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Climate Change

The 23 Most Cost-Effective Policies for Stopping Climate Change

The Center for Climate Strategies has issued a report laying out in detail the cost/benefit analysis underpinning 23 policy options and their expected net cost per ton of greenhouse gases removed.


Like the three climate bills that would have reduced the deficit by about $20 billion by 2020, these 23 carbon reduction policies would also save Americans money – $5 billion a year – while reducing carbon emissions.

Because this group has already helped create full climate action plans for 16 states through consensus building and input from technical experts and stakeholders, it has hands-on experience – unlike most think tanks. So its researchers are able to go back and assess the real life costs and success or failure of policies that they had recommended.

These are the briefest summaries, from the cheapest of the 23 policy ideas – which costs less than nothing – to the most expensive. These are their final selections from 900 possible policy options. Full details (who pays, how costs were found) can be found in their full report pdf.

1. Shift from Truck to Rail Cost: -$91.56 per ton. Incentivising a move to rail (or river) cargo movement rather than trucks also reduces smog and wear and tear on highways.

2. Vehicle Purchase Incentives Cost: -$66.37 per ton. Incentives like cash for clunkers for choosing fuel-efficient vehicles. Switching to pay-as-you-drive auto insurance, (which makes insurance more expensive for more miles driven).

3. Anti-Idling Technologies and Practices Cost: -$65.19 per ton. Setting limits on how long buses and trucks can idle, and investing in electrification of truck stops. Requiring automatic engine shut-down/start-up system controls.

4. Appliance Standards Cost: -$53.21 per ton. Setting higher appliance efficiency standards which make it cosdt effective for manufacturers to compete in efficiency, knowing there will be a market creating an economy of scale.

5. Energy Efficiency: Demand Side Management Cost: -$40.71 per ton. Rewarding energy reduction, such as decoupling utilities and offering incentives to reduce energy (by investing in efficient appliances or machinery).

6. High Performance Buildings Cost: -$24.99 per ton. Setting incentives and targets for building owners and developers to meet high-efficiency standards.

7. Building Codes Cost: -$22.86 per ton. Strengthening building codes to require minimum levels of efficiency.

8. Combined Heat and Power Cost: -$13.18 per ton. Encouraging the use of CHP systems wherever fossil fuel is used, in order to double usable energy output per unit of input energy.

9. Reducing Municipal Solid Waste Cost: -$3.20 per ton. Reducing waste to reduce landfill methane.

10. Smart Growth/Land Use Cost: -$1.11 per ton. Encouraging smart growth planning to reduce sprawl and maximize open space protection, like siting development near transit hubs.

These first ten cost less than nothing. The following ones, in order, are from least to most expensive.

11. Landfill Gas Management Cost: $0.34 per ton. Landfills can harness methane through anaerobic digestion to create electric power, heat or liquefied natural gas.

12. Anaerobic Digestion and Methane Utilization Cost: $11.27 per ton. Manure digesters at livestock operations can be used to create heat or power, offsetting fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

13. Coal Plant Efficiency or Repowering Cost: $12.95 per ton. Installing more efficient boilers and turbines, improving control systems, using combined-cycle technology or switching to low-emitting fuels, such as natural gas or biomass.

14. Urban Forestry Cost: $13.35 per ton. Encouraging urban greenery to absorb carbon and help reduce cooling needs by providing shade.

15. Recycling Municipal Solid Waste Cost: $13.39 per ton. Creating incentives for recycling waste (like construction materials) and helping generate markets for it with municipal purchases.

16. Crop Production Practices Cost: $15.69 per ton. Encouraging no-till farming and crop rotation to increase the amount of carbon stored in soil.

17. Transit Cost: $16.72 per ton. Expanding public transit options, such as bus and rail, can cut automobile emissions.

18. Renewable Portfolio Standards Cost: $17.84 per ton. Requiring that utilities get a gradually and predictably rising percent of their electricity from renewable sources.

19. Nuclear Power Cost: $26.98 per ton. Incentivising nuclear power with subsidies or guarantees.

20. Carbon Capture and Storage or Reuse Cost: $32.92 per ton. Requiring that coal plants install equipment to capture carbon, or find new ways for coal to produce energy so carbon can be captured during the process or never created.

21. Reforestation/Afforestation Cost: $33.18 per ton. Planting new forest to boost the carbon uptake of forestry.

22. Forest Retention Cost: $39.38 per ton. Setting aside lands for conservation to maintain the current carbon uptake of forests

23. Renewable Fuel Standard Cost: $57.14 per ton. Requiring that a percentage of fuel options include non fossil sources such as ethanol or bio-diesel.

Susan Kraemer @Twitter

Image: Flikr user static bob

Source: Solveclimate

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Written By

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.


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