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Report Summary November 2008
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Carbon Trading
Will it reduce global warming?
By Jennifer Weeks

Carbon emissions trading — the buying and selling of permits to emit greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels — is becoming a top strategy for reducing pollution that causes global climate. . . .

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The Issues
  • Are current trading systems working?
  • Are there better ways to cut emissions?
  • Does carbon trading help developing countries?


Pro/Con
Should the European Union cap aviation carbon emissions?

Pro Pro
Joao Vieira
Policy Officer, European Federation for Transport and Environment. From T&E Bulletin, July 22, 2008
Giovanni Bisignani
Director General and CEO, International Air Transport Association (IATA). From remarks at the Farnborough [England] International Air Show, July 18, 2008


Spotlight

When discussing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, businesses and government agencies often use shorthand terms, like "carbon" or "carbon dioxide," to refer to the various gases emitted when carbon-based fuels are burned.

The Kyoto Protocol and other schemes to regulate greenhouse gases cover six major types of emissions that remain in the atmosphere for a significant time, trapping heat that is reflected back to Earth, which warms the planet's surface. Most are caused by various human activities.

Climate scientists have assigned each gas a global warming potential (GWP), based on its heat-trapping properties. A GWP value measures the impact a gas has on the climate over a given time period (usually 100 years) compared to the heat-producing impact of a ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) — the most abundant greenhouse gas. For example, methane's GWP value is 25, which means that a ton of methane released into the atmosphere will cause as much warming as 25 tons of CO2 over a 100-year period. Footnote 1 Thus, the higher the GWP, the more global warming the gas causes.

chart detailing the different types of greenhouse gases

Carbon trading schemes allow emitters to trade allowances to release some or all of the six types of gases, whichever are covered by a particular system. For example, under the Kyoto Protocol, so-called Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects in developing countries can generate credits that they can then sell abroad by reducing their own emissions from any of the six GHG categories. Each credit certifies that the project has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of one metric ton (2,205 pounds) of carbon dioxide per year.

Under the European Union's Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), an electric power company in Italy might buy credits to cover excess CO2 emissions created by its coal- or oil-fired power plants. These credits could come from CDM projects that reduced other GHG emissions through such actions as collecting methane emissions from landfills or reducing hydrofluorocarbon leakage at aluminum-smelting plants. Using the GWP values for these gases, project owners can calculate how many tons of CO2 equivalent the project releases or avoids, and then sell the reduction credits easily across international borders.

[1] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: Fast Facts," April 2008.

Footnote:
1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: Fast Facts," April 2008.


Document Citation
Weeks, J. (2008, November 1). Carbon trading. CQ Global Researcher, 2, 295-320. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/globalresearcher/
Document ID: cqrglobal2008110000
Document URL: http://library.cqpress.com/globalresearcher/cqrglobal2008110000


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