Carbon Markets Are Far From Perfect, But Businesses Say They’re Essential

28 01 2023

Image credit: aiokr chen/Unsplash

By Mary Riddle from Triple Pundit • Reposted: January 28, 2023

Over 90 percent of business leaders are prioritizing long-term decarbonization — and 89 percent believe carbon markets will play a key role, according to a recent survey of 500 sustainability managers conducted by Conservation International and the We Mean Business Coalition. 

A third of the business leaders surveyed are already investing in a voluntary carbon market, while over half are considering carbon credits as an option for the future.

Carbon markets come under criticism…

Carbon markets allow carbon-emitting companies and individuals to offset their greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase of carbon credits. These credits are meant to be tied to certified emissions reductions from projects designed to reduce, or in some cases remove, greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Credits are often from renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar installations, and nature-based solutions like reforestation and land restoration.

Carbon markets and credits have come under intense scrutiny in recent years due to lack of oversight and regulation. Companies and governments have been accused of greenwashing, as certain entities created fraudulent carbon credit programs that accepted payment, but never implemented carbon reduction projects. Other critics maintain that the carbon market allows companies to continue emitting greenhouse gases instead of finding methods to avoid emissions in the first place. 

recent investigation from the Guardian, Die Zeit and SourceMaterial found that more than 90 percent of rainforest carbon offset credits from a leading provider are likely to be “phantom credits” that do not represent actual greenhouse gas reductions, adding more fuel to the skepticism.

… But business leaders seem to still believe 

Net-zero targets represent more than 90 percent of global GDP, and the vast majority of business leaders believe that carbon credits are a critical piece in the global decarbonization puzzle.

Over 80 percent of the business leaders surveyed by Conservation International and We Mean Business say they would like to accelerate their decarbonization plans beyond credits or offsets. They claimed to face barriers such as budgetary constraints, technological limitations, lack of collaboration, concerns about greenwashing, lack of transparency and regulation in the carbon market, and the quality of carbon credits available, which held them back.

To overcome some of the roadblocks and confusion around carbon credits, businesses are increasingly relying on carbon credit ratings agencies such as the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market and the Voluntary Carbon Market Initiative. Carbon ratings agencies help ensure the integrity of the carbon market through robust oversight, as well as stewarding a consistent taxonomy for businesses making carbon reduction claims.

“Without a transparent, high-integrity voluntary carbon market that functions at scale, we won’t stay within 1.5 degrees [Celsius],” Annette Nazareth, chair of the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market, said in a statement. “Companies’ priority must be to decarbonize their own value chains. High-integrity carbon credits allow them to go further, accelerating climate mitigation beyond their value chain by providing finance to critical climate mitigation activities that do not otherwise meet the risk and return expectations of investors. We need to find a way to make it easy for investors to recognize and price a high-integrity carbon credit no matter which program issued it, what kind of credit it is, whether it is based on a removal or reduction, a nature-based solution, or an emerging technology.”

Tackling challenges in the carbon market is urgent to the activation of climate finance. Another recent report from the We Mean Business Coalition found that if the world’s top 1,700 emitting companies purchased carbon credits for just 10 percent of their emissions, more than $1 trillion would be activated for climate finance by 2030.

“Climate change is the greatest test of collective action in human history, and a crisis of that scale demands an all-hands-on-deck, all-of-the- above strategy,” Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, added in a statement. “Carbon credits are [a] proven tool for immediately reducing emissions, while also pursuing longer-term decarbonization ambitions. And though it isn’t always reflected in the headlines, this study affirms that private-sector buyers are indeed gravitating toward high-quality credits, placing a premium on transparency and accountability.”

The challenges to decarbonization are myriad, and the carbon marketplace is not yet ideal. However, many business leaders still feel a functional, scalable carbon credit system could accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions, perhaps just in time. 

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/carbon-markets-authenticity-trust/764921

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Deep seabed mining plans pit renewable energy demand against ocean life in a largely unexplored frontier

23 01 2023

Brightly colored sea cucumbers and many other unusual deep sea creatures live among the nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. ROV KIEL 6000/GEOMAR

By Scott Shackelford, Professor of Business Law and Ethics, Indiana University, Christiana Ochoa, Professor of Law, Indiana University, David Bosco, Associate Professor of International Studies, Indiana University and Kerry Krutilla, Professor of Environmental and Energy Policy, Indiana University from The Conversation – Reposted: January 23, 2023

As companies race to expand renewable energy and the batteries to store it, finding sufficient amounts of rare earth metals to build the technology is no easy feat. That’s leading mining companies to take a closer look at a largely unexplored frontier – the deep ocean seabed. 

A wealth of these metals can be found in manganese nodules that look like cobblestones scattered across wide areas of deep ocean seabed. But the fragile ecosystems deep in the oceans are little understood, and the mining codes to sustainably mine these areas are in their infancy.

A fierce debate is now playing out as a Canadian company makes plans to launch the first commercial deep sea mining operation in the Pacific Ocean. 

The Metals Company completed an exploratory project in the Pacific Ocean in fall 2022. Under a treaty governing the deep sea floor, the international agency overseeing these areas could be forced to approve provisional mining there as soon as spring 2023, but several countries and companies are urging a delay until more research can be done. France and New Zealand have called for a ban on deep sea mining. 

As scholars who have long focused on the economicpolitical and legal challengesposed by deep seabed mining, we have each studied and written on this economic frontier with concern for the regulatory and ecological challenges it poses.

A view looking across a sea floor with nodules looking like cobblestones on a street.
Manganese nodules on the seafloor in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, between Hawaii and Mexico, captured on camera by a remote vehicle in 2015. Photo: ROV KIEL 6000, GEOMARCC BY

What’s down there, and why should we care?

A curious journey began in the summer of 1974. Sailing from Long Beach, California, a revolutionary ship funded by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes set course for the Pacific to open a new frontier — deep seabed mining

Widespread media coverage of the expedition helped to focus the attention of businesses and policymakers on the promise of deep seabed mining, which is notable given that the expedition was actually an elaborate cover for a CIA operation.

The real target was a Soviet ballistic missile submarine that had sunk in 1968 with all hands and what was believed to be a treasure trove of Soviet state secrets and tech onboard.

The expedition, called Project Azorian by the CIArecovered at least part of the submarine – and it also brought up several manganese nodules from the seafloor.

Manganese nodules are roughly the size of potatoes and can be found across vast areas of seafloor in parts of the Pacific and Indian oceans and deep abyssal plains in the Atlantic. They are valuable because they are exceptionally rich in 37 metals, including nickel, cobalt and copper, which are essential for most large batteries and several renewable energy technologies.

A person holds two halves of a split nodule, showing concentric rings
Manganese nodules form as metals accumulate around a shell or part of another nodule. Thomas Walter/GEOMAR

These nodules form over millennia as metals nucleate around shells or broken nodules. The Clarion-Clipperton Zone, between Mexico and Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, where the mining test took place, has been estimated to have over 21 billion metric tons of nodules that could provide twice as much nickel and three times more cobalt than all the reserves on land.

Mining in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone could be some 10 times richer than comparable mineral deposits on land. All told, estimates place the value of this new industry at some US$30 billion annually by 2030. It could be instrumental in feeding the surging global demand for cobalt that lies at the heart of lithium-ion batteries.

Yet, as several scientists have noted, we still know more about the surface of the moon than what lies at the bottom of the deep seabed.

Deep seabed ecology

Less than 10% of the deep seabed has been mapped thoroughly enough to understand even the basic features of the structure and contents of the ocean floor, let alone the life and ecosystems therein.

Even the most thoroughly studied region, the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, is still best characterized by the persistent novelty of what is found there.

Between 70% and 90% of living things collected in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone have never been seen before, leaving scientists to speculate about what percentage of all living species in the region has never been seen or collected. Exploratory expeditions regularly return with images or samples of creatures that would richly animate science fiction stories, like a 6-foot-long bioluminescent shark.

Also unknown is the impact that deep sea mining would have on these creatures.

An experiment in 2021 in water about 3 miles (5 kilometers) deep off Mexico found that seabed mining equipment created sediment plumes of up to about 6.5 feet (2 meters) high. But the project authors stressed that they didn’t study the ecological impact. A similar earlier experiment was conducted off Peru in 1989. When scientists returned to that site in 2015, they found some species still hadn’t fully recovered.Video from MIT shows the sediment plume created by a nodule-collecting machine during an experiment.

Environmentalists have questioned whether seafloor creatures could be smothered by sediment plumes and whether the sediment in the water column could effect island communities that rely on healthy oceanic ecosystems. The Metals Company has argued that its impact is less than terrestrial mining.

Given humanity’s lack of knowledge of the ocean, it is not currently possible to set environmental baselines for oceanic health that could be used to weigh the economic benefits against the environmental harms of seabed mining.

Scarcity and the economic case for mining

The economic case for deep seabed mining reflects both possibility and uncertainty.

On the positive side, it could displace some highly destructive terrestrial mining and augment the global supply of minerals used in clean energy sources such as wind turbines, photovoltaic cells and electric vehicles. 

Terrestrial mining imposes significant environmental damage and costs to human health of both the miners themselves and the surrounding communities. Additionally, mines are sometimes located in politically unstable regions. The Democratic Republic of Congo produces 60% of the global supply of cobalt, for example, and China owns or finances 80% of industrial mines in that country. China also accounts for 60% of the global supply of rare earth element production and much of its processing. Having one nation able to exert such control over a critical resource has raised concerns.The Metals Company shared video of its first collection mission.

Deep seabed mining comes with significant uncertainties, however, particularly given the technology’s relatively early state.

First are the risks associated with commercializing a new technology. Until deep sea mining technology is demonstrated, discoveries cannot be listed as “reserves” in firms’ asset valuations. Without that value defined, it can be difficult to line up the significant financing needed to build mining infrastructure, which lessens the first-mover advantage and incentivizes firms to wait for someone else to take the lead. 

Commodity prices are also difficult to predict. Technology innovation can reduce or even eliminate the projected demand for a mineral. New mineral deposits on land can also boost supply: Sweden announced in January 2023 that it had just discovered the largest deposit of rare earth oxides in Europe.

In all, embarking on deep seabed mining involves sinking significant costs into new technology for uncertain returns, while posing risks to a natural environment that is likely to rise in value.

Who gets to decide the future of seafloor mining?

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which came into force in the early 1990s, provides the basic rules for ocean resources.

It allows countries to control economic activities, including any mining, within 200 miles of their coastlines, accounting for approximately 35% of the ocean. Beyond national waters, countries around the world established the International Seabed Authority, or ISA, based in Jamaica, to regulate deep seabed mining.

Critically, the ISA framework calls for some of the profits derived from commercial mining to be shared with the international community. In this way, even countries that did not have the resources to mine the deep seabed could share in its benefits. This part of the ISA’s mandate was controversial, and it was one reason that the United States did not join the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Map showing concentrations of nodules in the Pacific and Indian Ocean in particular
A map shows the distribution of manganese nodules, with areas of the greatest concentrations circled. Sven Petersen/GEOMAR

With little public attention, the ISA worked slowly for several decades to develop regulations for exploration of undersea minerals, and those rules still aren’t completed. More than a dozen companies and countries have received exploration contracts, including The Metals Company’s work under the sponsorship of the island nation of Nauru.

ISA’s work has started to draw criticism as companies have sought to initiate commercial mining. A recent New York Times investigation of internal ISA documents suggested the agency’s leadership has downplayed environmental concerns and shared confidential information with some of the companies that would be involved in seabed mining. The ISA hasn’t finalized environmental rules for mining.

Much of the coverage of deep seabed mining has been framed to highlight the climate benefits. But this overlooks the dangers this activity could pose for the Earth’s largest pristine ecology – the deep sea. We believe it would be wise to better understand this existing, fragile ecosystem better before rushing to mine it.

To see the original post, follow this link. https://theconversation.com/deep-seabed-mining-plans-pit-renewable-energy-demand-against-ocean-life-in-a-largely-unexplored-frontier-193273