Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Environmetalists Continue to Pan ACES

You would expet an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle about the Waxman-Markey bill, written by the president of a Berkeley-based environmental organization to be, if not entirely supportive, at least not openly disdainful, right? Not so fast.

Patrick McCully, the executive director of International Rivers, takes the legislation to task, calling its underlying offset provision mechanism "at best expensive and ineffective in combatting climate change, and at worst, to have aided increased carbon emissions".

McCully bemoans the bill's political giveaways to the coal industry and anemic pollution targets, but focuses most intently on its carbon offset provisions:

"The bill's offsets component (and similar "cap-and-trade" schemes being designed for California, and the Western United States) is modeled after the world's largest carbon credit system, the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism. The Kyoto mechanism has allowed polluters in Europe and Japan to avoid cutting their own emissions by buying offsets from project developers elsewhere, mainly in China and India.

Many of the Waxman-Markey credits are likely to come from the this or whatever global offsetting scheme replaces it after Kyoto expires in 2012. After a decade of closely monitoring the mechanism, I have found it to be at best expensive and ineffective in combatting climate change, and at worst, to have aided increased carbon emissions.

Projects that earn credits must document that they would not be feasible without the income from selling the credits. Further, to quantify how many credits a project is allowed to sell, evaluators must determine how much greenhouse gas would have been emitted if the project were not built. One English journalist described offset credits as "an imaginary commodity created by deducting what you hope happens from what you guess would have happened."
This dependence on guesswork makes it easy for developers and consultants to scam the CDM.

As a result, all sorts of projects with dubious claims to climate-friendly attributes have been approved. David Victor, director of Stanford's Energy and Sustainable Development Program, believes that up to two-thirds of these offsets do not represent genuine emission cuts.

The Waxman-Markey bill would allow the use of up to 2 billion offsets each year, up to three-quarters of them from international sources. The use of these offsets would allow U.S. polluters to boost emissions by nearly two-fifths by 2012 and would not force cutbacks below today's levels until 2027."

International Rivers is hardly alone in opposing the bill-- many environmental groups, including Greenpeace-- also stand in opposition.

Carbon trading's inconvenient truth [San Francisco Chronicle]