Four countries sign up to go carbon neutral

Posted: 21 February 2008

Four countries, four cities and five corporations have signed up to go carbon neutral, in an effort to combat climate change and help to de-carbonize the global economy.

They are the first to join the Climate Neutral Network (CN Net), launched in Monaco today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The Network is a web-based project, that is planning to federate the small but growing wave of nations, local authorities and companies who are pledging to significantly reduce emissions en route to zero emission status.

Over the coming months, more and more organisations, and eventually individuals, will be invited to take part. The aim is a global information exchange network open to all sectors of society from Presidents and Princes to people from Pittsburg, to Sao Paulo.

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, said today: "Climate neutrality is an idea whose time has come, driven by the urgent need to address climate change but also the abundant economic opportunities emerging for those willing to embrace a transition to a Green Economy".

Four partners

The first four countries to partner are Costa Rica, Iceland, New Zealand and Norway.

"For Norway it is emissions from oil and gas that dominate whereas for New Zealand, agriculture represents 50 per cent of its current greenhouse gases," said Mr Steiner.

"Iceland's central challenge is perhaps transport and industry including fishing and fish processing. I am especially delighted that Costa Rica is at the forefront of the initiative. Its commitment demonstrates that the economic benefits of reducing dependency on fossil fuels and action on deforestation and degradation are of central interest to developing and developed countries alike," he said.

Costa Rica's forests

Costa Rica aims to be climate neutral by 2021 when it celebrates 200 years of independence. The strategy will build on Costa Rica's decision to tax fossil fuels in 1996 with 3.5 per cent of the money raised allocated to the National Forestry Financing Fund.

These are part of a 'payment for environmental services' programme that pays landowners who manage forests for their carbon sequestration and storage alongside management for water production, biodiversity and scenic beauty.

In 2007 Costa Rica planted more than five million trees or 1.25 per person making it the highest per capita planting in the world. Various industries are supporting the initiative including a C-neutral plan by Costa Rica's banana sector.

Other elements of the strategy include increasing the percentage of renewable energy generation to well over 90 per cent and action on energy efficiency including energy saving appliances.

Iceland's green power

Geothermal energy plant near Reykjavik
Geothermal energy plant near Reykjavik
Geothermal energy plant near Reykjavik. Iceland has abundant amounts of free geothermal energy. Photo © Greenpeace / Nick Cobbing
Iceland has drawn up a plan to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75 per cent by 2050. The country's electricity production is already among the greenest on the globe.

Currently 99 per cent of electricity generation and 75 per cent of total energy production is coming from geothermal and hydro-power. Iceland's biggest challenge comes from transport including vehicles and its fishing fleet whose emissions have risen since 1990.

The country is planning to extend discount fees to people buying environmentally-friendly vehicles such as ones powered by methane, hydrogen, electricity or hybrid technology.

Iceland is also looking to equip the country's fishing fleet with eco-friendly fuel systems including fuel cells. Progress is also under way to substitute ammonia for HCFCs - an ozone damaging and greenhouse gas - in the fleet's refrigeration equipment.

New Zealand's renewables

New Zealand is aspiring to climate neutrality through a wide range of domestic initiatives including a trading scheme covering all sectors of the economy and all six greenhouse gases regulated under the Kyoto Protocol.

The country has set itself the target of generating 90 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and halving per capita transport emissions by 2040 by introducing electric cars and a requirement to use bio fuels.

Meanwhile six government agencies will be aiming to achieve full neutrality by 2012. Where emissions cannot be cut they will be offset through forest regeneration projects on tribal lands.

New Zealand, which will host World Environment Day 2008 under the theme 'Kick the C02 Habit", is paying particular attention to emissions from agriculture. Some 40,000 farms account for 50 per cent of the country's greenhouse gases versus around 12 per cent from agriculture in most developed countries.

Norway's 2030 target

Norway aims to become climate neutral by 2030, advancing by around 20 years a previously announced deadline.

The country has embarked on an energy efficiency and energy savings policy and aims to capture and store carbon at its offshore oil fields.

Arendal, Norway
Arendal, Norway
Arendal, Norway, decided to go carbon-neutral in 2007.
Norway recently joined the European Emissions Trading Scheme and has approved over $730 million to invest in offsets via the Kyoto Protocol's Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism.

It has also announced plans to invest $2.7 billion in Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (emissions from deforestation are estimated to be around 20 per cent of the total from all sources.) In the next four years (to 2012) Norway expects to over-fulfill its Kyoto Protocol commitments by five million tonnes.

Leading cities

The four cities that have joined the CN Net. are Arendal, Norway; Rizhao, China; Vancouver, Canada and Växjö, Sweden.

Arendal decided to go climate neutrality in 2007. Its initial target is to stabilise emissions by 2012 and to reduce them by a quarter by 2025.

Energy efficiency measures in buildings, will be supplemented by the purchasing of carbon offsets via a scheme run by the Norwegian State Pollution Control body.

Rizhao City, which means City of Sunshine in Chinese
Rizhao City, which means City of Sunshine in Chinese
In Rizhao City, which means City of Sunshine in Chinese, 99 per cent of households in the central districts use solar water heaters, and most traffic signals, street and park lights are powered by photovoltaic (PV) solar cells. Photo Credit: rz.gov.cn
Rizhao's transition to a low carbon society will involve a variety of measures, including boosting solar power in homes and schools and harvesting methane as a fuel from industrial waste-water. Nearly all urban housing now has solar heaters and 30 per cent of rural homes. Compared to 2000, the amount of energy used per unit of GDP has fallen by almost a third and C02 emissions by almost half.

Vancouver aims to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions to 33 per cent below current levels by 2020 and to 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. It has a target for all new constructiin to be greenhuse neutral by 2030.

The city also aims to make all its own civic operations carbon neutral by 2012, by retro-fitting public buildings to save energy, adopting more efficient vehicles, including those powered by alternative fuels, and capturing methane gas from its landfill and converting the energy to heat and electricity.

Växjö has decided to become a 'Fossil Fuel Free" City and to reduce CO2 emissions per inhabitant by at least 50 per cent by the year 2010, compared to 1993. For the year 2025, the goal is 70 per cent and the long term goal is to stop using fossil fuels. Today, over 50 per cent of the city's energy supply comes from renewables.

Five Corporations

The first five companies to join CN Net are Co-Operative Financial Services, UK; Interface Inc, United States; Natura, Brazil; Nedbank, South Africa and Senoko Power, Singapore.

CIS Solar Tower
CIS Solar Tower
The completed solar cladding installation on the Co-operative group's headquarters - the CIS tower, Manchester. Photo credit: Solar Century
The 25-storey HQ of Co-operative Financial Services's (CFS), in the North of England is the largest solar installation in the UK with 7,000 photovoltaic panels. And 99 per cent of the CFS's electricity is sourced from 'good quality' renewable energy supplies. Its products includecar insurance and mortgages with offsets covering a fifth of a vehicle and a household's emissions.

Interface Inc, a commercial interiors company, has committed to reach climate neutrality by 2020. Seven of its manufacturing facilities are run using renewable energy including its LaGrange plant in Georgia that is fueled by methane from a landfill site. The company is committed to greening its supply chain and offers a range of climate neutral products including Cool Carpet.

Natura, a Brazilian multinational cosmetics company, has pinpointed potential emissions savings of 33 per cent from its supply chain and is committed to replace petroleum-based products in favour of natural minerals and plant materials.

As early as 1997, Natura converted its distribution fleet in the greater Sao Paulo area to natural gas. Emissions that cannot be cut will be offset via native species forestry projects and renewable energy. Nedbank is working to reduce its own emissions and those of its 24,000 employees and is the only African bank to have signed up to the Equator Principles and is a leading member of the Carbon Disclosure Project that encourages companies to disclose their carbon footprint as a stepping stone to greater emissions reductions.

Senoko Power is Singapore's largest power company. In 1998, over 80 per cent of its power plants were powered by fuel oil or diesel. Today over 90 per cent of electricity is generated by natural gas and since 1990 the 'carbon intensity' has fallen by close to 40 per cent.Part of its Corporate Social Responsibility strategy includes building climate awareness in the community including in schools.tes from some of the CN Net's founding partners.

Source: UNEP