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Critical conversation on climate change

BOOK>> Carbon Trading A Critical Conversation on Climate Change, Privatisation and Power The Corner House The uk 2006

Published: Saturday 31 March 2007

Shams Kazi
The climate change debate is heating up again with the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report saying there is a 90 per cent possibility that global warming is caused by human activity. We now have inconvertible reasoning to take action to dramatically reduce our production of greenhouse gases. This book is a compilation of analysis and case studies on the greenhouse gas emissions trading market. It warns us that we have a rocky road ahead.

One step past denial, the world is on the lookout for silver bullets to make the problem go away. The knowledge fix of denying the problem is not an option now, especially after the ipcc report.The technological fix or hope on the possibility of experimental technology such as carbon sequestration is still with us. Published by the uk- based non-profit Corner House, this book is a compilation of research and analysis on the cap-and-trade system of greenhouse gas emission credits that promises to contain the global warming menace effectively and cheaply. Larry Lohmann, the editor and main author, is a vehement critic of carbon trading. The market fix, he argues, delays the only real but inconvenient solution--reduced dependency on carbon-based fuels.
Big bang of carbon trading The book begins with a historical analysis of carbon trading and the conceptual criticisms on the carbon-trading crusade. The second half illustrates problems with carbon trading, through case studies from around the world including Latin America, India and Africa. The Durban Group for Climate Justice, an international network of organisations working on the climate change problem, which rejects the free market approach to climate change, are the key contributors to this collection.

The book criticises the idea of 'offsets', which implies a big polluter can continue spewing out greenhouse gases as long as it pays for cleaning up someone else's backyard. The book argues that it creates a disincentive to pursue real and systemic change. Citing 10-15 examples of projects out of hundreds might make the reader think that the author is picking the bad apples from the basket to prove his point. However, the paradoxes of carbon trading raised, for example in the case of Gulf Electric in Thailand being awarded carbon credits for a gas-burning power plant, give the people at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change approving these carbon trading projects a lot to scratch their heads over. This means, a project that creates more emissions can get emission credits (see 'Newest, biggest deal' Down To Earth, November 15, 2005).
Down to EarthThere is no silver bullet There is an urgent need to think deeply about issues of equity when dealing with climate change, the book says. The authors argue for renewable projects that help move towards a carbon-free economy. However, in carbon trading schemes such projects are left high and dry since they cost more. This doesn't bode well for structural changes in the energy-producing sector. In the current framework, carbon dioxide emission reductions from a renewable project are less favoured to a coal power plant which reduces emissions by energy efficiency becasue the energy efficiency project is much cheaper to implement.

While greenhouse gas emissions are tough to reduce, mitigating emissions also reinforces global inequities, if care is not taken, the book argues.It says even though finding solutions to the climate change problem is hard, we are not going to get anywhere if we ignore sustainable development issues in a mad rush to reduce emissions.

Though the book beats down carbon trading, it doesn't give us clear alternatives, stressing there are no easy answers. It does, however, outline a host of 'approaches'--green taxes, conventional regulation and legal action. These are general and don't really leave one feel warm about the future. Perhaps we shouldn't have one.

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