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Environmental Issues

Joint implementation (JI) projects involve a collaborative effort between private entities from two or more countries to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This approach enables these entities to achieve GHG reductions at a lower cost than would otherwise be possible. JI projects can take the form of emission reduction efforts (e.g. energy efficiency or renewable energy) or can involve protection and enhancement of GHG sinks (e.g. forests, grass lands, or coral reefs).

One of the most pressing environmental issues today is the possibility that projected increases in global emissions of GHG from increased deforestation, development, and fossil-fuel combustion could alter materially global climate patterns. While aggressive energy efficiency and other emission reduction initiatives are being undertaken by electric utilities within their own service areas, it is recognized that GHG mitigation is not just a U.S. concern.

In 1992, world leaders signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) to develop strategies to mitigate the effects of atmospheric pollution on the global climate. The JI concept, known as "Activities Implemented Jointly" (AIJ) during the current pilot phase, was introduced during the negotiations leading up to the Rio Earth Summit, and was formally adopted into the text of the FCCC. Under the agreement, industrialized countries committed to balance their GHG emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000 and to assist developing countries in mitigating their long-term emissions trends. The FCCC allows each party to determine how to pursue its commitments which have been set forth in national action plans.

Policy Implications for the Utility Industry
Joint implementation is an innovative approach to achieving cost-effective solutions to a global issue. As international negotiations continue to address global climate issues, it is essential that voluntary, market-based initiatives that accomplish environmental goals receive full credit -- especially for early actions taken by innovative utilities.

The U.S. Initiative on Joint Implementation (USIJI) encourages U.S. private-sector investment in developing and disseminating technologies to reduce or sequester GHG emissions; promotes cost-effective projects that encourage technology cooperation and sustainable development projects in developing countries and emerging economies; and promotes a broad range of projects to test and evaluate methodologies for measuring, tracking and verifying costs and benefits of JI projects.

Wisconsin Energy's Position
Wisconsin Energy Corporation (WEC) has supported the JI concept since its introduction. In 1994, WEC submitted two project proposals in the first round of the USIJI's solicitation. Of a total of thirty proposals submitted, both of WEC's projects were among the seven approved. WEC's projects demonstrate the two types of GHG mitigation strategies previously described.

The energy efficiency/emission reduction project involves replacement of inefficient, highly polluting district heating boilers in Decin, Czech Republic with high efficiency, natural gas-fired internal combustion engines. An important strategy in reducing GHG emissions in the face of growing demand for energy is to produce and use energy as efficiently as possible.

WEC's second project, which enhances GHG sinks, involves acquisition and protection of endangered tropical forests in Belize, Central America, and development of a program of sustainable forestry management that will increase the total pool of sequestered carbon in a 120,000-acre area. Scientists believe that forest conservation and management play an important role in stabilizing the world's climate by absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide. By establishing a project that creates economic incentives to reverse deforestation trends, more of a difference can be made toward achieving a global GHG balance than many solutions available within the U.S.

Beyond the benefits already described (reductions in: emissions, costs, energy consumption, natural resource use), these projects also may provide:
improved local air quality, resulting in better health and quality of life;
enhanced biodiversity and protection of local archaeological sites;
job creation and sustainable development;
technology transfer;
educational opportunities; and
reduction in soil erosion and pollution of surface waters.

Successful JI projects demonstrate that voluntary participation in these types of partnerships can be cost-effective, offering benefits to all partners -- and that environmental goals can be achieved through flexible approaches.

Creation of these JI projects also helps to produce the conditions necessary for the formation of a voluntary carbon offset trading program. Promotion of flexible, market-based emission reduction programs may be enhanced through the success of this project.

We are concerned that the results of international climate change negotiations may not fully reflect and recognize JI's value and importance as a climate change mitigation strategy. It has been suggested that forestry initiatives be discounted to reflect perceived uncertainties. This is unnecessary and inaccurate, since our efforts in Rio Bravo prove that measurable and verifiable results can be demonstrated and documented. Therefore, we feel that all types of JI projects, energy efficiency and carbon sequestration alike, should receive full credit, including credit for early actions.

Wisconsin Energy continues to look for new opportunities for JI partnerships with developing countries. We know that, since GHG emissions know no boundaries, WEC's investments abroad pay environmental benefits around the world -- simply, it is the "right thing to do". Leading by example hopefully will show others a new path for environmental solutions.

For more information on Joint Implementation, call Wisconsin Energy at 414-221-3421 or send us an E-mail request.

Return to Wisconsin Energy's Environmental Commitment.

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