Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Great Economist Carbon Offset Debate

From the inbox:

The Economist is currently running a new debate on the usefulness or otherwise of carbon offsets.

Personally, I am highly sceptical. 55% agree with me on the question although I could be convinced otherwise - I had better start reading.

"This house believes that carbon offsets undermine the effort to tackle climate change."

Are carbon offsets a convenient loophole or a real way to reduce emissions?

The Economist announces an online debate that is underway on the effectiveness of carbon offsets. The proposition for this debate is: "This house believes that carbon offsets undermine the effort to tackle climate change."

The debate began on December 4th and runs to December 16th 2008. Michael Wara, Assistant Professor at Stanford Law School, and Henry Derwent, President and CEO, International Emissions Trading Association, are contesting the proposition. Readers are encouraged to participate in the conversation, contribute opinions and cast a vote for or against the proposition. The winner will be decided by popular vote on Tuesday December 16th. The opportunity for readers to submit comments will be open until January 2.

Carbon offsets are a sort of currency--a financial instrument which represents a reduction in emissions and can be bought and sold. They play an increasingly important part in official and voluntary programmes to cut emissions. But they are also increasingly controversial. "Are carbon offsets essential to our efforts to tackle global warming, or do they undermine those efforts? Join us as we debate this crucial issue," says Emma Duncan, debate moderator, deputy editor and chief climate change writer of The Economist.

Arguing for the Proposition: Michael Wara, Assistant Professor at Stanford Law School

An expert on environmental law and policy, Michael Wara’s research focuses on climate policy and regulation, both domestically and internationally. Professor Wara’s current scholarship addresses the performance of the emerging global market for greenhouse gases and mechanisms for reducing emissions, especially in developing countries.
Professor Wara joined Stanford Law in 2007 as a research fellow in environmental law and as a lecturer in law. Previously, he was an associate in Holland & Knight's Government Practice Group, where his practice focused on climate change, land use and environmental law. The results of his scientific research have been published in premier scientific journals, including Science and Nature.
Professor Wara is also a faculty fellow at the Program in Energy and Sustainable Development in Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Arguing for the Opposition: Henry Derwent, President and CEO, International Emissions Trading Association.

Henry Derwent became the President and CEO of the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) in February 2008. Previously, as international climate change director for the British government, he oversaw the UK’s role in the international negotiations, in the G8 (especially as the prime minister's special climate change representative during the UK G8 Presidency in 2005) and in other forums.
Mr Derwent has been closely associated with the development of greenhouse-gas trading in the UK and Europe from its earliest days. His responsibilities in the UK’s Department of the Environment covered all aspects of climate change and sustainable energy in the UK, as well as air quality and industrial pollution control, chemicals, biotechnology and genetic modification, the nuclear industry and radioactivity.

Throughout the course of the two-week debate, expert Guest Participants have been lending colourful commentary to the lively discussion, including:

- Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund
- Mark Trexler, Director, Global Consulting Services, EcoSecurities
- Kevin Smith, Researcher with Carbon Trade Watch
- Carl Pope, Executive Director, Sierra Club
- William Tyndall, Managing Director, Natsource Asset Management, LLC
- Anja Kollmuss and Michael Lazarus, Scientists at Stockholm Environment Institute

The Economist Debate Series is an open community forum – no paid subscription is necessary and anyone can participate. This debate is sponsored by Intel.

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