Sydney, ANZAC and Glebe Island Bridges, Sydney - photo Marghanita

Ecologically Sustainable Sydney


Emissions Trading

The Green House effect, Global Warming and Climate Change refer to the dramatic increases in world temperatures caused by increased levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmoshpher. The increase in temperatures is causing the ice to melt in the Artic, Antartica and Glaciers - this melting ice has raised sea levels and is possibly influencing weather patterns. If not abated, the rise in sea level threatens coastal communities and the fluctuating weather could have other adverse affects.

The Kyoto Protocol set reduction targets for six greenhouse gases:

  1. Carbon dioxide (CO2);
  2. Methane (CH4);
  3. Nitrous oxide (N2O);
  4. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs);
  5. Perfluorocarbons (PFCs); and
  6. Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

To simplify the discussion, the term "Carbon Dioxide equivalent", abbreviated to CO2-e has been established and is often simply shortened to Carbon. This refers to the effect each greenhouse gas would have in terms of persistance and warming effect in the atmosphere converted to the effect a molecule of CO2 would have. Further discussion here: Chapter 2. Understanding Climate Science - The Garnaut Climate Review, 2008

Emission Trading is seen as a way for the market to force the reducion of CO2-e emission. An alternative would be to impose a tax. Both would involve regulation and management. The Garnaut Climate Change review, dismissed taxes in favour of Emissions Trading (13.2 Avoiding the greatest market failure ever seen - The Garnaut Climate Change Report 2008). However, the increased price of petrol in 2008, had a positive effect, with car usage decreasing and public transport use increasing.

Emission Trading is seen as having the potential benefit of the funding being transferred directly between the source and the sink. Plants (through photosynthesis) and the Ocean are natural sinks for Carbon Dioxide. So, forestry companies could sell their credits to Electricity Generators. Petrol Companies could pay for the care of trees and parks. The pricing of these sinks and the greenhouse gases generated, would be left to the market.

However, this would not solve the problem as there are insufficient sinks. So, we need to look at ways of reducing the creation of green house gases. This can be done by reducing the production and consumpution, of the gases, by using more efficient equipment and developing alternate power sources - wind, solar, hydro, gas and nuclear.

Hydro, gas and nuclear power fit the existing large scale electricity generation and distribution models. Whereas windturbines and solar have only been demonstrated on smaller scales. Where electricity is generated for personal use and excess is passed into a grid. Solar and Wind generated electricity needs to be stored, whereas the other sources of electricty are generated on demand - when it gets dark, cold, hot - to supply lighting, warmth or cooling.

An alternative to storing the excess solar and wind power is to put it into the electricity grid. In Queensland and South Australia customers are paid 44 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for surplus electricity fed into the grid. The domestic Tarriff for electricity in Sydney (which is coal powered) is under 12c/kWh plus a 33c/day service fee.

As transport is estimated to account for 14% of greenhouse gas generation in Australia and motor vehicles 62.8% - reducing car usage through improved public transport could not only reduce the cost of infrastructure and travel times. It could help address climate change.

Marghanita da Cruz

References/Further Reading

  1. Hansard of Australian Senate debate on the Emissions Trading Legislation (24,25,26,27,30 November 2009)
  2. CO2 Emissions from Cars
  3. Carbon and Climate Change
  4. Transport
  5. National Emissions Trading Taskforce
  6. State & Territory Greenhouse Gas Inventories 2005
  7. To prevent global warming leave your car at home and use Adelaide Metro public transport.
  8. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: Kyoto Protocol
  9. Solar Bonus Scheme © Ramin Communications 2008-10. Last modified 29 Nov 2013.