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Benefits of Cutting Emissions

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  • Mike Neuman
    Benefits of Cutting Emissions The Washington Post, 28 February 2005 - Even as the Kyoto climate protocol becomes a binding international treaty, an astonishing
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2005
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      Benefits of Cutting Emissions

      The Washington Post, 28 February 2005 - Even as the Kyoto climate
      protocol becomes a binding international treaty, an astonishing
      number of otherwise savvy policymakers continue to think that
      incentives and programs to cut greenhouse gas emissions will cost too
      much, hamper competition and stifle economic growth. While such
      reasoning has kept the United States from mounting any serious
      response to global warming, others have not waited for political
      leadership to point the way. In fact, businesses and several
      governments have moved ahead, often aggressively, to constrain carbon
      dioxide releases, mostly by using energy more efficiently. In doing
      so, they are reaping enhanced profitability and robust growth.

      For example, six companies -- IBM, DuPont, BT (British Telecom),
      Alcan, NorskeCanada and Bayer -- have each reduced emissions by at
      least 60 percent since the early 1990s, collectively saving more than
      $4 billion in the process. Numerous other smart companies, such as
      Alcoa, 3M, Kodak, United Technologies, Lafarge, Shell and BP, have
      also far exceeded the smaller reductions envisaged under Kyoto and
      have saved large sums by using energy more efficiently.

      National economies are enjoying the benefits of reduced carbon
      emissions as well. British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently told
      the Economist that between 1990 and 2002 Britain trimmed emissions 15
      percent, while boosting its economy 36 percent.

      International corporations were among the earliest leaders in
      reduction efforts. DuPont, for example, began an ambitious carbon
      dioxide and energy reduction program 10 years ago that today has
      brought greenhouse gas emissions down 70 percent; in the same period,
      production increased almost 30 percent.

      These carbon-reduction and energy-efficiency measures have produced
      significant financial benefits for DuPont. In addition to cumulative
      energy savings of more than $2 billion, renewable energy saves $10
      million annually over fossil fuels. DuPont also hopes to realize $40
      million in coming years from trading carbon emissions credits. To
      underscore its commitment to this new commodities market, the company
      became a charter member of the Chicago Climate Exchange, a pilot
      program for greenhouse gas emission reduction and trading.

      France-based Lafarge, the world's largest cement manufacturer,
      typically produced over 80 million tons of CO2 a year before setting
      a reduction target of 20 percent by 2010. (By comparison, all of
      Switzerland produced 45 million metric tons of carbon equivalent in
      1995.) Through manufacturing modifications, however, Lafarge has
      lowered emissions of greenhouse gases nearly 11 percent from 1990
      levels. At the same time, Lafarge is realizing significant cost
      savings and strengthening its future competitiveness. This company's
      example has led to a working group of the world's leading cement
      manufacturers intent on curbing emissions from one of the biggest
      sources of CO2.

      Among national examples of carbon dioxide reduction, Britain is one
      of the best. In addition to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions from
      1990 levels, it aims to produce 10 percent of its energy needs from
      renewable sources, primarily wind, by 2010. And it hopes to raise
      this to 20 percent by 2020. The cost of this transition has been
      insignificant.

      Britain's lowered emissions and improved economic growth can be
      attributed in part to an impressive decrease of 42 percent in CO2
      emissions intensity -- the amount of fossil fuel energy required per
      unit of gross domestic product. By 2050 Britain projects a 60 percent
      reduction in CO2 emissions at an annual cost of only 0.01 percent of
      GDP growth. During the same period, officials expect national wealth
      to triple.

      Cities are also finding ways to lower emissions and save money.
      Toronto has decreased greenhouse gas releases from municipal
      facilities by 40 percent and is saving $2.7 million annually through
      energy efficiency improvements. In addition, the city earns $1.5
      million annually by selling electricity generated from methane gas
      captured at three municipal landfills.

      These businesses and governments are only a handful of the entities
      that have realized impressive benefits from initiatives to curb
      carbon dioxide emissions. Hundreds of companies and national and
      local governments have to various degrees begun to see similar
      results from their efforts.

      Such impressive results, though, are not enough. Only serious, across-
      the-board federal and international policies and programs will solve
      the problem of global warming. Unfortunately, concerted action is
      unlikely to occur as long as administration officials and some
      members of Congress continue to use worn-out arguments against
      limiting carbon dioxide releases, even as hundreds of multinational
      corporations and smaller businesses are proving them wrong.
      Meanwhile, these individual initiatives offer valuable insights and
      lessons for the path ahead.

      The writer directs the global sustainable development grant-making
      program at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.


      Copyright 2005 The Washington Post
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