16 april 2010

Cap-and-trade protesters disrupt carbon conference

Debra Kahn, E&E reporter, E&E News (04/16/2010)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Environmental groups disrupted a carbon markets conference here today, arguing that market-based controls on carbon dioxide are ineffective in reducing emissions.

The protest -- at a conference put on by offset issuer Climate Action Reserve, analysis firm Point Carbon and the International Emissions Trading Association -- came amid a discussion of the prospects of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050. Josh Hart, representing Offset This!, cited NASA scientist James Hansen's recent criticism of cap and trade and offsets as perpetuating the use of coal-fired electricity and allowing financial speculators to profit handsomely.

"Offsetting is a false solution," Hart said before being removed and handcuffed. "History will spit on those who consider cap and trade a solution."

The conference is examining global and domestic climate change policy and its implications for the burgeoning carbon trading markets in the United States. Topics include agriculture and forestry offsets, carbon capture and sequestration, and regional policy developments.

Outside, several other environmentalists held a banner and advocated for a carbon tax. "We need to be investing in local communities and decentralization with a carbon tax," said David Grefrath, also of Offset This!. "Carbon trading is just going to make a ton of money."

Back inside, the panelists were skeptical that taxing CO2 would spur technological innovation to replace fossil fuel-burning energy.

"We didn't get out of the Stone Age because someone put a tax on stones," said Steve Corneli, vice president of market and climate policy at NRG Energy and a member of the Climate Action Reserve's board of directors.

Later, another activist disrupted a panel on offsets, claiming they do not represent real emissions reductions. Panelists agreed that offsets suffer from poor public perceptions but maintained they spur reductions that would not have happened otherwise.

"We have done a terrible job of convincing people that we're far enough over on the reality meter," said Mark Trexler, director of climate strategies and markets for Det Norske Veritas, a risk management firm.

"I wish we'd use some other word than 'offsets,' like 'reductions outside the cap,'" said Randy Armstrong, Shell Oil Co.'s director of environmental issues. "Those are real reductions."

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