Auteur: Peter Teffer
The use of carbon credits under the Kyoto climate treaty may have worsened climate change instead of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, according to a study published Monday (24 August) by a Swedish research institute.
It argued that poor oversight has allowed the funding of projects that are unlikely to have reduced carbon emissions, which are responsible for helping the earth's temperature rise to a dangerous level.
The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997, set binding reduction targets for 37 countries in the period 2008-2012. Countries were allowed to buy carbon credits instead of actually reducing emissions at home.
One way of buying carbon credits was by investing in climate projects in other countries.
The idea was that the reduction achievement could be greater in countries where the situation was much worse.
However, the Stockholm Environment Institute found that about 75 percent of the bought carbon credits under one Kyoto scheme called Joint Implementation (JI), “are unlikely to represent additional emissions reductions”.
“This suggests that the use of JI offsets may have enabled global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to be about 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent higher than they would have been if countries had met their emissions domestically”, the authors say.
The figure is equivalent to the number of greenhouse gases emitted by one passenger car driving over 2 trillion kilometres.
The news is a retrospective blow to the European Union's flagship climate policy, the Emissions trading system (ETS).
Participants of the EU's carbon trading scheme were allowed to buy credits from Kyoto's JI programme. According to the report, more than 560 million JI units were used in the ETS.
Joint Implementation “may therefore have undermined the EU ETS emission reduction target by about 400 million tCO2”.
The environmental impact of the projects varied greatly because of a lack of common standards, the authors said.
“An assessment of the project portfolio in each country indicates significant environmental integrity concerns for more than 80 percent of ERUs [carbon credits under the JI scheme] from Russia and Ukraine, whereas the environmental integrity was rated as high for 70 percent of ERUs in Poland and 97 percent in Germany”.
Russian and Ukrainian companies benefited from the scheme by selling credits for projects that were already underway and “clearly not motivated by carbon credits”, one of the authors told climate change news website RTCC.
“This was like printing money”, said Vladyslav Zhezherin.
Some Kyoto projects had already come under fire in the past years, and several have been banned from participating in the EU's carbon credit scheme.
In another sign that lessons were learned, the EU's new emissions reduction target for 2030 - a 40 percent reduction compared to 1990 levels - may only be achieved domestically, which means that buying carbon credits from outside the EU will no longer be possible.
The authors argued that their research shows that more oversight is needed for any international market mechanism that may come out of current negotiations on a new climate treaty, which is hoped to be signed in December in Paris.