UNFCC negotiations at the COP15 this week include debate about the potential for strengthening and developing carbon market mechanisms. Country delegations can draw on lessons from the development of climate neutrality planning in higher education for successful implementation on an international scale.

The development of a Climate Action Plan (CAP), an obligation for signatories of the ACUPCC President’s Climate Commitment, requires institutions to create documentation for mechanisms to reduce emissions and reach climate neutrality. Creating such a plan requires planning for and creating:  a) an accurate calculation of baseline emissions, b) mechanisms for reducing and/or offsetting those emissions, and c) a feasibility plan including a time-line, project-priorities, and culture-change which ensure the longevity and success of the CAP. The success of this self-created, (largely) self-monitored system relies on participation from a majority of American institutions and peer and public feedback mechanisms to act as self-regulating and self-policing systems.

These are the same needs required of a viable carbon market which can reduce global emissions. The international negotiations can learn from the success of the ACUPCC in creating peer incentive for participation in the President’s Climate Commitment, and creation of individualized but effective CAPs.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Fossil Fuel and the Kyoto Challenge

Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Fossil Fuel

A major proposal for reducing global carbon emissions is the creation of a market which would create financial and developmental incentives for both nations and private sectors to achieve the same goal as the CAPs and ACUPCC – reduction of carbon emissions within a particular sector, higher education – at an international level.   One proposal for the creation of a carbon market, the “baseline and crediting” model, only creates an incentive structure for individual sectors when national caps are set.  (This proposal would be analagous to colleges and universities having only being asked to participate in the creating of a CAP when the federal government required it – if the ACUPCC had waited for such a top-down incentive structure, the success of the current signatory percentage could be long in the future instead of strong at its 622 signatories today.)

The creation of the ACUPCC perpetuated its own incentive structure – a similar circumstance on an international level would require the immediate creation and participation in a market which included a majority of both Annex 1 and developing countries. Much as the President’s Cliamate Commitment balanced requirements with flexibility to allow for participation from small colleges and large universities, a functional carbon market would need both strict goals to keep carbon reduction on track while allowing for flexibile  participation to ensure nations and private sectors being participating immediately. The reporting system for CAP’s, in combination with the participation of public media in reporting timeliness and quality in the reporting system, has ensured that the ACUPCC system has peer-feedback conduits and constant quality control.

An international market must not only provide flexibility and high standards similar to the ACUPCC system, but provide the same peer-incentive structure as well.  Institutions of higher education are arguably the only functioning system of carbon reduction which uses peer-incentives and flexible reductions and monitoring systems which could act as a model for international systems. The continued support of college and university administors, and successfully implemented projects, can provide a model from which the international community could learn.

Read more tomorrow on “Lesson for a Carbon Market: Part Two.”

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