By Mike Jara, Assistant Dean of Facilities, University of South Carolina Aiken
In January, 2011 I was invited to Taiwan to speak about the ACUPCC and to provide examples of how U.S. colleges and universities are working towards carbon neutrality. As the ACUPCC Implementation Liaison (IL) at the University of South Carolina Aiken(USCA), a public U.S. university, and as a member of the IL Support Committee, Second Nature invited me to represent the ACUPCC. On March 9th -10th I presented alongside environmental experts from Taiwan and the U.K. at a two-day conference organized by the Foundation of Taiwan Industry Service (Taiwan’s equivalent to the U.S. EPA) and hosted by the Minister of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Dr. Stephen Shu-hung Shen. The main topic of the conference was the development and promotion of ‘carbon neutrality’, and my presentation specifically targeted current progress and the vision of climate protection work at the USCA campus. These included actual practices, lessons learned and brief introduction to the guidance’s and protocols that faculty and students may refer to.
The first speaker was Dr. Young Ku who holds a Ph.D in Civil Engineering from Purdue University. He presented on environmental and energy management systems and strategies (such as ISO 14001, Design for Environment, Life Cycle Analysis and Greenhouse Gas Management).
Mark Fraser, manager at BSI group, followed Dr. Young Ku with a presentation on the selective history of emission protocol from the US Clean Air Act to PAS 2060 Carbon Neutrality Claims. Mark also discussed several successful and not so successful corporate carbon neutral initiative examples such as Avis-Vehicle Rental, HSBC-Financial Services, Nature Air-Airline and more.
Our next presenter was Dr. Yi-Min Gao, BSI Taiwan Managing Director. Dr. Gao holds a Ph.D in Environmental Engineering from Lehigh University and his talkincluded discussions of PAS 2060 and the steps necessary to acquire a declaration of achievement. In addition, he discussed the UK guidance on carbon neutrality, the Australian National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) and the CarbonNeutral protocol. Following Dr. Ri-Min Gao was Mr. Robert Shih who holds a M.S. degree from the University of Oklahoma in Environmental Science. Currently the General Manager at YC Consultants, Ltd, Taiwan, Mr. Shih discussed several areas of carbon neutrality that included Climate Change Policy Analysis, One-Stop Carbon Consulting Service Business, GHG mitigation strategies, voluntary GHG reduction for industries, international GHG reduction projects which included the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup, Project Investment and Emission Trading, Carbon Emission Reductions, Trading Total Solutions on Carbon Footprint CDP and Carbon Neutral case studies.
Mr. Jules Chuang, Principal of East Asia at South Pole Carbon Asset Management Ltd., then presented “Carbon Neutrality- Practices of Carbon Offsetting”. He discussed the broad spectrum of services that South Pole Carbon Asset Management provides and how to secure a position in the carbon market. Doing so, he gave several examples of Taiwanese projects that qualified for emission reduction credits such as the Hsikou Hydro Power Plant, and the Chanbin and Taichung bundled wind farms project in western Taiwan. In addition, he fully explained the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) project database.
The final talk, presented by professor Chein Te Fan of the Institute of Law for Science Technology was titled “Carbon Neutral in Context of Law”. The presentation was broken down into four areas; “The Carbon Neutral in Legal Perspective”, “A Legal Environment in Public Sector Carbon Neutral Planning”, “A legally Enforceable Cap-and-Trade Program in Need?”, and “To Promote a ‘Norm’ Driven Carbon Neutral Scenario.”
In his opening remarks at the International Conference on Targeting Carbon Neutrality, Minister Shen noted that “The platform will provide information on carbon neutrality and allow the public to register and announce carbon neutral actions.” The platform also provides, “examples abound in other countries where products, activities, companies and cities vie to be certified as having net zero carbon emissions”, adding that “the EPA will formulate guidelines to help businesses, organizations and consumers reduce their carbon footprints.”
My observation from the conference is that Taiwan and others in the audience want to achieve carbon neutrality by balancing emissions with reductions that will be purchased or achieved elsewhere, such as offset through sequestration or carbon credit purchase. Due to the defined scope of the conference, there was very little mention on how individuals, institutions or industry would reduce their emissions from internal practices. I think that we must work hard at reduction measures and then verify our results. As soon as the footprint is at its lowest sustainable condition, then a carbon offset should be pursued; only after a validation and/or certification of the carbon footprint is completed should a carbon offset be authorized to reach carbon neutrality. My portion of the conference was received enthusiastically and generated several questions; one comment concerning USCA’s conservation efforts was that the government did not tell us what to do. There seems to be a top down mentality that whatever measures are necessary to promote, reduce or initiate carbon neutrality must come from the governing agency. Although many understood that USCA’s initiatives follow the leadership of several agencies that promulgate legislation and guidelines, there was still a sense of fascination that USCA was able to compile a multitude of energy management initiatives that were unique to USCA and not part of a national program.
Dr. Shin-Cheng Yeh, professor and Director for the Graduate Institute of Environmental Education at the National Taiwan Normal University expressed interest in developing a Taiwan equivalent of the ACUPCC. He mentioned that approximately 11 universities have had informal discussions concerning the importance of developing a climate commitment.
Overall, along with the other participants, I was very thankful to be a part of such a talented group of professionals. Each speaker gave an insightfully detailed presentation and it was an honor to present at this conference. I must thank Steve Muzzy, Ulli Klein and Georges Dyer (Second Nature) and Jennifer Yeh (Foundation of Taiwan Industry Service) for their support, encouragement and travel assistance. In my closing remarks, I noted that USCA’s detailed description of our energy reduction efforts reinforces the need to pursue individual carbon reduction as well as the pressing need to work hard locally before pursuing offsets.