Nancy Oliver Flores | Our ‘Invisible’ Carbon Footprint

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2016 Paris Agreement were ratified across the globe in an attempt to deal with greenhouse-gas-emissions (GHGs), measured and moderated within each nation’s borders. 

The problem is that wealthy countries, including the U.S., import many high-GHG commodities such as steel and cement. The CO2 emitted in foreign countries during the extraction of raw materials, factory processing and transport to a construction site, what is termed embodied carbon, is not measured, making the foreign portion of a country’s consumption-based carbon footprint effectively invisible. 

Most countries, including the U.S., are using this carbon loophole to the point of basically wiping out their claimed CO2 reductions. In fact, one-quarter of the global carbon emissions pass through the carbon loophole.

California, as the world’s fifth largest economy, is a major purchasing agent, constructing buildings and other infrastructure that use large amounts of steel, cement and other carbon-intensive products, and it has more than $100 billion in long-term infrastructure project obligations. Yet it still purchases commodities that produce high levels of GHGs. 

In response, California passed the Buy Clean California Act in 2017, which was inspired by similar policies adopted by Apple, Google, Chevron, PG&E, CalPERS and the U.S. Navy. It requires standards in purchasing construction materials that will promote low-carbon state infrastructure development and close the carbon loophole in the entire supply chain from the factory floor to the end customer.

Californians have strongly supported these actions, both at the polls and in their personal decisions. City and county governments should support this new law by adopting similar policies at the local level. In fact, the Richmond City Council voted unanimously in 2018 to implement the Buy Clean California Act locally. It is time Santa Clarita uses our tax dollars to fund projects that cut GHGs.

Nancy Oliver Flores, Valencia

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