It’s one thing for a campus to claim its gone carbon “neutral” solely by buying carbon offsets, but no one would even suggest that it would make sense for all of the emissions “reductions” of the entire industrialized world to actually just be projects like CO2 sucking tree plantations located in the developing world.
Anyone with a solid grasp of climate science and international politics knows that we need to make major real reductions in fossil fuel use here at home; the rich shouldn’t just be able to pay the poor to reduce carbon use. Right?!?
Well apparently Yvo de Boer, leader of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the entity responsible for the Kyoto Protocol feels otherwise. In a recent interview with the BBC Boer stated flatly that rich nations should not have to cut emissions if they finance poor countries doing so on their behalf.
Although he clarified that the view was his own and not the UN’s he went so far as to say that he had no problem with the United States buying its way out of 100% of its Kyoto reductions and “letting the market take its course” by way of Carbon Trading.
Indeed Carbon Trading is already the current modus operandi for the Kyoto Protocol, albeit with some constraints which proponents like Boer have suggested removing. Proponents of Carbon Trading believe that it is effective to reduce greenhouse gases by using a market in which polluters can “trade” carbon pollution rights amongst each other. Carbon Trading, as well as most of the “Carbon Neutral” campaigns which have sprung up around campuses around the US and Canada, include the use of “Carbon Offsets” as part of their overall strategy. The premise behind Carbon Offsets is that projects that are ostensibly intended to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere (like giant hydroelectric dams or methane flaring) can for all intents and purposes “neutralize” fossil fuel usage on a campus, at a factory, or even a country’s net CO2 emissions — even if the campus, factory or country is half-a-world away.
Since the very beginning of the idea of Carbon Trading has been attacked by social justice activists and by some environmentalists for discouraging the comprehensive structural changes needed to stop climate change, for being scientifically dubious, for exporting environmental problems onto communities without the political power to fight them, for being susceptible to Enron-style market manipulation and accounting schemes, and, well, for being a corporate sponsored scam.
Now, even mainstream economic publications such as the Financial Times of London and the Economist are joining a growing consensus of voices warning that Carbon Trading, and in particular the idea of offsetting carbon emissions, may be hurting, as opposed to helping efforts to ensure a safe climate future
With new campuses going Carbon Neutral everyday, and with new climate legislation and international treaty negotiations likely to propose “cap and trade” schemes that will dwarf Kyoto by several orders of magnitude, it’s critical that activists for climate justice understand the deadly serious, devils-in-the-details, business of carbon trading.
It’s important that we ask the question: are our campaigns for campus “Carbon Neutrality” at least partially encouraging the notion that we can simply pay to have our climate problems taken away by the poor countries of the world? Are we helping lay the bricks in a path to a catastrophic policy decision on a post-Kyoto treaty? Where do our organizations stand on Carbon Trading and Carbon Offsets?
Can the Youth Climate be an articulate voice for reason on this very complex, poorly understood, and constantly overlooked issue?
Heads up, later the year Larry Lohman, one of the foremost critics of Carbon Trading will be giving a North American speaking tour – his definitive book on the problems of Carbon Trading is available free online.
Some environmental groups organizing against Carbon Trading include: