A collaboration of 14 states and provinces from 5 countries, including officials from California, will meet in the Mexican state of Chiapas this week. They’re trying to develop ways to cut carbon pollution together.
But some people are skeptical about the project.
As the Golden State’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger signed climate deals with his counterparts in Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil and Nigeria just about every time the Governor’s Global Climate summit came around.
California’s cap-and-trade strategy, a centerpiece of AB 32’s greenhouse gas reduction effort, could allow oil refineries or other industrial polluters to emit greenhouse gases in the US if they also prevent logging in a tropical forest. That’s called an “offset,” and if you're an international carbon trading nerd, the term to learn here is "REDD" for "reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation," which is what forestry-related offsets are supposed to do.
The idea is to help companies that send greenhouse gases into California’s air offset that pollution by protecting tropical forests that trap those gases and slow global warming. But advocates for low-income neighborhoods near California polluters say that instead of cutting international deals, state regulators should make industrial sources clean up the air nearby.
So does Greenpeace International.
“It’s hard to imagine how the state of California, [which] doesn’t even have a staff person working on this issue is going to report on or verify emission reductions in small projects happening in Guatemala, Mexico or Indonesia,” says Greenpeace’s Roman Czebiniak.
This week’s meeting takes on more importance as California moves toward opening a market for trading and cutting carbon emissions this winter. Czebiniak says it’s a good idea for California to cut its contributions to global warming, as state law requires. But he says it would be even better to ensure that pollution reductions count.
Greenpeace has published a new report, “Outsourcing Hot Air,” that comes down hard on California’s sub-national greenhouse gas reduction agreements.
And Czebiniak worries the offset system might mislead California into thinking a trade for a small piece of forest prevents enough pollution. “Our job is not to provide the largest industrial polluters in California like Chevron with the most offset options possible,” he says. “The easiest way and the clearest way to reduce emissions is to have Chevron reduce them at the source.”
California is getting ready to trade carbon emissions in a market starting in November.