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December 2006 Issue
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Trading on the future of our environment


A seminar at the University of Adelaide has explored economic incentives to encourage businesses to reduce their carbon emissions.

Four key speakers from the public and private sector addressed the Emissions Trading Seminar hosted by the University's Sustainability Research Cluster in October.

Emissions trading - an economic instrument to limit emissions - is emerging as a key factor in South Australia's efforts to reduce greenhouse gases by 60% of 1990 levels by the middle of this century.

Seminar chair Professor Christopher Findlay, Head of the School of Economics at the University of Adelaide, said the emissions trading schemes involved setting overall targets for a sector or group of companies and then letting individual companies decide how best to achieve their own target.

"Companies are given credits, or allowances, which represent the right to emit a certain amount. If they pollute beyond their allowance they must buy credits from those who pollute less.

"Companies that better their own target can trade or bank their surplus emissions. In effect, the buyer is fined for polluting, while the seller is rewarded for having reduced emissions," Professor Findlay said.

"Emissions trading is a way for the Australian economy to transition more smoothly to a carbon-constrained future and potentially link Australia to international carbon markets. The European Union has recently established its own trading scheme and other regions and nations are actively considering it."

The four speakers were:

  • Tony Beck from the Australasian Emissions Trading Forum, who outlined international and national developments and the opportunities they present for businesses;
  • James White from the National Emissions Trading Taskforce, who discussed a possible scheme design for Australia;
  • Paul Leadbeter from Norman Waterhouse, who discussed the use of Forest Property Agreements to offset carbon emissions; and
  • Terry Teoh from Pacific Hydro, who described how emissions markets can be used to build business value.

Story by Candy Gibson

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