From The Washington Post:

Countries or regions that have already passed cap-and-trade: This includes the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, California, and Quebec. They’ve all set hard limits on a significant portion of their carbon emissions. (Different countries have different targets and exemptions for various sectors.) This is a sizeable chunk of the planet: By my calculations, these countries and regions represented roughly 19 percent of the world’s carbon emissions in 2008.

Countries that could shift to cap-and-trade this decade. Mexico and Brazil have both recently passed laws to significantly slow their rate of emissions growth by 2020. (Brazil’s target is voluntary.) They’ve both set up task forces to study various ways to achieve this, with cap-and-trade as an option. Japan, for its part, has set up a limited cap-and-trade scheme for Tokyo and has a voluntary carbon-trading scheme at the national level that has slightly curbed emissions.

Meanwhile, China is setting up its own regional cap-and-trade systems in several of its provinces and is looking to set up a national program by the end of the decade. Jennifer Morgan says that her organization, WRI, recently hosted a Chinese delegation in the United States to study California’s climate program, as well as the small cap-and-trade system for electric utilities in the Northeast. While China’s program likely wouldn’t shrink the country’s overall level of emissions, it would at least slow the country’s ferocious growth in greenhouse gases.

Countries that are still pondering the idea. According to the World Bank report, there are at least 14 developing countries that are in various stages of study. Chile, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Thailand, and Jordan are all developing some sort of “crediting mechanism.” South Africa has a carbon tax that could well be converted to a cap-and-trade program.

Add these programs all up, and it’s potentially quite significant. Right now, about 6 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas sources are capped and traded. By the end of the decade, according to some estimates, that could rise to as much as one-third of all emissions.

Many of these countries could eventually link together — Australia’s climate-change minister, Greg Combet, has suggested that eventually South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and China could cooperate on some sort of pan-Asian carbon-trading system. And, the World Bank notes, there’s still plenty of demand for carbon-offset projects in the developing world under the U.N. program. All told, the global carbon-trading market rose to a record $176 billion in 2011.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Image credit: Climatepedia)

From The Guardian:

Countries must take urgent steps to value their natural capital – such as forests, peatlands and coastal areas – as part of their economic development, the World Bank has urged.

Placing a monetary value on natural ecosystems is a key step on the road to “green” economic growth, according to the World Bank, which published a report on green growth on Wednesday at a conference in Seoul, Korea.

By making such estimates, countries can develop policies that ensure the pursuit of economic growth does not occur at the expense of future growth potential, by destroying natural assets such as water sources or polluting air, rivers and soil.

Rachel Kyte, vice president for sustainable development at the bank, said that the patterns on which economic growth had been achieved in recent decades were unsustainable, because of the amount of environmental degradation involved.

She said: "At current rates, we are in danger of undermining the basis on which growth has been achieved in the last decades. We do not believe that current growth patterns are sustainable."

She gave the example of the government of Thailand, which has moved towards more environmentally sustainable growth by attempting to place a value on its mangrove swamps. The exercise has been illuminating – chopping down mangrove for wood gives a return of less than $1,000 per hectare; removing the mangroves to make room for a shrimp farm might generate nearly $10,000 per hectare; but if the mangrove swamps were retained and their importance in providing a barrier against floods was taken into account, they could be valued at more than $16,000 per hectare.

Kyte acknowledged that few countries had so far taken steps to evaluate their natural systems in this way, and said the failure to do so had contributed to countries allowing their environment to be degraded in the pursuit of short term economic growth.

In 2010, India said it would become the first country in the world to publish accounts of its natural wealth as well as financial measurements such as GDP.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Infographic credits: Metro VancouverFAO)

From Inter Press Service

Berlin is a big capital city of a country famed for making excellent automobiles, but it can no longer afford roads and is now moving people by transit, bike and especially through walking.

Berlin is not alone. Paris, Tokyo, Seoul, Bogotá, New York City and other major cities simply cannot afford the cost, the pollution, the noise and the congestion of more cars. They are embracing a new concept called EcoMobility - mobility without private cars. 

EcoMobility is defined as moving people and goods in urban areas using combinations of walking, cycling (including electric bikes) and wheeling (roller blades), public transport, and light electric vehicles. 

The concept is being widely embraced by cities looking for affordable and effective forms of sustainable transport. 

"Cities should focus more on moving people rather than moving vehicles," said Stephen Yarwood, mayor of Adelaide, Australia. 

The fact is, cars are not very good at moving people. A standard 3.5-meter-wide city street has a maximum capacity of 2,000 people in cars per hour. The same road can carry 14,000 cyclists or 19,000 pedestrians each hour. 

Light rail in the same space can move 22,000 people, and a double lane of bus rapid transit will move 43,000 people, said Manfred Breithaupt, director of the GIZ Sustainable Urban Transport Project, a German NGO. 

The transportation sector is one of biggest contributors of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, responsible for 25 to 30 percent of the emissions causing climate change. 

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Infographic credit: City of Münster via Lunchover IP)

From Sustainable Business:

South Korea passed legislation to begin a national cap-and-trade program with a near unanimous vote of 148-0, with three abstentions. 

The fourth largest economy in Asia, South Korea is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions among industrialized countries, doubling since 1990. It is the 8th biggest source of GHG emissions in the world and has a national target of cutting them 30% by 2020.

POSCO, the world’s third largest steelmaker, and Samsung Electronics, the largest electronics manufacturer, are among South Korea’s biggest polluters.

Emissions trading is scheduled to begin in Korea in 2015, the same year as those in Australia and China. New Zealand started emissions trading in 2009, and the EU’s went into effect in 2005. South Africa has plans for a program. In the US, the northeastern states have a cap-and-trade program, California's begins in 2013. 

In April, both Mexico and Peru passed national climate change legislation.

This opens the possibility of linking country cap-and-trade programs - allowing participants to trade regionallly and eventually worldwide - which would raise the value of carbon markets substantially.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: Energy Korea)

From Business Green:

Businesses have been urged to accelerate their environmental footprinting strategies to include emerging economies, after new research by the Carbon Trust revealed young people in China could hold the key to unlocking mass demand for greener products.

The survey of 2,800 young people across six countries carried out by TNS found 83 per cent of 18-25 year-olds in China would be more loyal to a brand if they could see it was reducing its carbon footprint. In contrast, just 57 per cent of US respondents and 55 per cent of young people in the UK made the same claim.

Globally, 78 per cent of young people said they want their favourite brands to reduce their carbon footprint, but again those in Chinese showed the highest demand for emission reductions with 88 per cent calling on firms to cut their footprint.

South Africa came in second place with 86 per cent of respondents calling on blue chips to reduce their impact, followed by Brazil at 84 per cent. Again the US and UK lagged far behind with only two thirds of respondents demanding more action from big brands.

Check out the rest of the article here. You can also check out an infographic of the study here.

(Image credit: Carbon Trust

Seoul’s trailblazing Stream of Consciousness’

From the New York Times:

For half a century, a dark tunnel of crumbling concrete encased more than three miles of a placid stream bisecting this bustling city.

The waterway had been a centerpiece of Seoul since a king of the Choson Dynasty selected the new capital 600 years ago, enticed by the graceful meandering of the stream and its 23 tributaries. But in the industrial era after the Korean War, the stream, by then a rank open sewer, was entombed by pavement and forgotten beneath a lacework of elevated expressways as the city’s population swelled toward 10 million.

Today, after a $384 million recovery project, the stream, called Cheonggyecheon, is liberated from its dank sheath and burbles between reedy banks. Picnickers cool their bare feet in its filtered water, and carp swim in its tranquil pools.

The restoration of the Cheonggyecheon is part of an expanding environmental effort in cities around the world to “daylight” rivers and streams by peeling back pavement that was built to bolster commerce and serve automobile traffic decades ago.

Check out the rest of the article here. The video above is from the documentary series, e²: the economies of being environmentally conscious’ (via Vimeo).

From the New York Times:

South Korea is betting that making progress in combining smart technology and green energy in one ecosystem will allow it to build larger grids for cities. The national government — and its private partners — are also hoping that they will eventually export the system to cities around the world. As the world’s urban population grows, energy consumption and costs are likely to be one of the brakes on economic development.

Pollution from carbon-based energy generation is also a leading source of greenhouse gases. Many cities would welcome the chance to reduce their carbon footprint.

The government says the test grid in Jeju is the largest such project in the world. The Knowledge Economy Ministry — which promotes foreign investment in Korea and guides the country’s sustainable-energy policy — says the government is investing $60 million in the grid project, with 168 private companies putting up an additional $160 million.

(Photo credit: New York Times)