Undeniable future benefits from carbon management

by Fiona Silke

I recently read an article ‘Coal’s high cost in China: 2.5 billion years of life expectancy’, discussing the high costs of coal use in China. The title stating that the high cost is 2.5 billion years of life expectancy. Wow! The article outlines the study that correlated life expectancy data of the population in China to the high levels of air pollution from coal powered heating. It found that for individuals living north of the Haui River, where high levels of coal power energy are used, life expectancy was 5.5 years lower than other areas in China! I knew that a key driver of the Chinese emissions trading scheme was air pollution, but it really highlights the potential for carbon reduction policies to have many flow on benefits.

This made me think of the research that I am currently involved in at Net Balance; investigating the potential of the Carbon Farming Initiative to deliver additional social, environmental and economic benefits to just purely carbon reduction (often referred to as co-benefits). China obviously sees a clear link between their emissions trading scheme and the potential benefits in terms of air pollution. A less obvious connection is the Chinese push to use their emissions trading scheme as a mechanism for reducing poverty within the country. This is through implementing a similar type of mechanism to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), from the Kyoto protocol, but within their own country borders. The CDM established the mechanism that enables organisations in developed nations to offset their carbon emissions using carbon reduction projects in developing nations. Actors within China have also established the Panda Standard, which is a voluntary carbon standard that is designed specifically for China. The Panda Standard includes the poverty alleviation criteria tool to assist carbon reduction project proponents to capture the poverty benefits that their projects will create. What a great idea!

It is this type of idea that has been captured in the CDM and put into practice through many carbon offset standards, such as the gold standard and social carbon. It would be great to see the Carbon Farming Initiative used this way also; to achieve social, environmental or even health benefits for regional Australians. Maybe there are a few things we can learn from China and the international co-benefit standards.

To read full article, Timmer, J: ‘Coal’s high cost in China: 2.5 billion years of life expectancy’, 10 July 2013, visit arstechnica.com/science/2013/07/coals-high-cost-in-china-2-5-billion-years-of-life-expectancy/

Fiona Silke is an Associate of Net Balance (fiona@netbalance.com), 
one of the world’s leading sustainability advisory firms.
Fiona is based in Melbourne.

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