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Rio+20 earth summit should look to reduce black carbon through carbon trading

Delegates at the Rio+20 earth summit must look beyond CO2 to black carbon. Reducing black carbon (soot) is easier than reducing other kinds of greenhouse gas emissions. And a market-based international system to reduce carbon emissions is already in place.

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One ton of black carbon emitted from a Thai tuk-tuk (a motorized rickshaw) or a Philippine jeepney can be measured according to a mutually agreed technical standard, and then traded in the markets accordingly. This means that governments and social entrepreneurs can then figure out ways to finance the upgrade and repair of these polluting systems, using the market-assigned value of the black carbon reduction as financial payback for their efforts.

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Take for example the inefficient cook stoves used in many countries. A social entrepreneur could shell out the money initially to replace the polluting cook stoves with more efficient burning ones, with the presumption that he can make a slight profit (or at least get his money back) from the estimated future market value of the black carbon reduction (sale of credits).

So a company like General Motors or IBM, seeking to reduce its carbon footprint, might end up buying emission credits in a carbon market, thus monetizing the efforts of some social entrepreneurs who risk their capital in financing carbon reduction projects.

If a black carbon reduction project cost the social entrepreneur $10 per carbon ton to pay for engine improvements, he can hope corporate buyers will pay $11 per ton in the carbon markets to allow him to make a $1 profit per ton of carbon that his project was able to reduce.

Key to this is an accurate and internationally verifiable measurement of the amount of black carbon reduced from doing each project as well as an assurance from several countries that the procedures would be insulated from graft and corruption to the highest degree possible. International cooperation between several countries, such as that fostered by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the US State Department, is key.

World leaders meeting at the Rio+20 sustainability summit this week must consider ways to push governments to treat black carbon the same way that they treat greenhouse gas reduction. In that way, the world can work to solve both climate change and public health issues at the same time.

Dennis Posadas is an Asia-based clean energy consultant, author, and technology pundit. He is the author of “Jump Start: A Technopreneurship Fable” and “Rice & Chips: Technopreneurship and Innovation in Asia” published by Pearson Education Asia.

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