Forget Valentine’s Day.  The real holiday that matters this week is Kyoto Day.

Eric already beat me to the punch, but I wanted to wish all Northwesterners to the new post-Kyoto-treaty world.  Of course, if you live in the US portion of the region, you didn’t really get invited to the party.  But that doesn’t mean that you’re completely out of luck—the fact that Kyoto has come into effect gives you some concrete ways to address climate change.

First, as we mentioned before, you can ratify Kyoto yourself (see previousposts), by estimating your family’s climate-warming emissions—and by pledging to reduce or offset them below where they stood in 1990.

Second, the advent of Kyoto means that the European carbon market now has some real teeth.  Right now, a ton of CO2 emissions on the European market costs about 7.62 Euros (this site has daily price updates), which is about US $10 or Can$12.  A car releases about 20 pounds of carbon for every gallon of gas consumed; for a car that gets 20mpg, that’s about a pound a mile.  (Or, in metric terms, it’s about 2.4 kg of CO2 per liter of gas.)  That means that if I could buy credits on the European market, I could more than offset my family’s annual automobile emissions for the low, low price of US $35.

  • I don’t know of an easy way to buy up European carbon credits, but I’d like to get into the act.  Europe’s emissions targets are binding and comprehensive, which helps ensure that if I buy carbon credits on the European market, I’m really reducing atmospheric levels of carbon, not just shifting emissions from one company or region to another. While well-intentioned, US-based trading schemes (such as the voluntary Chicago Climate Exchange) are fuzzier; the fact that membership is voluntary makes the real-world benefits a little less certain.

    Of course, one of the perverse results of the United States’ failure to join in Kyoto is that, to offset carbon credits in my home, I may wind up sending money off to Europe or some other part of the globe with more binding carbon emissions targets.  In effect, my investment will help make Europe more energy-efficient—which in the long run is not only good for the climate but also great for Europe’s economy.  I just wish I could make that sort of investment closer to home.