Profile: Karla Bell
The driving force for “greening” the Olympic Games, Fiji-born, Australian educated Karla Bell wants to see voluntary carbon offsetting incorporated into emission trading schemes, more use of agricultural offsets, as well as green building retrofitting for energy efficiency and job creation. She’s the co-founder of Carbonflow Inc.
A long time pragmatic environmentalist, Karla Bell is probably best known as the driving force behind developing the Green aspect of the Olympics starting with the first Green Olympic Games in Sydney, while working for Greenpeace in the Atmosphere and Energy campaign.
She has since been an advisor to both the public and private sector on green infrastructure and emissions trading, and has been a proponent of the need to bring transparency and automation to help scale emissions trading markets.
Born in Fiji, Karla holds an undergraduate degree from Macquarie University in Sydney and is a Senior Research Fellow at the Royal College of Art in London on Sustainable Development.
Karla is a co-founder of Carbonflow, Inc, a software company based in San Francisco, the only multi-party software company in the CDM markets under the Kyoto Protocol. The objective of this initiative was to reduce cost and speed up the transaction process involved in creating a carbon credit or CER (certified emission reduction) from the origination of a project, the validation, registration, verification and on-going monitoring process. Karla is the Opinion writer and editor of The Greenhouse Gas Blog on GHGblog.com.
Karla is speaking at Carbon Forum Asia in Singapore in the end of October on the innovators panel, another initiative that is to include Green Building offsets into the offset market in the U.S but more generally in the offset market globally particularly in the developed world ( as it already exists in CDM).
Karla had this to say to ABC Carbon on the concerns expressed in Australia about lack of Government recognition for the Voluntary Carbon Market:
“I would support the Voluntary Carbon Market being grand-fathered into an Australian Emissions Trading scheme as the U.S national draft Kerry-Boxer Bill has proposed. The Voluntary Carbon Standard follows the same architecture as the current CDM mechanism under the Kyoto protocol, the current de-facto standard for the development of the global offset market.
“Additionally, I would support, as the proposed U.S legislation does, the wide-ranging use of offsets in both the proposed international and domestic offset market. The U.S bill has a proposed 75% domestic and 25% international split, whereas the majority of offsets being considered in Australia are international offsets, most likely REDD credits.
“The method of creating offset project types is positive in that anyone from the President to an individual project developer can propose a project type by creating a methodology and have it approved. The following project types have been so far named, including Coal mine and landfill methane collection and combustion; the capture of venting, flaring and fugitive emissions from oil and natural gas.
“From Australia’s point of view, if we are to adopt any similar parts of the proposed U.S. Bill, we should definitely consider the range of agricultural offsets that are proposed, which are wide-ranging from Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) activities: including Afforestation/Reforestation, Improved Forest Management, agro-forestry, reduced deforestation, altered tillage (no-till farming), changes in animal management practices, among others.
“My own particular interest in Green Building offsets is not included but under the process of nominating a project type, submitting it for approval, there would be nothing to stop a project developer taking that path under the Bill.
More words from Karla Bell from two recent articles which appeared in Sustainable Industries publication:
The real issue is the US bill does not go far enough. It needs to create an “energy-efficiency and renewable energy set aside” – or green building carbon offset program – which rises above the regulatory approaches to energy efficiency. The Waxman-Markey bill provides for an economy-wide cap-and-trade program. The cap reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, and 83% below by 2050. Offsets (project-based reductions) are limited to 2,000 million metric tons CO2 equivalent per year, or 30% of U.S. emission reductions, split evenly between domestic and international offsets. Domestic offsets do not include offsets from green buildings.
However, federal regulators are closely watching California, which is holding public hearings about AB32 implementation. Members of the San Francisco Carbon Collaborative, including Carbonflow, have made significant progress with the regulators on getting an “energy efficiency set aside” into the discussion for possible inclusion in AB 32. This is an important first step, as California is known as a global leader in energy related legislation.
Simultaneously, at the recent CarbonExpo in Barcelona, many expressed interest in a Global International Protocol on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy set asides. Under the Waxman-Markey bill, energy efficiency would be achieved through a renewable electricity standard, a low-carbon fuel standard, and energy efficiency programs and standards for buildings, lighting, appliances, as well as vehicles and stationery sources and fuels.
These are all good initiatives. But according to Anne-Marie Warris, author of the Voluntary Carbon Standard, “the problem is that it relies on energy efficiency measures to be applied as the natural turnover of building stock takes place,which is estimated to take anything from 500 to a 1,000 years….which is time we simply do not have to prevent climate change,” Warris says.
Indirect sources of emissions
The Waxman-Markey bill relies on capping direct sources of emissions such as power plants and other smokestack industries. The bill’s definition of domestic offsets includes agriculture, landfill, waste-to-energy projects and biomass. But, it does not include green building offsets. The conventional wisdom is that cap-and trade should be restricted to direct industrial sources, because there are fewer of them and they are already heavily regulated. The bill follows the reliance on reductions from direct sources and forecloses on the possibility to achieve reductions from indirect sources, such as buildings that consume electricity despite their cost effectiveness.
“As a result, a valuable incentive for voluntary GHG reductions is lost, the low-hanging fruit of increasing energy efficiency in buildings goes unpicked, and industrial sources are required to shoulder a greater share of required GHG reductions, all of which increase the societal cost for addressing climate change and makes it less politically feasible to accomplish,” says Donald Simon, an attorney for Wendel, Rosen, Black and Dean.
Huge potential with existing buildings
Existing regulation leading to emissions reductions through “green” construction techniques usually comes in the form of building codes that reach only new construction and substantial renovations. Yet the majority of GHG in the built environment come from existing buildings. Current government incentives “are helpful but inadequate because they do not achieve sufficient market penetration and rely on limited government funding that can disappear in lean budget years,” Simon says. Domestic green building offsets would allow regulated industries to choose between reducing their own emissions or purchasing offsets from others who are able to reduce theirs at lower cost.
This would reduce the overall cost of climate change regulation for consumers because the market would exploit the lowest cost GHG reductions. Green building carbon credits would provide a large funding source that partially finances energy efficiency improvements. Poorer communities would benefit, as credits would fund energy efficient and renewable energy upgrades to existing building stock at a more accelerated rate than building codes currently create.
Making energy upgrades affordable
Moderate House Democrats and Republicans say that under a cap-and-trade program, ordinary people would incur higher energy costs over time because most have not upgraded their homes and small businesses with energy-efficient technologies.
However, by allowing green building offsets into the federal cap-and-trade system, subsidies to poorer communities for increased energy costs would not be necessary. Their buildings would be retrofitted by the private sector using the dollars from green building offsets. Ultimately, these people would consume up to 50 percent less energy, with no net energy cost increase. Green building offsets would allow construction companies, project developers, engineers and architects to initiate energy efficiency and renewable energy building projects. And, revenue from the sale of the credits would fund projects and create new “green” jobs. Without this small inclusion to the Waxman-Markey bill, the Democrats may miss a chance to pass sweeping climate change legislation in 2009.
Creating more green-collar jobs
Two complementary recent reports prepared by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (PERI), Center for American Progress (CAP), Green For All, and the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) outline how investment in a clean-energy economy will produce significant economic and job creation benefits. These include the generation of roughly three times more jobs than would be generated by the same investment in the existing fossil fuel infrastructure.
NRDC reports the American Clean Energy and Security bill will create 1.7 million jobs throughout America, 614,000 of which will be available to people without college degrees or extensive work experience. This will lead to a tripling of gross domestic product by 2050 and even opponents of the bill predicted a doubling of GDP by 2050.
“Clean-energy jobs are more labor intensive and require more domestically made material than the fossil-fuel industry,” says Frances Beinecke, President of NRDC. “In fact, for every $1 million spent on clean energy, we can create 3-4 times as many jobs as the same money spent on fossil fuels,” she claims.
A few states have been singled out in these reports: Almost 70,000 jobs could be created in Ohio for wind turbine manufacturing, solar panel installation and building retrofitting. In Missouri, 25 moderate-scale wind farms would result in 550 permanent construction jobs and $75 million in ongoing economic impact and in Missouri locally grown biomass would create 11,000 jobs.
These jobs are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the green jobs potential of ACES, which is expected to kick-start the U.S. economy and drive the world economy. Follow up work on a state-by-state basis should occur concerning the green-collar job opportunities across the 50 states.
New York, California and Texas are likely to continue to be hubs for carbon technology jobs, as the states are rich in venture capital funding, high-tech workers and smart-grid, initiatives. However California and Texas can develop manufacturing and installation jobs with solar wind, wave and tidal plants. In Texas, old oil rigs could be converted to wave or tidal power.
Manufacturing jobs can re-energize existing industrial towns. Installation jobs will follow solar, wind and wave power resources. Solar, wind and wave mapping is a new science, which will help dictate where solar, wind and wave farms or bio-fuels plants will be located.
Other states could offer opportunity. Coal states, such as Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Southern Ohio and Southern Indiana, could innovate in carbon capture (clean coal).
Energy-efficiency projects across the United States will create jobs and are potentially more attractive to conventional coal states where energy has historically been inexpensive and standards lower than the west or east coast.
If passed by the Senate before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, the Waxman-Markey bill could pressure other resource-rich nations to conclude their climate legislation before Copenhagen.