Thursday, April 23, 2009

Some Enviro Groups Opposing Offsets in Waxman-Markey Climate Bill

As I have noted to folks in the agriculture community, the offsets issue is one that not all environmental groups support.  In fact, a good number of them are philosophically opposed to allowing agriculture to provide the service of reducing (or sequestering) greenhouse gas emissions in a more cost-effective manner for would-be capped sectors of industry.

Below is a letter that a number of environmental groups have signed and sent to Reps Waxman and Markey in opposition to the offsets title.

A few things to think about as you read this letter:
1) If agriculture is not "at the table" representing this new multi-billion dollar market, it will be folks like these who are listened to and the cost of implementing a climate bill will go up for the whole economy, not just for agriculture.

2) There ARE some environmental groups that have stuck their necks out to work with the agriculture sector on this -- namely Environmental Defense Fund and National
Wildlife Federation . . . so while you may not agree with these groups on everything,
folks in the agriculture industry should take advantage of these partnerships to fight the political battle that is brewing over offsets


April 23, 2009
The Honorable Henry Waxman
Chair, Committee on Energy and Commerce
The Honorable Edward Markey
Chair, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment

Dear Chairmen Waxman and Markey,
We commend you on the effort you have undertaken in crafting your draft “American Clean Energy & Security Act of 2009.”  While there is much to applaud in this bill, there are also areas for substantial improvement.  While we will be communicating to you separately with respect to other issues,
our organizations are concerned in particular about one key element that threatens to undermine its integrity and effectiveness in addressing climate change:  the large carbon offsets provisions of the draft bill.  As pointed out in recent testimony before your Energy and Environment Subcommittee by the Government Accountability Office,  quality assurance for carbon offsets is all but impossible to verify.  To craft a bill that allows for 2 billion tons of offsets per year — roughly equivalent to 27% of 2007 U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — is to allow for continued and dangerous delay in real action by our country at a time when the world is looking to the U.S. for leadership on climate change.

Initial calculations suggest that allowing for 2 billion tons of offsets per year would mean that covered entities in the U.S. could use offsets to avoid curtailing their own significant greenhouse gas emissions until 2026.  Given current climate science , such a delay in investing directly in new low-carbon energy infrastructure is unacceptable.

Increasing evidence is revealing the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the world’s biggest carbon offset market, is failing to deliver real climate or sustainable development benefits.   Most fundamentally, the CDM has actually facilitated an increase in overall greenhouse gas emissions —undermining the most fundamental and critical goal of all — stemming the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The draft bill intends to reduce emissions from tropical deforestation via two contrasting approaches.  The first, called Supplemental Emissions Reductions from Reduced Deforestation, is a fund-based approach with the aim of slowing tropical deforestation emissions by at least 720 million tons per year by 2020.  The fund approach as written into the draft bill could enable effective policies, activities and measures to slow tropical deforestation, which unfortunately would be undone through the second approach based on bringing hundreds of millions of tons of international forestry offsets into the U.S. carbon market each year.

Forest offsets as proposed in the draft bill fail to acknowledge forest governance problems, as well as the customary land and forest rights of Indigenous peoples including the rights of free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples in forest regions to participate, or choose not to participate, in the new carbon commodity market. Forest credits have a well-recognized potential to destabilize carbon markets by introducing large volumes of cheap offsets, huge variations in estimates of carbon stocks and fluxes over time, and uncertainties over how to monitor emissions and the impacts of policies upon rates of deforestation and emissions. 
Domestically, environmental justice organizations and activists are equally concerned that all offsets — whether in criteria pollutants or in carbon — will add to the pollution burden of already overburdened communities of color while increasing incentives for corruption. 

As the United States moves forward on domestic climate legislation, we urge you to ensure that your basic reduction targets for greenhouse gases and other agents, such as black soot  are bold enough and achieved quickly enough to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. We urge you to:

1) Take the lead on strong action on climate change at home by
opposing any international carbon offsets, including forest offsets, as part of any compliance regime on climate change; and
2) Ensure that the domestic offset market does not become part of a compliance system to regulate emissions


May Boeve,
Gillian Caldwell, 1 Sky
Rajya Waghray, Church World Service
Pam Richart, Eco-Justice Collaborative

Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network
Nia Robinson, Environmental Justice Climate Change Initiative
Robert Weissman, Essential Action
Devin Helfrich, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Brent Blackwelder, Friends of the Earth
Jane Williams, California Communities Against Toxics
Mike Tidwell, Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Neil Tangri, Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance
Bradley Angel, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice
Carroll Muffett, Greenpeace USA
Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network
Dr. Arjun Makhijani, Institute for Energy & Environmental Research
Patrick McCully, International Rivers
Kimberly Wasserman, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
Marie Dennis, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
David A. Kraft, Nuclear Energy Information Service
Michael Mariotte, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen
Michael Brune, Rainforest Action Network
Chad Simmons, Safe & Green Campaign
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Shalom Center
Daphne Wysham, Sustainable Energy & Economy Network Adam G. Gerhardstein, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations