| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO San Francisco will become the
first U.S. city to offer a program to offset the impact of
global warming by funding local green activities, the mayor
said in an interview on Monday.
Under the program to be announced on Tuesday, city
officials would calculate the carbon cost of their travels and
contribute to one of several city programs aimed at reducing
greenhouse gas emissions -- or forego the travel altogether.
"What we are trying to do by this is to set high standards
to show carbon offset programs that work," Gavin Newsom told
Reuters, adding he was wary of offsets with little
accountability that promise action in distant lands.
For official travel, that means a round-trip flight from
San Francisco to New York would cost an additional $80 to $90,
officials say, to be paid into the city's offset programs such
as converting restaurant grease into fuel, installing solar
energy devices or investing in energy conservation.
The program will not cost additional funds, which means
city departments would cut out some travel to pay for other
trips with carbon offsets, Newsom said. A second phase of the
program would also allow residents to buy offsets.
With growing worldwide focus on the climate change impact
of carbon emissions, entities from companies such as Google and
Yahoo to organizations including the United Nations and
countries such as Costa Rica, Norway and New Zealand are
implementing carbon offset programs with the ultimate goal of
becoming carbon neutral.
Such plans seek to plant trees (which soak up carbon
dioxide, the most common man-made greenhouse gas) or encourage
a switch from high carbon-emitting fossil fuels to renewable
sources of energy such as wind and water to cut emissions.
WHERE DO THE OFFSETS GO?
The problem with many such programs is that those who pay
carbon offset fees often do know what, if anything, becomes of
contributions, the San Francisco mayor said.
"Right now, my offsets, I don't know where the hell they
go. They might be going to the Amazon," Newsom, a Democrat,
told Reuters. "There are some scam artists doing nothing other
than banking on this goodwill."
He said he personally favored paying carbon offset fees for
all his travel, whether he is stumping for Democratic
presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as he did last weekend
in Iowa, or jetting off to the exclusive wedding of Google
co-founder Larry Page in the Caribbean earlier this month.
In 2004, Newsom set a goal of cutting the city's annual
carbon dioxide emissions by 2.5 million tonnes by 2012, a
20-percent reduction below 1990 emissions.
Newsom said officials were studying proposals to reduce
emissions from transportation -- which account for more than
half of the city's carbon emissions -- that could include new
taxes or restrictions. "The whole movement in the United States
is going to be towards congestion management," he said.
San Francisco has long embraced initiatives to encourage
conservation. Earlier this year the mayor barred city officials
from drinking mineral water because of concerns about pollution
from plastic bottles. The city also banned plastic shopping
bags in large supermarkets to encourage recycling.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)