s lead.

And the world’s nations working together will be absolutely critical when one considers the annual estimated cost per year to transition to sustainable energy is estimated to be between $4 and $6 Trillion over the next decade or so. And, speaking of the cost and challenges, consider the report published this past summer by Professor Aviel Verbruggen, an energy and environmental economist from the University of Antwerp in Belgium, who used data from the World Bank to estimate that the oil and gas industry produce an estimated profit of $2.8 Billion per day.

“These profits have enabled the fossil fuel industry to combat all efforts to switch our energy systems. We have to dismantle such profit seeking systems and build our future based on accessible and distributed renewable energy that is more sustainable and democratic in every way.”

May Boeve
350.org

“Loss and damage” topics must, most certainly, be addressed one day soon but today our key priority needs to be making significant progress in transitioning our global energy system to one based on sustainable sources in places like the United States. The stakes, as Vice President Gore said this week while here in Egypt, are truly life over death.

The Controversy of COP27 in Egypt & Why I Am Here

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As I wrote in my blog post yesterday, the United Nations global climate meeting, known as COP27, that I am attending this week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, marks the first time that the conference has been conducted in the Middle East. After 26 prior such meetings, including last year’s in Scotland, the 2015 conference in France that produced the famous Paris Agreement, and another 24 other prior sites, 2022 is the first time a Middle Eastern country has hosted these vital global meetings. The region’s impact on global fossil fuel production is historic by any measure. But this year’s COP in Egypt is not without extreme controversy including boycotts and debate all over the world. lot of controversy in fact. Before I address the controversy, as well as explain why I feel it’s important to be here, I think it’s useful to consider this region’s role in the global energy industry and most especially petroleum (fossil fuel) production.Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2017-11-21 14:19:10Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Egypt was the 26th largest producer of fossil fuels as measured by barrels of oil produced per day (560,942) in 2021. Egypt’s immediate and well-known neighbor, OPEC member Saudi Arabia, whose mainland is a mere 17 miles across the Red Sea’s Strait of Tiran from my hotel room, ranked as the world’s third largest producer at around 9,313,145 barrels per day in 2021 (the United States, by the way, is the largest at an estimated 11,184,870 barrels followed by Russia at about 10,111,830).

And speaking of OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), next year’s COP28 will take place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an OPEC member since 1967. Although Egypt is not an OPEC member, its proximity to so many others in the region and on this continent that are members would seem to me to send a message that the world is bringing its concerns about the product they produce to the very place it is produced. OPEC produces about 40% of the world’s crude oil and exports about 60% of the total petroleum that’s traded internationally. What’s that saying about keeping your “enemies” close?

And let’s think about where COP is located this year (and next) and then consider the OPEC member nations (Algeria, Angola, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela). Heck, only Venezuela, located in South America, is not in either the Middle East or on the African continent. So occasionally bringing the “fight,” so to speak, to at least some of these places could be productive and therefore is wise in my view.

And while some might, I suppose, debate the value of even holding the United Nations global climate conference in places that produce the product doing so much of the damage to our environment or even the very value of COP meetings in the first place, those issues are not the essence of the controversy concerning Egypt or the boycotts taking place by some environmental groups or activists.

No, the core concerns at the center of the controversy relate largely to Egyptian governmental leaders and their policies related to free speech, human rights, academic and journalistic expression, its estimated 60,000 political prisoners, as well as the idea that it is “greenwashing” itself as an ecological leader through positive public relations by hosting the event and not allowing public protest. The U.S. State Department even has a list of what our country calls “significant” human rights concerns with Egypt including extrajudicial killings by the government, arbitrary or unlawful killings, forced disappearances by state security, torture, and poor conditions in the country’s prisons.

These are serious concerns for certain that cannot be condoned. But do we avoid working to advance our transition towards sustainability by not attending such talks as COP27 here in Egypt as some activists have suggested because we have rightful concerns over a host country’s government? Or because a country has little to no tolerance for public protest designed to capture media attention? While I wish we could demand that host countries adequately address each of these concerns, the reality is that we have no choice but to take every possible opportunity to find global solutions to our climate crisis before it’s too late. One of our best such chances to advance these discussions as it stands today are the COP meetings like this one.

As I’ve said many times, we will only ever solve our global climate crisis by working together.

All of us.

That’s within our schools, communities, states, and country, as well as of course with other countries all around the world. The reality is that our energy system, sources, and global economy is interconnected. That’s why President Biden will be here. It’s why Chinese President Xi Jinping is coming to COP27, and, yes, it’s why Russian President Putin will be in Egypt. People and countries in the latter two examples are ones that we obviously don’t always agree with and whose social justice policies range from questionable to criminal, but they will be here because only together do we solve this incredibly complicated problem.

Boycotting the only global climate discussion that exists on the planet is not the smart thing to do for our planet at a time when we are running out of time to evolve the world’s energy system to sustainable solutions.

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That’s why I am here. To listen and learn. To find common ground. To progress the hard policy work that so often does not capture headlines but will be key to fixing what’s broken. And most certainly to find ways to accelerate the transition that’s needed to solve the most significant challenge my generation will ever face during our time here on earth, our climate crisis.

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