City to use credits, cash to cut back greenhouse gases
When the city joined the Chicago Climate Exchange last year, it became legally bound to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1 percent each year. And if Aspen fails, the city could incur a penalty.”We [would] have to buy credits to offset those emissions,” said Dan Richardson, the city’s global warming project manager. “It costs us money if we don’t comply.”Right now, that could be $2,000 to $5,000 a year, but “in the years to come … those offsets are going to be more expensive,” Richardson said.To help achieve the new goals, each department of city government is now responsible for reducing its own emissions by 1 percent. The city has also employed a program that allows departments to trade credits they earn for dropping even further below the 1 percent goal.This sort of “cap and trade” program is “what economists agree is the most cost-effective and efficient way to reduce emissions,” Richardson said.For example, if one department has an inefficient boiler that increases emissions, the department could replace the boiler. But perhaps the boiler is fairly new, just not energy efficient. If the boiler cost $10,000 to replace, the department could propose spending half that on offseting credits from another department that has reduced its emissions by more than 1 percent.”It’s a model that can be applied to other businesses and schools and other entities, so I’m kind of excited about it,” Richardson said.Although the trading can help even out discrepancies, he said the city has encouraged all departments to first seek to reduce emissions before resorting to trades.But “in some cases, that’s just not going to be feasible,” Richardson said.Small departments with hardly any emissions might have trouble finding ways for reductions. It could be some time before other departments buy more efficient equipment.The police department, for instance, bought new patrol vehicles just before the Canary Initiative, Richardson said. Those cars have fewer sulfide emissions but higher carbon emissions, but the department bought the cars “before they were told to reduce carbon emissions.””They just purchased vehicles that sort of skew the baseline,” Richardson said. “You can’t exactly ask them to drive less.”And just to give employees that last bit of incentive to meet new environmental goals, the city has put a little money on the table.Last year, Richardson said, Aspen employees had the potential to earn a bonus of up to $1,200. But with the city’s greenhouse gas budget incentives, each employee can earn up to $200 more if his or her department meets the 1 percent goal and $100 if the whole city meets the goal.Aspen’s goals are only part of a much larger goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.”Globally, what we need to accomplish is about a 70-80 percent reduction by mid-century,” Richardson said.For 2006, Aspen will have to settle for 1 percent. But with the city’s environmental efforts, combined with the purchase of additional wind power, Richardson said “it’s very possible that we, as a city, will meet that 1 percent reduction below last year.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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