Amidst a heatwave in their respective lands, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are meeting today in Long Beach, Calif., to discuss global warming and lay the groundwork for a new trans-Atlantic carbon emissions market, according to the Associated Press. Notably missing from the meeting will be President Bush and his top environmental adviser, James Connaughton, who cannot attend due to a scheduling conflict. Those whose schedules apparently don't conflict include 25 leading CEOs, such as Lord John Browne of BP, Steve Howard of the Climate Group, Charles Holliday of DuPont Co., Jim Rogers of Duke Energy Corp., and Virgin's Richard Branson (see our recent post here). The meeting will also focus on technologies being developed on both sides of the pond that might contribute to reducing emissions.The moment is right. Blair, who put climate change at the top of the G8 agenda last year in Gleneagles, is eager to speed up the United Kingdom's progress on reaching its Kyoto targets, which would be a 20% cut in 1997 emissions by 2010. Schwarzenegger, a self-professed treehugger (who has some explaining to do), will face resistance from auto makers, oil companies, and other business interests he also counts as donors, as he attempts to reduce the state's emissions 25% by 2020. He has discussed a carbon trading market before and is supporting a bill to cap industrial carbon emissions.
As Nick described before, such a market begins with a government-mandated cap on carbon emissions. Companies participating in the market are subsequently given their own limits of carbon, and those that do not reach those limits can then sell their "right to pollute" to other companies. Voila: greed goes good in a simple (though certainly controversial) approach to reducing carbon emissions. Last year, the European Union set up the first such government-run market, called the E.U. E.T.S. (Emission Trading Scheme), which, despite some early troubles, may reach $30 billion in activity by the end of this year. In yesterdays New York Times Magazine, Jeff Goodell, author of Big Coal, profiles Richard Sandor, the CEO of the Chicago Climate Exchange, the U.S.'s biggest (and private) carbon trading market. Sandor has this to say to Goodell in response to various criticisms of carbon trading, including accusations that it can be too opaque and ineffective:
At a certain level, all this becomes a debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin In the larger scheme of things, they are meaningless. Global warming is an extremely urgent problem. Is CCX perfect? Of course not. Neither was the U.S. Constitution — they forgot the 10 amendments, including freedom of the press and freedom of speech. The important point here is that markets work to solve problems. The sooner we admit that, and the sooner we get around to building those markets, the better.
Either way, it's heartening to see so many strong business leaders join Schwarzenegger, the Hummer aficionado-turned-(supposed) carbon terminator, and Blair, one of Europe's more vocal treehugging heads of state in a carbon-fighting summit. More to come
(See one of our previous posts on Stirling's "white tags," which are meant to flip carbon trading on its head by encouraging conservation, not pollution.)