It’s not surprising that there was no mention of North Carolina at an
international climate conference in Paris attended by 40,000 people
from every corner of the world.
the landmark agreement reached two weeks ago at the 21st United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21, presents an
opportunity for North Carolina to make the most of an inevitable push
toward more renewable energy and less fossil fuels.
of public art pillars at the conference entrance, each decorated with a
different national flag, effectively illustrated the sense of unity in
the global mission to stem global warming. Inside the cavernous center,
people hurried in and out of huge buildings on either side of a
corridor decorated with bright plastic animal sculptures and
rock-filled cage planters. At the far end stood an art deco version of
the Eiffel Tower, which on closer look were skillfully stacked
rust-colored metal chairs.
accord signed by 195 nations is intended to cut greenhouse gas
emissions that scientists say are dangerously warming the planet. The
long-term goal is to keep temperatures from rising above 2 degrees
Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, when the most destructive
consequences would happen.
critics of the climate pact warn of negative economic effects,
proponents say that it’s more likely to create stronger carbon markets,
in which North Carolina currently does not participate.
unsung hero of the agreement,” wrote Nat Keohane, an economist with the
Environmental Defense Fund, “is a set of provisions that encourages the
use of markets to drive up investment in clean energy and drive down
to Keohane, EDF’s vice president for international climate, there are
already functioning emissions-trading systems in more than 50 locations
that are home to a total of nearly 1 billion people.
role of markets may not be in this week’s headlines,” he continued,
“but a decade from now, it will be one of the enduring legacies of
he was not speaking for North Carolina, Brian Murray, director for
economic analysis at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for
Environmental Policy Solutions, sees reasons to be optimistic about the
one of the world’s experts on carbon trading, had attended the Paris
conference and participated in a panel discussion on cap-and-trade
economics. He was accompanied in Paris by a group of Duke graduate
students who observed the negotiations.
Carolina has cut its coal use down in the last decade, thanks to the
Clean Smokestacks rule,” Murray said during an interview at the
Murray said that the state’s renewable energy portfolio has encouraged the state’s growth in green power.
with natural gas, he said, solar and wind energy are replacing coal
power in the state, and across the U.S. About a decade ago, coal
produced about 50 percent of the power in the country. Now, Murray
said, coal accounts for less than 40 percent of U.S. energy production,
and there are no plans anywhere to build new coal units. The same
percentages apply in North Carolina, he said.
Carolina is one of 24 states challenging the Environmental Protection
Agency’s Clean Power Plan that calls for reductions in carbon emissions
from power plants.
Carolina is in the process of developing a state plan to meet the Clean
Power Plan requirement, Murray said. Meanwhile, he said, he has been
involved in an “information-sharing process” among Southeast states
where they support and learn from each other in developing clean power.
on Friday, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality doubled down on
its “all of the above” energy policy in a statement that lauded oil and
gas projects and the state's having joined in the lawsuit against the
Clean Power Plan.
in general, are not supportive of President Obama’s pledge to cut
greenhouse gas emissions to 28 percent below 2005 levels over the next
10 years, and 80 percent by 2050.
it turns out, the only naysayers in Paris were at the conservative
think tank Heartland Institute’s “Day of Examining the Data” conference
held on Dec. 7 and featuring a video keynote address from U.S. Sen. Jim
Inhofe, R-Okla., and presentations by climate change skeptics from the
U.S., Europe and Canada. They contend that doomsday climate forecasts
are exaggerated and reduction of fossil fuel usage would hurt economic
But the Heartland event was largely ignored, with several media outlets reporting little more than two dozen attendees.
or without the backing of state and federal policies, however,
businesses can successfully participate in the carbon market, said
Hunter Parks, president of Green Assets in Wilmington.
who also attended the Paris conference, said that his farm,
Mattamuskeet Ventures in Hyde County, became the first Avoided
Conversion Carbon Offset Forestry project in the country. That means by
not converting a percentage of his forested land to farmland, his
company was able to get credits for keeping the carbon in trees instead
of the atmosphere.
The company developed a similar carbon offset project on Lukens Island in Carteret County.
who has worked with the N.C. Coastal Federation on stormwater projects,
said he has obtained carbon credits from the California carbon market,
which generated more than $1 billion in revenue in 2013. California
passed the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006 that called for a
reduction in its greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020, with
one-third of energy coming from renewable sources. A byproduct of
the law was creation of a cap-and-trade program.
A project anywhere in the U.S. can create carbon offsets for that program, he said.
“So those are credits that can be generated and sold.”
potential benefactor in North Carolina could be hog farms, which create
enormous quantities of methane-producing hog waste. Conversion of the
waste is costly, he said, but carbon offsets, along with some private
incentives, could make it affordable.
going on here,” Parks said in an interview in Paris, “if it creates
momentum for carbon policy throughout the U.S. and the rest of the
world, opportunities for hog farms in North Carolina could generate
carbon credits and reduce CO2.”
“It’s not the cheapest way to manage the waste,” he added, “so a stronger market would help with that.”
and Murray both noted the richness of the networking opportunities at
the conference, where every sector having to do with anything related
to carbon or emissions negotiations was there.
few of the attendees were dealing directly with the global
negotiations, Murray said. “Even though we’re at an international
negotiating conference, people come here and talk about domestic
policies that are going on,” he said. “So this is a place where you
essentially exchange information.”
overriding tone of the conference was that the fossil fuel economy is
in the rear-view mirror. Between exhibits on ocean environments,
agriculture, social justice, animal welfare, fisheries, renewable
energies, micro-grids and innovative clean technologies, the message
was optimistic that the world, working toward the same goal, could save
the future from the worst effects of a warming planet.
panel of representatives from the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which
includes members from the U.S. and Canadian West Coast, encouraged
other local and state governments to take advantage of robust carbon
science tells us the way you drive down those emissions is continually
driving up that carbon price,” said Mary Polak, minister of environment
for British Columbia.
Their GDP went up much faster than anywhere else in Canada, she said. Emissions went down; consumption of fuel went down.
“We’ve seen the positive impacts,” Polak said. “We know that it works.”
a typical California jab to the East Coast, California Gov. Jerry Brown
boasted that West Coasters “intrinsically understand” that clean energy
is “one of the greatest job-creating opportunities.”
open for business on the Pacific coast,” Brown said. “We’re rocking and
we’re leading the charge. On the West Coast, we live our innovation.”
the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative of nine
Northeastern states – New Jersey pulled out in 2011 – and eastern
Canada, works to reduce emissions from the electric power sector, it
has limited scope and has no members from the Southeastern states.
true, there are still a lot of people, particularly in the chamber, who
pooh-poohs climate change,” Brown said, despite his state’s twin
plagues of drought and fire. “So it’s a real thing and it’s unfortunate
that some people got it in their head that climate change is a left
idea. All that connotes government regulation – the ideology is climate
change is bad.”
said a solid agreement from Paris may encourage more economic
development from green energy policies “and I think that idea will get
through to these knuckleheads.”
article is provided by Coastal Review Online, an online news service
covering North Carolina's coast. For more news, features, and
information about the coast, go to www.coastalreview.org.)