City agrees to cut emissions, or pay | AspenTimes.com

City agrees to cut emissions, or pay

Janet Urquhart

Aspen’s city government will join such entities as the Aspen Skiing Co. and the state government of New Mexico as a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange, a voluntary organization committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.As a member, the city will agree to cap its emission of carbon dioxide and other gasses blamed for global warming, and to reduce its emissions by 1 percent annually. If it does not meet that commitment, it can purchase emissions “credits” from other members that do successfully reduce their emissions.City Council members voiced support for the concept Monday, along with a fair share of skepticism about how the exchange actually works, in agreeing to get on board.”It sounded like a great thing, but the more I hear about it, the less I understand,” admitted Councilman Jack Johnson.”I support it. I think we’re going to learn from it and I think it’s a way we can be a part of a movement to address climate change,” said Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss.Membership in the exchange is voluntary, but a mandatory program – either in Colorado or nationwide – is inevitable, predicted John Worcester, city attorney and an architect of the city’s Canary Initiative, a multipronged approach to addressing global warming through local efforts.The Chicago Climate Exchange establishes an emissions baseline for each member, based on average emissions from 1998-2001. Since Aspen is only now joining, it will owe about $2,000 – credits it will have to purchase from other members – for failing to reduce its emissions by 1 percent a year since then, according to Dan Richardson, Aspen’s global warming project manager. It must also pay a $5,000 membership fee. Aspen can opt out at the end of 2006, when the exchange’s initial phase ends. Or, it can renew its membership for phase two – 2007 through 2010. It’s the city government’s operations that are subject to the exchange’s caps and reduction requirements – city-owned buildings and vehicle use, for example.Exchange members either reduce their own emissions or contribute to the overall reduction by purchasing credits from someone else, Richardson explained.”The atmosphere doesn’t care where the emissions reductions take place – nor should we,” he said.But Councilwoman Rachel Richards cares. She urged the city to pursue local reductions rather than purchase credits from members elsewhere. She also pondered the value of the credits bought and sold, and whether they represent meaningful emissions reductions.”Maybe you make your own reductions and don’t buy anything,” Richardson said. “Let’s make the reductions here and not worry about your buying. I’d prefer that.” Given the relatively minimal costs associated with joining the exchange, Mayor Helen Klanderud urged the city’s participation.”You know, we spend money on other things fairly easily here … I mean, these are minimal sums of money to see where this takes us,” she said. “I can support it.”Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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