• Take the carbon estimator, learn how to reduce your footprint, donate to the carbon fund for voluntary offsets www.coloradocarbonfund.org/think_1.cfm
• Read more about the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 at www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h2454/show
• For further information about the Steamboat Chamber Resort Association's Sustainable Business Program visit: www.steamboat-chamber.com/info/sustainable_business_program.asp
• For further information about the Friends of Northwest Colorado, visit www.savevermillion.org
This four-part series began with a question: How does Northwest Colorado capitalize on our natural resources to keep our economies diverse and our land, air, water, wildlife and heritage healthy?
In this final installment of the Friends of Northwest Colorado series on conservation and the economy, we discuss carbon trading and pull all the arguments together to show that sustainable businesses, businesses that seek to conserve our Natural Dividends, are businesses that makes sense for our Northwest Colorado economy.
Carbon Cap and Trade is a proposed method of managing emissions of gases that cause the human contribution to climate change.
The basic blue print for Carbon Cap and Trade is simple.
Carbon emitting industries are given a quota for emissions. When those industries exceed the quota, they may either pay a fine in the form of a use tax or buy offsets. Businesses under the quota can sell surplus credits to businesses in need of offsets.
Offsets may include purchase of conservation easements, investment in renewable energy and projects that mitigate carbon, such as restoration of forests, innovative capture and storage, etc.
Controlling emissions is seen as one of the best hopes for slowing climate change. Climate change is often referred to as global warming, which creates confusion in communities like ours where daily temperatures may be colder. To clarify, when the planet warms, it creates unpredictable fluctuations in climate that result in regional climate shifts such as the change in snow and rain patterns we have experienced in 2008 and 2009.
In early 2007, senior scientists from around the world said that the proof of climate change is "unequivocal" in a report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
An increasing majority of world governments are recognizing that human industrialization has resulted in the accelerated release of climate altering gasses into the atmosphere is resulting in a global climate that is several degrees warmer, more volatile and more likely to change.
As weather patterns shift, animals must adapt, and migration patterns shift as they struggle to find new areas suitable for foraging, mating and rearing of young.
Species that cannot adjust to relatively rapid changes decline, contributing to a loss in biodiversity. For these reasons and more, climate change is an imminent threat to the survival of species.
Scientists and governments are moving from debating the proof of climate change to seeking mitigation and prevention. Regardless of our personal beliefs in climate change, we are going to see sweeping changes imposed on us to slow future carbon emissions, manage, and mitigate current carbon levels. The U.S. House approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 earlier this year with the U.S. Senate working on similar legislation. This legislation proposes to create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, and reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy.
States are also taking the initiative: for example, Vermont was one of the first to adopt the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Because of RGGI, Vermont consumers have achieved the lowest carbon footprint in the nation.
Carbon trading legislation will create challenges for our communities and our businesses, but it also will provide opportunities for our communities in Northwest Colorado. One of the greatest opportunities is the potential for new jobs.
One expected early beneficiary of CO2 capture and storage technology is the coal-fired power sector, which is responsible for about one-third of global carbon emissions, according to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. About half of the electricity in the United States is produced by burning coal, which pours more than 2 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year, according to federal estimates.
In Northwest Colorado, the power plants, coal mines and other extraction industries are being encouraged to secure funding for research into carbon capture and storage (State seeks $5M for carbon storage project, Craig Daily Press, July 29, 2009). This research and development could bring new high-paying jobs into the area.
Landowners may also stand to gain the ability to sell carbon offsets by setting aside and even improving their land. Public land also may become a source of profit in carbon trading schemes.
In one example, studies on Sagebrush in Idaho and Oregon show that sagebrush ecosystems like those in Northwest Colorado absorb significant amounts of carbon. When we protect areas such as Vermillion Basin or large sagebrush blocks around Great Divide, we provide valuable assistance in reducing carbon, in addition to preserving traditional uses and conservation values of the land in those areas.
The challenge of Carbon Cap and Trade is to successfully adjust to a higher standard of business without affecting our quality of life and economy. The opportunities include conserving our natural dividends (the dollar values that natural amenities, such as clean air, abundant water, protected land and healthy wildlife provide to our economy), applying carbon capture techniques in our energy and agricultural business, and further developing sustainable businesses, thus giving Northwest Colorado a competitive edge in the new green jobs economy.
According to the Steamboat Chamber of Commerce's Sustainable Business program, sustainable businesses leave our planet healthier than we found it for future generations. These businesses focus on the Triple Bottom Line - a new way to define business success. The Triple Bottom Line includes financial success, social responsibility, proactive environmental management and the inter-relationships between them.
We believe this program is worth expanding to other towns and cities in our northwest region.
One of the often-heard criticisms of conservation is that it is bad for the economy. Throughout the course of this series, we have provided examples to illustrate that, in reality, not only is conservation good for the economy, but there is no reliable future economy without conservation.
We hope that we can all do our part to make sure Northwest Colorado is a great place to live for future generations.