Sat Apr 13th, 2013 at 07:14:31 AM EST
[Hoisted from the Weekend Newsroom]
Europe's carbon market EU-ETS, as well as the UN's CDM, are currently hampered by low carbon prices due to an over-abundance of free carbon credits. However, in an op-ed in The Guardian, University of Essex professor Steffen Böhm argues that the market-fundamentalist approach to managing carbon emissions is doomed to fail even if carbon prices would be high.
Carbon markets have lost us more than 15 years in the battle against climate change yet we continue to plough forward with scaling them up. Why?
Some hope that this global expansion of carbon markets will revive their fortunes, helping to raise billions for investments in low-carbon and climate change mitigation technologies. Others, including myself, take a more evidence based approach, arguing that this hope of the pro-market lobby is unfounded, given the inefficient and even corrupt nature of carbon markets so far.
Böhm sees the following three systemic failures:
- You can earn money off the carbon market without actually reducing emissions. One way is to apply with a project that would have been built anyway, another is to build a plant to eliminate specific greenhouse gases and then produce that greenhouse gas just to be able to benefit from carbon credits (see HFC-23 scam).
- As in other recent bubble markets, there is lack of oversight and transparency.
- Carbon credits fuel unsustainable practices, primarily through the conflict between biofuels and food production.
Böhm gives examples for each and points out that they are endemic, not the exception.
Regarding #1, one way is to apply with a project that would have been built anyway, another is to build a plant to eliminate specific greenhouse gases and then produce that greenhouse gas just to be able to benefit from carbon credits (see HFC-23 scam).
Regarding #2, the lack of an independent check on the validity of credits sold allowed the festering of a fraudulent consultancy business with revolving doors.
Regarding #3, it's not just about arable land: even if it's just 'waste' that gets burned, that 'waste' may have been used previously as fertilizer.