Carbon trading free-for-all danger to climate treaty

Why cut emissions when you can just buy the right to pollute?

provided by Greenpeace

fter two weeks of negotiations on the international Kyoto Protocol to combat climate change in Bonn last month, Greenpeace International said some progress was made; however, large loopholes remain that could allow a "business as usual" agreement for the world's worst polluters.

The United States government is spearheading attempts to allow developed countries to meet 100 percent of their emissions reduction commitments by buying up "hot air" emission credits from Russia and other countries, while doing nothing at home. The United States, along with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Ukraine, Norway, Iceland and Russia, are advocating an open-ended trading system, without adequate environmental restrictions.

"The US is advocating an 'unfettered' free market trading system which would allow the US to do zero at home. Instead, it will allow 'Big Oil' and others a free-for-all to continue investing in even more fossil fuels," said Greenpeace International climate policy director Bill Hare.

"The world faces the likelihood of dangerous climate change if we use more than one quarter of existing reserves of coal, oil and gas. However, the United States and other developed countries continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry rather than encouraging investment in renewable energy and power saving technologies."

An economic analysis released this week by Greenpeace revealed that the U.S. Government provided up to $11.9 billion in subsidies to the U.S. oil industry in 1995 [see article below]. The burning of oil is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide (CO2), accounting for over 42 percent of CO2 emissions associated from the burning of fossil fuels. [see related story on page 11]

The negotiators decided that the question of how and which forests (referred to as carbon sinks in negotiations, because they absorb carbon dioxide) are used to offset a country's greenhouse gas reduction target will be examined in a special report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Some countries, such as the United States, have advocated further opening the loophole in the Kyoto Protocol that allows planting of trees rather than cutting the use of coal, oil and gas the main source of greenhouse gases which cause climate change.

Last December, In Kyoto, Japan, 150 nations agreed the Kyoto protocol, which set legally binding reduction targets for developed countries which would result in a global reduction of 5.2 percent by 2010. The Buenos Aires meeting, on November 2-12,1998, is formally known as the fourth Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP4). The Kyoto Protocol, negotiated at COP3 in December 1997, opened for signature on March 16, 1998 and has been signed by more than 37 countries although not the United States.

  Greenpeace USA, 1436 U Street NW, Washington, DC, 20009; (202) 462-1177; fax (202) 462-4507;