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Our Take on the California Climate Credit

April 15th, 2014


energy-upgrade-california-climate-credit-stay-goldenThe Climate Credit is a feature of California’s Cap and Trade law that encourages utilities and their customers to reduce CO2 emissions. Not unlike the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, it’s a smart, two-pronged policy that will reduce CO2 both where it’s produced (in this case, electricity generation) and consumed (home/business incentives for energy efficiency upgrades). You can do your part by using your Climate Credit to make your home more energy efficient, and then offsetting your unavoidable CO2 footprint which still remains.

Who’s Behind The CA Climate Credit


Energy Upgrade California is the state-run program that is behind the Climate Credit promotions, and they offer a wide variety of information on climate, energy, conservation, rebates/incentives, and financing. We ran into them at the 2014 Sea Otter Classic bike festival in Monterey, California. Amidst the madness of every imaginable type of biking event, an expo with all the latest bike-related wares, and a lovely network of beer gardens, we came across residential solar installers The Solar Company as well as Energy Upgrade California.

Both offer tangible, important, and accessible things Californians can do about climate change. We’ve endorsed them in our carbon footprint reduction tips, mentioning ‘going solar’ in general, and Energy Upgrade California by name. Energy Upgrade California’s booth had super-cool “green screen” gadgetry that creates fun and personalized promotional e-posters to share with your friends. (Note to self for future COTAP promotional efforts!).

Utilities Pay For CO2 Pollution


Whenever we talk about what you can do about climate change, we mention advocating for clean energy, reducing your personal CO2 emissions, and offsetting your emissions that you haven’t yet eliminated. The California Climate Credit represents a mix of the first two things. In a nutshell, power plants pay for putting carbon pollution into the air (much more about that here). The proceeds go into two buckets. The first of these is for utilities to use for lowering their CO2 pollution. That will reduce Californians’ carbon footprints because California utilities will generate less CO2 pollution per kilowatt-hour (kwh) that they produce. As information about utilities’ lowered CO2 per kwh becomes available, it’ll be factored into COTAP’s CO2 calculator, resulting in fewer emitted tonnes for the same home kwh consumption input figures.

A Rebate for Individuals & Businesses To Get Greener


The other bucket is the Climate Credit given to individuals and businesses, a rebate they can use however they want. Energy Upgrade California wants you to use it, in conjunction with their other significant incentives, to reduce your kwh consumption by swapping out your inefficient furnace or water heater, updating duct work, sealing leaky window frames, and installing more and better insulation.

We agree. We think this is a smart, two-pronged set of incentives that attacks both the carbon pollution generated by California’s electrical grid, as well as the demand for electricity by individuals and businesses. Further, it spreads awareness and is a smart model that can be replicated elsewhere in the U.S. and beyond.

That said, important questions remain. Will the California Climate Credit will be enough to kick-start our state’s residential efficiency program, that’s off to a bit of a slow start? Will it be cost-effective in the long run for driving down electricity use, and competitive with incentives for individuals and businesses to go solar? What’s a fair amount of time for the program to prove itself?

Voluntarily Offsetting Your Still-Unavoidable CO2 Footprint


And where does voluntary carbon offsetting by individuals and businessesfit into all of this? That is one of the least complicated questions to answer. When you use electricity from the grid, you’re creating CO2 pollution, and carbon offsets are the market-based tool for paying others for the service of removing that pollution. Laws like AB32 and programs like the California Climate Credit mean that Californians will have less of a footprint to offset, which is a good thing.

Still, the case for carbon offsetting is going to be around for the foreseeable future. Why? First, the Climate Credit is only a California thing. Second, for the foreseeable future you’ll still have an unavoidable carbon footprint from home energy use regardless of where you live. And third, this only applies to one’s carbon footprint from home energy consumption and excludes emissions from driving and air travel.

And as before, COTAP plays multiple important roles which include, but are not limited to 1) responsibly promoting carbon offsetting as something that should be done alongside footprint reduction and clean energy policy advocacy 2) offering a set of meaningful, inspiring, and accountable carbon offset projects which create a multifaceted set of benefits for the world’s most vulnerable people, and 3) maintaining an updated, transparent, and thoroughly-documented carbon calculator which combines cleaner electrical grids with decreasing energy consumption to accurately calculate home energy carbon footprints which we hope will be rapidly decreasing.

New Nicaragua Project Video

April 1st, 2014


COTAP partner Taking Root has launched a brand new video about its social reforestation program in Nicaragua, showing how reforestation can help absorb the CO2 produced by our daily actions while providing important socio-economic benefits for smallholder farmers.

Overview of the Plan Vivo carbon standard

March 7th, 2013


All COTAP projects are certified by the Plan Vivo carbon standard, overseen by the the Plan Vivo Foundation, a charity based in Edinburgh, Scotland.  With roots stretching back to a research project in Chiapas, Mexico in 1994, Plan Vivo is the longest-standing and most established forestry carbon accounting standard in the world.

Plan Vivo is also the only forestry carbon accounting standard which always requires projects to have detailed plans for direct payments to smallholders and community groups. In June 2011, Plan Vivo issued its one millionth Plan Vivo certificate, representing over 1 million tonnes of certified carbon dioxide sequestration.

This video, produced by UK-based carbon consultancy CLEVEL and used with permission, contains footage from 3 of COTAP’s projects, as well as from projects we aim to add to our portfolio in the future.

A video by Mathieu-Étienne Gagnon

March 4th, 2013


In June 2012, videographer Mathieu-Étienne Gagnon visited Taking Root’s Limay Community reforestation project in Nicaragua. this past summer, he decided to create this short video about two dedicated participants.

He asked two of the participating farmers how the project had changed in their lives, and this is how they answered…

Thoughts on State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2012 report

December 7th, 2012

Ecosystem Marketplace recently released its annual report on forestry carbon, called “Leveraging the Landscape:  State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2012,”  which you can download by clicking on the image at right.  It’s a pretty dense 105 pages (and 6mb download).

COTAP was founded on a small number of key observations and beliefs, including that the forestry projects which most benefit the world’s poorest people could be much better funded if those benefits were made clear to individuals and if offsets from such projects were made more accessible to individuals as a tax-deductible donation.

It’s good to take a look at reports like this one to see if our core beliefs still hold.  We did just that, and here are some things we see:

  • Investors and corporations still dominate the set of buyers and individuals still only accounted for 1% of forest carbon transactions in 2011.
  • The top buyer motivations are addressing corporate greenhouse gas targets (29%),  resale/investment (23%), and compliance/pre-compliance (23%).
  • Thus, forestry carbon credits are still viewed primarily as a single-dimension environmental commodity.  Benefits to communities might be a ‘nice to have’ feature, but they are secondary to many other business-related motivations.  ‘Benefit sharing’ appeared three times in the 105-page report.
  • Not unrelated to the above, there’s a strong and continued preference of North American buyers for projects which are located in North America.  This also holds true for buyers in Latin America, Oceana, and Asia.
  • Although projects are frequently located in developing countries, motivations along the lines of “development” or “poverty alleviation” or “wealth transfer” are nowhere to be seen, unless they’re included in the unspecified category of “Other” that accounts for 1% of buyer motivations.
  • Projects registered under the Plan Vivo standard, which ensures direct carbon revenue sharing with poor communities (and which is used by COTAP’s first 4 projects), are still relatively under-represented at 4% of the market.

So, we’re happy to report that the case for COTAP is stronger than ever.  The projects COTAP serves can go much further and faster as we scale and, through COTAP, individuals have two reasons to address their unavoidable CO2 emissions instead of just one.  COTAP was created to bring together individuals with poverty-alleviating forestry projects, there’s no organization quite like us, and the sky is the limit in terms of the good we can create together.

Actually, since the atmosphere is more or less infinitely oversupplied with CO2, maybe we should change that by saying “the sky is unlimited” in terms of the social and environmental good we can create together!

So, if you haven’t already, consider addressing some or all of your 2012 CO2 emissions through COTAP today and giving COTAP as a gift this holiday season.

And spread the word, because lack of awareness is the only thing that can hold us back!