EurActiv - Letters to the Editor


Regarding ‘Commission proposes ban on industrial gas offsets‘:

The plan by the European Commission to ban the use of controversial international offset credits from certain industrial gas projects in the EU’s cap-and-trade system after 2012 is welcome as a step in closing one of the most damaging loopholes in the EU emission trading system. This move, however, does little to address the fundamental flaws in the system of international offsetting, which undermine the integrity of the EU’s climate policy.

Offsetting never reduces emissions. It just moves emissions from one place to another. In addition, looking beyond the scandal of industrial gas credits, many other projects funded by the Clean Development Mechanism, such as large-scale hydro, may also cause significant social and environmental problems.

Awarding credits for so-called ‘clean coal’ technology will lock developing countries into dirty fossil fuels for decades to come.

More fundamentally, the system of offsetting provides governments and big business with an escape clause to avoid making emission cuts. Science and historical responsibility tell us that Europe must make domestic emission reductions of at least 40% by 2020. Buying credits in dubious projects outside Europe cannot be a replacement for reducing emissions at home. The ability to offset emission reductions also destroys any incentive to start the transition within Europe to a sustainable, low-carbon economy – putting millions of green jobs at risk.

Offsetting emissions allows governments and companies in rich industrialised countries to continue overusing the little remaining atmospheric space, thus taking up the space that otherwise would be available for developing countries who have contributed little to the problem of climate change to provide the basic needs of society.

In this context, an extension of carbon trading is a risk that must not be taken. The EU must not use the current UN climate negotiations in Cancún to push for expanding carbon offsetting to whole industry sectors or forests, nor for linking up the EU-ETS with other carbon markets. Carbon markets cannot be a replacement for mandatory targets under a binding international climate agreement, and adequate and appropriate public funding for climate finance in developing countries.

Banning industrial gas credits fixes one of the very worst flaws of carbon trading, but won’t stop the system as a whole from failing. The EU must now make moves to exclude all carbon offsetting from contributing to climate targets, and move beyond carbon trading in its response to climate change.

David Heller – Friends of the Earth Europe
Jutta Kill – FERN UK

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