Virginia Set to Join Carbon Trading Market on Heels of Democratic Victory
By David Leestma
Following last week's Democratic victory for Ralph Northam in Virginia's gubernatorial race, regulators in the state will seek approval to join the East Coast's regional carbon-trading market, the RGGI.
The regulators' draft proposal, released on election night, would cap carbon emissions from Virginia's electricity sector by 2020 and reduce them by 30 percent over the coming decade. To accomplish this, Virginia would halt carbon emissions at either 33 million or 34 million tons per year and cut emissions by three percent each year, in accordance with RGGI commitments made in August.
In 2015 and 2016, Democratic lawmakers in Virginia had bills similar to the draft proposal defeated in the state legislature. The new proposal was crafted as an executive order to avoid approval from the state's Republican-led legislature.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe issued the executive order last May, leaving its fate in the balance until last week's election. The plan would cut the state's emissions to benchmarks similar to those laid out in President Obama's Clean Power Plan.
Virginia's announcement comes as a number of states enact their own climate policies in the wake of the Trump administration's attempts to dismantle federal policies, including the Clean Power Plan. The RGGI, comprised of five Republican governors and four Democratic governors, has been seen as a test of states' commitment to cut carbon emissions.
Dr. Michael Mann on Paris and Clean Power Plan: 'We’re Seeing Real Movement' https://t.co/FEv7LdR6YR @TheCCoalition @tcktcktck— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1509500708.0
By joining the RGGI, Virginia will enter into a carbon market with Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. New Jersey is also expected to rejoin, after Chris Christie's withdrawal of the state in 2011.
If Virginia does join the carbon market, it will be the biggest emitter of the participating states, boosting the RGGI's 2020 cap by more than 40 percent. Virginia utilities would be permitted to sell carbon allowances at auctions if they are unable to cut emissions cheaply or buy allowances from others. Under the model, the state coalition sets an annually declining cap on carbon emission. States will sell fewer permits each year to power plant operators.
In 2015, more than $410 million in proceeds from the permit sales were invested in energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy, greenhouse gas abatement, and direct bill assistance, according to an RGGI report.
Supporters and critics of the program can be found among environmental groups. Supporters see the model as a pragmatic, market-based choice that's amenable to the American political climate. Opponents, on the other hand, view it as a "market-based pollution" scheme that caters to fossil fuel industries.
An analysis by the Acadia Center, a climate advocacy and research group, found that power plant emission in RGGI states fell by five percent since 2016.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.