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To Combat ‘Black Cloud’ Pollution, Egypt Comes Up With A New Plan

The World Health Organization is holding its first global air pollution conference in Geneva this week.

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Air pollution can hamper work productivity. VOA

An Egyptian government program to pay traders to buy rice straw from farmers at the end of harvest has helped to combat one of Cairo’s ugliest features — a huge black cloud that hangs over the Egypt capital during the burning season.

Cairo is the world’s second most polluted megacity, the World Health Organization says, and the government is pursuing several initiatives to cut back greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the biggest contributors to the thick layer of smog has been the annual burning of rice straw by farmers who have no other means to dispose of it.

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As pollution levels spike, Delhi and its satellite towns are enveloped in a haze of smog. VOA

To tackle the problem, the government offered an incentive to traders to buy the straw from farmers amounting to 50 Egyptian pounds ($3) per ton, said Mohamed Salah, head of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA). They can then sell it as animal feed or for other uses.

The program appears to be bearing results.

“Today, the dark cloud season is over and all citizens in Egypt are saying that they have not sensed any significant problem relating to this, unlike what had happened in previous years,” Salah said.

egypt
To tackle the problem, the government offered an incentive to traders to buy the straw from farmers amounting to 50 Egyptian pounds.

An industrial boom in Egypt has also contributed to pollution, Salah said.’

“We have some small industries that are deregulated and are not in line with environmental standards. We have worked hard on these,” he said.

Also Read: Dushhera In Delhi Casts A Dark Blanket, Air Quality Worsens

The World Health Organization is holding its first global air pollution conference in Geneva this week. (VOA)

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U.S. Proposes Price Tag For CO2 Emissions From Cars

Some states can put programs in place with agency regulations. Others will have to go through their state legislatures.

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Researchers turn carbon emissions into usable energy. VOA

Drivers on the U.S. East Coast may soon start paying for their climate pollution.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have announced plans to introduce a system that puts a price on the carbon dioxide produced from burning gasoline and diesel fuel.

As the federal government pulls back from taking action on climate change, the proposal is an example of how states and cities are aiming to move forward.

Details are slim at this point, but the Transportation and Climate Initiative would likely require fuel suppliers to pay for each ton of carbon dioxide that burning their products would produce. Costs would presumably be passed on to consumers.

The announcement says revenues would go toward improving transportation infrastructure and low-emissions alternatives to cars, trucks and buses.

The program could raise $1.5 billion to $6 billion per year, by one estimate.

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Car emission, Wikimedia

“You can imagine, that could do a lot to modernize transportation infrastructure, improve mass transit, build out electric transportation options,” said Fatima Ahmad at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, based in Washington, D.C.

Reducing traffic congestion, “which is legendary in this area,” is a priority for the region’s lawmakers, she added. Those investments could create an estimated 91,000 to 125,000 new jobs.

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While electric utilities have cut production of carbon dioxide by switching from coal to natural gas and renewables, emissions from the transportation sector have been growing since 2012.

Following California

California is the only state so far that has put a price on carbon emissions from transportation fuels. The state included gas and diesel in its cap-and-trade program beginning in 2015. That program also regulates greenhouse gases from power plants and industries.

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Morning rush hour traffic makes its way along US 101 near downtown Los Angeles, California, Nov. 15, 2016. VOA

For transportation fuels, wholesalers buy the permits and pass on the cost. At the current price of about $15 per ton, the program adds about 13 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas.

The additional cost is less than the differences in pump price among gas stations in the same city, noted communications director Stanley Young at the California Air Resources Board, which administers the program.

“When you consider the few cents that the cap and trade program adds on to [the cost at the pump], it kind-of pales,” he said.

The state has raised more than $9 billion from permit sales since the program began in 2012.

Funds have paid for renewable energy and efficiency upgrades, mass transit, low-emissions vehicles, land preservation and other investments.

To help ease the burden on low-income consumers, a third of the funds are targeted to disadvantaged communities.

However, California’s program has not stopped vehicle CO2 emissions from rising. After a period of decline from 2007 to 2013, greenhouse gases from vehicles have increased every year since then.

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Car emissions contribute to global climate change. Pixabay

The state is studying the impact of car sharing and autonomous vehicles on reducing emissions. Young said officials are also looking into land use planning, so people live closer to work or transit.

“We invented sprawl,” he said, “and now we’re trying to deal with it.”

Hard to change

Transportation is one of the hardest sources of greenhouse gases to tackle, experts say.

Unlike the next biggest source of carbon pollution, power plants, transportation emissions come from millions of individual vehicles, and the choices their owners and drivers make have a big impact on how much carbon dioxide they produce.

There are essentially three ways to reduce their emissions, according to David Bookbinder at the Niskanen Center, a centrist research institution: make vehicles more efficient, reduce the amount of CO2 produced per unit of energy, or raise the price of fuel.

“It’s never popular to raise the price [of fuel],” Bookbinder said. Even so, “you have to really, really, really raise the price of gasoline before it has an impact on people’s use.”

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Car exhaust billows around commuter traffic in winter weather in Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 1, 2013. VOA

France’s “yellow vest” protests are one extreme reaction to raising fuel prices. They sparked the biggest outrage where driving is least avoidable: outside city centers and in areas lacking good public transit. And they demonstrate another risk: policies that make gas more expensive can have the biggest impact on the people who can least afford it.

One way to reduce the impact is by returning to consumers the money raised by pricing carbon. That’s the preferred approach in a proposal by a group of Republican elder statesmen. Investing in affordable public transit is another, Bookbinder says.

 

The members of the Transportation and Climate Initiative — Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. — will spend a year designing their individual programs.

Some states can put programs in place with agency regulations. Others will have to go through their state legislatures. That will test voters’ appetites to pay for their climate pollution. (VOA)