'Carbon trading' creates questionable deals

US - As the world grows warmer, poorer nations are helping the rich by reining in heat-trapping gases, in a multibillion-dollar "carbon trade" that is outrunning its U.N. overseers and founding principles and spawning conflicts of interest and possible abuse.
calendar icon 23 October 2006
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Even pig manure has gone from a hot commodity to a controversial one in the two-year-old "CDM" market, in which industrial countries obliged by treaty to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions can get credit for reductions in the developing world. Less is being achieved than claimed, critics say.

Under the Clean Development Mechanism, a Japanese utility benefits from a hydroelectric dam in Vietnam, a British broker collects credits from a "green" cement plant in China, and Canada buys emissions reductions from Brazilian farms where methane from pig waste is now burned instead of left to rise into the atmosphere.

From 40 approved projects last December, this gas exchange has grown to 299 projects today, in 35 countries. The deals totaled $4 billion in the first half of 2006, even before the biggest yet was announced Aug. 29 -- a European-Asian consortium's contract to buy $1 billion worth of emission credits from two Chinese chemical plants.

From London to Tokyo, hundreds of financiers, traders, lawyers and consultants are cashing in on a market seen as essential to combating climate change. Some believe it's a boon to the poor, too. CDM is a "most promising instrument to promote sustainable development," says Indian CDM official Shri Naresh Dayal.

The U.N. board has put a hold on credits for new methane-capture projects at cattle, pig and poultry farms, until real-time monitoring replaces emission estimates, to allay suspicions the animals are emitting less gas than projected.

Because it hasn't encouraged wind, solar and other renewable-energy ventures so much as big-payoff schemes like the Indian chemical projects, the CDM disappoints environmentalists.

Source: Free New Mexican

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