BBC News: Carbon credits undercut climate change actions

The vast majority of carbon credits generated by Russia and Ukraine did not represent cuts in emissions, according to a new study. The authors say that offsets created under a UN scheme “significantly undermined” efforts to tackle climate change. The credits may have increased emissions by 600 million tones. In some projects, chemicals known to warm the climate were created and then destroyed to claim cash.

As a result of political horse trading at UN negotiations on climate change, countries like Russia and the Ukraine were allowed to create carbon credits from activities like curbing coal waste fires, or restricting gas emissions from petroleum production.

Under the UN scheme, called Joint Implementation, they then were able to sell those credits to the European Union’s carbon market. Companies bought the offsets rather than making their own more expensive, emissions cuts. But this study, from the Stockholm Environment Institute, says the vast majority of Russian and Ukrainian credits were in fact, “hot air” – no actual emissions were reduced. They looked at a random sample of 60 projects and found that 73% of the offsets generated didn’t meet the key criteria of “additionality”. This means that these projects would have happened anyway without any carbon credit finance.

“Some early projects were of good quality, but in 2011-2012, numerous projects were registered in Ukraine and Russia which had started long before and were clearly not motivated by carbon credits,” said Vladyslav Zhezherin, a co-author of the study. “This was like printing money.”

According to the review, the vast majority of the offset credits went into the European Union’s flagship Emissions Trading Scheme. The authors estimate these may have undermined EU emissions reduction targets by 400 million tonnes of CO2, worth over $2bn at current market prices. Unlike the Russian and Ukrainian projects, similar offsetting plans in Poland and Germany were said to meet very strict criteria.

“We were surprised ourselves by the extent, we didn’t expect such a large number,” co-author Anja Kollmuss told BBC News.

“What went on was that these countries could approve these projects by themselves there was no international oversight, in particular Russia and the Ukraine didn’t have any incentive to guarantee the quality of these credits.”

Read the full story at BBC News

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