The sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP16) in Cancun is the latest UN effort to get the international efforts to reduce global warming and climate change on political and community agendas. Although COP16 is not expected to produce a binding agreement, many governments have adopted initiatives to diminish their environmental impacts and carbon footprint.
European Union (EU)
The EU’s commitment to renewable energy has helped to advance renewable energy sources like wind power. Other encouraging signs are also in evidence in the European auto industry. EU legislation, passed in 2008, requires manufacturers to reduce CO2 by one fifth by 2015. Business Week is reporting that European car makers are ahead of schedule in their efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, thanks in part to increased consumer demand for more efficient vehicles.
China has engaged in an ambitious renewable energy policy that will see heavy investment in solar power and subsidies for cleantech companies. The country is also offering consumer subsidies for the purchase of electric cars and has also been closing down small coal plants in order to help it meet its goal of reducing CO2 per unit of GDP by 45 percent through 2020. Business Week reports that China is exploring cap-and-trade to help meet its targets. By some estimates, a cap-and-trade market in China could be functioning as early as 2013.
As reported in the Business Standard, the Indian government has launched a cleantech certification process that will help Indian power distribution companies to meet their renewable portfolio obligation (RPO) through the purchase of certificates. The Electricity Act of 2003 mandates that state distribution utilities purchase electricity from renewable energy sources as a certain minimum percentage of the total consumption of power in the state. This certification scheme will help promote clean power.
Reuters reports that Brazil managed to stem deforestation and cut its emissions by 34 percent over the past five years, enabling the country to meet its 2020 target ten years ahead of schedule. The government of Brazil has come down on cattle ranchers and loggers. Brazil also announced that its state developmental bank, BNDES, has opened a $588 million fund to finance projects that reduce deforestation caused by the agricultural sector.
Due to the collapse of the Russian economy in 1991, the country was easily able to reach its 1990 carbon emission levels. Now the economy has improved and Russia is looking to carbon credits to bring in revenue. Earlier this year, Business News Europe reported that Russia approved 15 projects aimed at cutting emissions from industries like chemicals, paper manufacturing and power generation.
The newly elected Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said addressing global warming and putting a price on carbon emissions are “priorities for the new Parliament.” The Australian company BHP Billiton Ltd., one of the world’s largest mining companies, is also supportive of a carbon-emissions tax.
Some believe that Japan will incorporate a carbon tax into legislation early next year. The Independent is reporting that Japan is trying to reduce home energy consumption by asking its citizens to go to bed and get up an hour earlier. An estimated 20% of household energy consumption occurs in the hour before bed.
Despite the dismal expectations for COP16, some nations are making strides in the right direction. Continued pressure will continue to help international efforts to reduce global warming gain footing and popularity.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, sustainable investor and writer. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. He is also the author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, green investing, enviro-politics and eco-economics.