It is the fatal flaw at the heart of both the EU and US climate policies which threatens to make a scientifically robust and fair climate deal in Copenhagen impossible. It is the reason that when the EU says it is cutting greenhouse gases 20% by 2020 or 30% if there is a global deal in Copenhagen, they are in fact putting a cut of just 10 or 15% on the negotiating table. And it is the reason why when the UK says it is cutting greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050 it is actually committing itself to a cut of only 40% within the UK.
This week we take a look at the creative accounting mechanism which makes this sleight of hand possible – carbon offsetting under the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism – more commonly known at the CDM.
We take the argument against large-scale carbon offsetting under the CDM to the head of the Market-Based Instruments Unit at the European Commission, Yvon Slingenberg; and we hear from Tom Picken, Head of the International Climate Change at Friends of the Earth, who is co-author of the most accessible report yet on the case against carbon offsetting under the CDM, “A Dangerous Distraction.”
We get a majority world perspective on the climate emergency from Goldman Prize winner Ricardo Navarro. Navarro won the Goldman prize for sustainable development back in 1995 for his work as founder and director of the El Salvador Centre for Appropriate Technology and he is a former director of Friends of the Earth International.
Here he talks about how a new regional Movement of Climate Change Affected Peoples is responding to the pressures of climate change with awareness raising, permaculture techniques and low-level technologies as well as putting up resistance to inappropriate development. He also gives us his wider perspective on the United Nations climate talks which he has been attending since 1992.
At the end of the UN Climate Talks in Bonn we get a close reading of the state of play from Third World Network’s Meena Raman. While the elements of a possible successful Copenhagen global climate deal are on the table and mainly come from developing countries, rich countries continue to ignore their responsibilities and offer weak cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that scientists have concluded are virtually certain to guarantee dangerous climate change.
We start our coverage of the United Nations climate talks in Bonn with a look at some of the targets that rich nations are bringing to the table. We also flag up the dangers of the scientifically unfounded rush to include Biochar and large-scale no-till agriculture in the draft negotiating texts in an interview with Almuth Ernsting from Biofuel Watch.
The bad news is that we have fewer actual answers than we need to make a watertight case for biochar, especially in a climate context … we need to advocate for policies that allow for the emergence of a biochar industry … before we have answers to the many research questions. – Steve Brick – Executive Director, International Biochar Intiative.
There are still fundamental uncertainties associated with biochar as a mitigation option … Our mitigation scenarios are strictly illustrative in nature … [and] assume waste-derived biochar provides only a very small fraction of the land-use related CO2 drawdown, with reforestation and curtailed deforestation providing a magnitude more. – Pushker Kharecha & James Hansen.
With a new President in the White House there’s a fresh approach to climate change and energy policy in the US. But the Energy bill currently going through Congress is based on the widely-criticised “Cap & Trade” system and has been weakened further by a massive corporate lobbying campaign. How does this feed into the UN talks in Bonn in June which prepare the way for the critical meeting in Copenhagen in December? We get an informed critique of the Bill from Oscar Reyes of Carbon Trade Watch and ask him what to look out for in Bonn.
The UN Climate Talks are at crisis point. Nothing on the table matches the scale of the challenge and corporate interests are rife. As the talks in Poznan come to an end, we take stock with three key protaganists: Kevin Smith (CarbonTradeWatch), Oliver Tickell (Kyoto2) and Tom Athanasiou (Greenhouse Development Rights).
- UNFCCC tenders a report on alternative frameworks
- 350 ppm CO2 target endorsed by Al Gore, AOSIS & the LDC country blocks
- Potsdam Institute shows how we can achieve the 350 ppm target
- Climate Justice Now! coalition grows in size from 20 to 160 organisations
- Carbon trading advances despite a crisis of credibility
- 142 organisations sign a statement against the World Bank’s involvement with climate funds
- The China+G77 block support climate funds being managed by UN
- Rich nations still failing to fulfill their commitments 16 years on
- Plans develop for a mass mobilisation in Copenhagen December 2009
- Could extending the scope of the Montreal Protocol and controling black soot be two effective ways forward outside the UNFCCC process?
As a result of a massive civil society campaign, the UK will soon pass historic legislation which will bind the government to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. However a major loophole remains which threatens the credibility of the Bill – there is no limit on the amount of international credits the UK can buy up in order to meet this target. Will this loophole be closed before the law is given Royal Assent?
- Eliot Whittington (Christian Aid)
- Martyn Williams (Friends of the Earth)
- Steve Webb MP (Liberal Democrats)
- Dr Alice Bows (Tyndall Centre)
It is clear that we need to display greater commitment to tackling climate domestically if we are to have a credible voice in international negotiations. The leadership demonstrated in the commissioning of the Stern Review and bringing forward the Climate Change Bill is in danger of being undermined by policies such as airport expansion plans or an over-reliance on international credits in meeting domestic emission reduction commitments – Environment Audit Committee, July 2008
We urge caution about the use of international carbon credits. The argument that a tonne of carbon reduced abroad is the same as a tonne of carbon reduced at home is an over-simplification of a complex issue. Permitting the use of too many international carbon credits will drive down the cost of carbon, but this will also make renewables and air pollution targets more expensive to reach and potentially slow down the long term shift to a low-carbon economy in the UK – Environment Audit Committee, July 2008
It looks like between one and two thirds of all the total CDM offsets do not represent actual emission cuts – David Victor, Stanford University
If the rest of the developed world followed the pathway envisaged in the United Kingdom’s Climate Change Bill, dangerous climate change would be inevitable – United Nations Development Programme
In June 2008 a press release by UK development charity Christian Aid announced that the government had “eviscerated” the Climate Change Bill – a potentially groundbreaking piece of legislation which will put greenhouse gas reduction targets into UK law. The UK government had announced its intention to remove key ammendments that have been made by the House of Lords.
We speak to Eliot Whittington, Christian Aid’s senior advisor on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, about their concerns and how they might be addressed. They include:
- an outdated target of 60% reduction in CO2 by 2050
- removal of a reference to the 2C global threshold
- shipping and aviation still not included
- no limit on the amount of carbon credits that can be bought to meet targets
- removal of an obligation on UK companies to disclose their carbon footrpint
EMISSIONS TRADING IN EUROPE
After last week’s interview with Soumitra Ghosh on the negative impacts of CDM projects in India, we conclude our look at carbon trading by speaking to the director of Climate Action Newtwork Europe, Matthias Duwe.
– What are Europe’s environmental NGOs doing to help reform the CDM?
– What is their view on the effectiveness of EU Emissions Trading Scheme as a way of cutting our greenhouse gas output?
CARBON TRADING – ARE WE BEING CONNED?
Even though the United States administration decided not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the US left the treaty with a legacy of market-based “flexible mechanisms”.
In 2001 Mark Lynas wrote in The Guardian that these flexible mechanisms would lead to a net increase in emissions from industrialised countries, rather than a reduction of 5.2%.
As Larry Lohman’s authoritative critique on carbon traiding is published (see link below), The Two Degrees Show examines the record so far of the projects that are being funded under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.
We speak to Soumitra Ghosh in West Bengal who has been documenting the impact of CDM projects in India. He found that projects are dispossessing people from their land, lowering water tables, and polluting water and air – resulting in lower crop yields and ill health.
We also speak to Kevin Smith of Carbon Trade Watch and ask whether the CDM is beyond reform and, if so, what should be done instead.