While Capitol Hill has been focused on the financial crisis, states from one end of the country to the other were getting some work done last week for their citizens, reports The Daily Green.
Portions of the nation have signed various cap-and-trade systems in an effort to control pollution. Simply stated, cap-and-trade systems offer financial incentives for achieving emissions reductions.
In this case, local governments are setting limits (or caps) on the amount of pollutants that can be emitted. Companies or other groups are issued emission permits and are required to hold an equivalent number of allowances (or credits) which represent the right to emit a specific amount. The total amount of allowances and credits cannot exceed the cap, limiting total emissions to that level. Companies that need to increase their emissions must buy credits from those who pollute less. This transfer of allowances is referred to as a trade. In effect, the buyer is paying a charge for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions by more than was needed. Thus, theoretically, those that can easily reduce emissions most cheaply will do so, achieving the pollution reduction at the lowest possible cost to society.
Last Thursday in the Northeast, six out of the 10 states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (aka “Reggie”) held the nation’s first auction of carbon dioxide emissions allowances under a cap-and-trade system.
Utilities and other power plan owners in any of the Reggie states can use auctioned allowances to comply with the region’s cap on emissions, which takes effect in 2012 and will fall 2.5% every year between 2015 and 2018.
Across the country, the Western Climate Initiative released a broad plan last week to cut greenhouse gas emissions 15% below 2005 levels by 2020. The Western version of Reggie, which covers seven U.S. states and four Canadian provinces, differs from efforts in the Northeast in that it won’t be limited to power plants. Utilities and industries will face the cap in 2012, while transportation fuels will follow in 2015, along with fuels used by residential and commercial sectors.
And in America’s heartland, six Midwestern states have signed an agreement to develop their own cap-and-trade system.
These efforts come at a critical time. Just days ago, the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center revealed that global emissions of carbon dioxide have surged, driven mainly by explosive economic expansion in developing countries.
More than half of global emissions are now from developing countries, reports the Associated Press. Their dominance reflects rapid growth in the burning of coal and manufacturing cement, another big source of the heat-trapping gas. Even more scary is the finding that the absorptive power of oceans, forests, and other "sinks" for carbon dioxide has not kept pace with the rising emissions.
In additional green news, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of NYC, is tainting his image as one of the greenest mayors in the region. He has vowed to block legislation which would make NYC the first city in the nation to require manufacturers and retailers to recycled outdated electronics equipment.
E-waste is a real problem. Toxic ingredients that make circuitry work can foul the environment if disposed of improperly. E-waste represents 2% of America's trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste. Large amounts of e-waste have been sent to countries such as China, India and Kenya, where lower environmental standards and working conditions make processing e-waste more profitable. Around 80 % of the e-waste in the U.S. is exported to Asia. Check out our E-waste section for more info and ways to take action.