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CARBON WORLDS
EU carbon trading survives key vote
by Staff Writers
Brussels (UPI) Feb 22, 2013


Alberta announces global carbon challenge
Edmonton, Alberta (UPI) Feb 22, 2013 - A Canadian organization has launched a $35 million global competition seeking innovative uses for carbon emissions.

Alberta's Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp., which collects money from a $15-per-ton levy that the province applies to companies that exceed set emissions limits, said it wants "bright ideas from around the world that will repurpose carbon and use it as a starting material."

"The approach could deliver significant reductions in greenhouse gases, complement other greenhouse gas reduction strategies, strengthen our economy and enhance Alberta's competitiveness," CCEMC Chairman Eric Newell said in a statement.

Examples of possible "winning" entries, CCEMC says, include: technologies that fix captured carbon into solid or easily transportable materials and biological solutions that capture carbon and convert it into a viable product, such as creating oils from algae as well as processes that produce high-value goods from greenhouse gas emissions.

The competition announcement Thursday follows a major demonstration against TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline last weekend in Washington.

"With the eyes of the world on Alberta, now is the time for us to broaden our focus -- by exploring and investing in technologies that drive our climate change targets and ensures we remain a global clean energy supplier," said Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen.

Alberta aims to reduce greenhouse emissions intensity to 50 percent less than 1990 levels by 2020.

An independent organization created in 2009, CCEMC has invested more than $160 million in projects that have a combined value of more than $837 million.

CCEMC says that it has committed to fund 49 projects that have a combined value of nearly $1 billion. The projects are estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 8 megatons over 10 years, equal to taking more than 1.6 million cars off the road.

The competition is open to but not limited to companies, academic researchers, research institutions, consultants, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and inventors, CCEMC said. The $35 million in grants will be awarded through three rounds of funding over five years.

The highly stable molecular makeup of carbon, however, poses a considerable technical challenge.

Eddy Isaacs, chief executive of Alberta Innovates, Energy and Environment Solutions, which will help with the judging for the competition, told the Edmonton Journal that once carbon dioxide is emitted, it stays in the atmosphere for an average of 100 years.

"It does take a lot of energy to break down the CO2 and to convert it into a useful product that has economic value," he said.

The beleaguered EU carbon emissions trading system survived a key vote in the European Parliament this week, in which MEPs agreed to "backloading."

The Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, ENVI, voted by a substantial margin Tuesday to endorse the European Commission's call to backload, or withhold, 900 million tons of carbon allowances that were set to be auctioned for the 2013-15 period.

The total -- amounting to about one-quarter of the planned auction -- would be backloaded into the 2019-20 period in a bid to prop up record-low prices, which had plunged to less than $4 per ton of carbon equivalent.

Analysts said a negative vote from ENVI could have spelled doom for the trading scheme, which has languished as the financial crisis and resulting slump in European industrial activity has dampened demand for the allowances.

Despite vociferous opposition from business groups who say artificially propping up the carbon prices will hurt Europe's global competitiveness, ENVI reversed a thumbs-down given to backloading by Parliament's industry committee in January, which triggered a record fall in carbon prices to just $3.73 per ton.

"The environment committee has sent a clear signal in favor of a strong and healthy emissions trading system," ENVI Chairman Matthias Groote said. "A stronger carbon price will help catalyze Europe's transition towards a low-carbon economy."

The measure now goes to a "trialogue" between Parliament, the European Commission and the council of EU member states before returning to the legislative body for a plenary vote, scheduled for April.

Under the EU ETS, heavy industries, energy companies and other air polluters can purchase allowances to emit greenhouse gases above their allowable quotas, which, if expensive enough, can persuade them to make the changes necessary to cut emissions levels.

The free-market ETS system has been shown to work when demand for the allowances are high but the economic slump has resulted in surplus allowances, sending their prices tumbling well below the $30-$50 per ton level needed to persuade industrial buyers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Calling the vote a "lifeline" for the trading system, the environmental groups WWF, Greenpeace and Climate Action Network Europe declared in a joint statement the move saved an important, if hobbled, tool to help Europe reach its greenhouse gas-reduction targets.

"Today the ailing EU carbon market was given emergency treatment, but full recovery will require proper surgery," WWF EU climate policy officer Sam Van den Plas said. "Backloading of emission allowances is only a temporary first step. Structural reforms of the carbon market need to make a reality of the EU's 30 percent domestic carbon emission reduction commitments."

"Despite the vote, there's little reason to celebrate today," added Joris den Blanken, EU climate policy director for Greenpeace. "The backloading proposal might slow the slide in the carbon price, but permanent cancellation of allowances and strong 2030 targets are essential if it is to achieve its aims."

The backloading proposal was opposed by the center-right European People's Party.

"Interfering in a market system with the intention of creating price incentives while increasing costs for industry and small and medium-sized enterprises would send the wrong signal in times of economic slowdown," Slovenian MEP Romana Jordan said.

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