CO2 Emissions Offsets Arranged for Travel to U.S. Political Conventions

CO2 Emissions Offsets Arranged for Travel to U.S. Political Conventions

The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Conventions (CERC), as part of its program to reduce the environmental footprint of both the Democratic and Republican national conventions, has arranged for carbon dioxide (CO2) emission offsets for travel to and from the conventions.

The Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC), Boston 2004, the Republican National Committee's Committee on Arrangements and the New York City Host Committee 2004 have welcomed the carbon offset donations and other environmental initiatives offered by this non-partisan coalition of more than 50 environmental groups in the Boston and New York areas.

Using the 2002 Winter Olympics as a model, the DNCC and Boston 2004 have worked with CERC to offset the greenhouse gas (e.g. carbon dioxide) emissions attributable to the Convention. This was accomplished partly by acquiring carbon offsets to “offset” or compensate emissions generated from modes of transportation used to transport delegates to and from the Convention (buses, cars, and airlines). The carbon offsets, which are quantified greenhouse gas reductions generated from renewable energy projects, reforestation efforts, landfill gas recovery, coal mine methane recovery and other projects, will be retired on behalf of the delegates, compensating for the CO2 emissions attributable to their travel.

In the US, unlike many other developed countries, there is no national greenhouse gas emissions trading system. There is, however an emerging emission trading market where businesses, whose emissions are subject either to voluntary or mandatory caps, can trade emissions “credits” with each other to meet their emissions caps or for other corporate goals. Carbon offsets are intended to provide an additional financial incentive to more energy efficient, less carbon intensive energy sources such as new renewable energy.

In making this and other arrangements for the Democratic convention, to be held the week of July 26 in Boston at the Fleet Center, CERC has employed most of the types of financial instruments that have been developed in recent years to harness commerce as the engine for the transition to clean energy.

CERC began by working with the DNCC, Fleet Center and NStar to estimate the amount of energy needed to power the convention. Based on that estimate, CERC raised $11,000 which it used to purchase 500 "renewable energy certificates" (RECs) to match the anticipated electricity use at the Fleet Center during the convention. These RECs represent the "non-emissions" attributes attached to units of wind power generated at sites in Massachusetts and Colorado, hydro power generated in Connecticut and landfill gas power generated in California.

In addition, Constellation New Energy, the company that purchases electricity for the Fleet Center, donated 300 additional RECs plus the electricity associated with those RECs. (In electricity markets, electricity bundled with the RECs for that electricity is referred to as a "linked product.")

CERC collaborated with Shawmut Design and Construction, and the DNCC, to have a fuel cell from Fuel Cell Energy installed to power the media pavilion during the convention.

“The 2004 national conventions provide a unique opportunity to demonstrate the kinds of practices that are needed to address global warming and other pressing environmental problems,” said CERC executive director Daniel Ruben.

Renewable energy is not CERC's only concern. CERC is also organizing a number of other activities involving green construction, buildings, hospitality, and transportation. More information on CERC's activities is available online.