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Building A Better Climate Agreement: Contest Sparks New Ideas On CO2

polluting smokestack

Last month, MIT Climate CoLab announced the Collective Intelligence Climate Contest, a competition that asks entrants to design an international climate agreement. The judges have waded through the 29 ultra-detailed entries and come up with four final proposals: one from Tsinghua University in Beijing, one from a computer programmer in North Carolina, and two from teams of MIT graduate students. Now it's up to the wisdom of the crowd to decide on the best entry.

So far, the Beijing proposal is winning with 61% of all votes. Dubbed "Clean Development Based on CCS," the University's plan is centered around the controversial use of carbon capture and storage, which the proposal calls a "feasible technological way to help slow down the up-going of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere." China is a leader in both coal use and CCS innovations.

The second most popular proposal, dubbed "Carbon Rights," comes from Charlotte, N.C.-based programmer Dennis Peterson, and centers around the use of carbon credits. The proposal explains:

Cap-and-trade is most effective when carbon credits are sold strictly at auction, but this is seldom done. In Europe, some heavy polluters were granted so many credits they were able to sell the excess at a profit. Carbon offsets are also rife with abuses and distortions, with entities being granted credits for actions they would have taken in any case. Under this proposal, carbon rights will be granted only for verifiable sequestration, and sold by private for-profit entities for the best price they can get. There will be no grandfathering or offsets.

Both proposals have their merits, but getting the international community to agree on anything climate-related is a Herculean task. The winning teams (one chosen by the crowd, one by the judges) will, however, have the opportunity to brief the UN and U.S. Congress in December. Want to vote for your favorite? The site is accepting votes until November 26.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.