Douglas wants to set a `green standard,’ but markets already exist

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas wants to make Vermont a global leader in the business of carbon trading.

But there are already national and international carbon markets. And many companies – and even some other states – have a head start in this emerging business.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Governor Douglas says Vermont can cash in on the carbon market. He says the state can use its environmental reputation to help develop what he calls the "green standard" to measure carbon credits.

The idea behind carbon credits is that they allow polluters to pay money to someone else to reduce greenhouse gases.

But there’s already a huge business in carbon trading. A market in Europe has been underway for years. And the Chicago Climate Exchange has developed its own standards to measure carbon credits from forestry and renewable energy, among other projects.

So critics of Governor Douglas were skeptical of his proposal. Here’s environmentalist and author Bill McKibben.

(McKibben) It’s nothing but smoke and mirrors. … And there’s nobody in the country waiting for Vermont to explain to them how they’re going to trade carbon credits. We’ve already got active carbon markets in the Chicago Board of Exchange, which is following a big European one. The system for carbon trading is up and running and no one is waiting for a standard from Vermont..

(Dillon) Douglas says he’s not concerned. He says it’s not too late for Vermont to play a role, because the business is potentially huge.

(Douglas) I think this is a concept and a market that’s going to develop in a very significant way to the many billions of dollars in trading in the not too distant future. So I think there’s plenty of opportunity for Vermont to get in and be a real player.

(Dillon) If members of the Douglas Administration want to learn about how to set standards for carbon credits, they can look west to the state of Oregon.

In 1997, Oregon required new power plants to reduce a significant amount of their carbon dioxide emissions. The power plants do that by paying a fee per ton of carbon pollution.


The state then uses an independent non-profit organization called The Climate Trust to invest the utilities’ money into projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


So Oregon has a 10 year head start on Vermont in overseeing the business of carbon credits.

Mike Burnett is the executive director of The Climate Trust. The organization now has clients all over the country, and Burnett says he’d be happy to help Vermont learn how it’s done.

(Burnett) We would be very pleased to work with Vermont to help come up with some standards for the types of projects that might be prevalent on the landscape there in Vermont.

(Dillon) But Burnett says it would be tough for Vermont to set the national standard for carbon credits.

(Burnett) A very large state like California or maybe New York might be able to come in lay claim to kind of a national standard and get it recognized…


(Dillon) Burnett warns that developing the standards is complex. So he says Vermont may want to focus on a more regional approach, such as evaluating forestry projects that absorb carbon dioxide.


For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


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