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Pedal peddle: Could carbon credits fund bike-sharing?

A US bike-sharing operator has proposed selling carbon offsets based on the carbon dioxide saved when users cycle rather than drive.

The operators of CityRyde, a bike-sharing program in Philadelphia, figure systems such as theirs could net more than a million dollars a year from offsets sold to the voluntary market. And they're peddling a software platform called Inspire to facilitate the exchange of such carbon credits.

A Washington D.C. urban sustainability blog called Greater Greater Washington (sadly, that's not a typo) put CityRyde's guessestimate in context by laying out the numbers for a D.C. bike-sharing program:

Capital Bikeshare's annual operating costs are expected to be about $1.4 million/year, with 60-70 per cent recovered from user fees. The 1100-bike system cost about $5 million in capital costs. Thus, if Inspire were implemented, it might suggest that a system comparable to Capital Bikeshare could cover most of its operating costs in a year, or else expand by 200 bikes a year at no cost.

Whether it all pans out as the founders predict is something that will be left to time to prove, but Ericson makes it sound simple: the market is there, the four major bike-sharing manufacturers are in various stages of discussion with CityRyde, the agency operators who have heard about it are excited, and all that's left is for bike-sharing to be validated as a carbon offset.

Under Kyoto, the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is the sole accrediting methodology for new forms of carbon offset. In the voluntary market, there are a number of accreditors. CityRyde has submitted its proposal for acceptance to the Voluntary Carbon Standard program. A decision could come as soon as January.

The Greater Greater post about the pedal peddle plan, written by Joey Katzen, also cited reports that the carbon trading market could approach $1 trillion a year within a decade, and quoted the head of Barclays Capital Environmental Markets as having said, "Carbon will be the world's biggest commodity market, and it could become the world's biggest market overall."

Monte Paulsen reports on carbon shift for The Tyee.

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