Is it just a bullshit scheme carefully designed by left and right western governments to get corporate polluters off the hook? Or ought we to give the market approach a fair go? Or have we waited too many years already waiting for carbon trading to improve the climate??
Dennis Frank interviews someone with a career history as both a carbon trader and analyst doing carbon accounting of biomass processing systems in many countries. Ruy Korscha Anaya de la Rosa has been one of the people performing the measurements and calculations of carbon emissions in a variety of environmental contexts.
Ruy has worked as project manager of a number of greenhouse gas emission reduction projects in developing countries. He graduated MSc in Sustainable Energy Technology from a university in the Netherlands. He's currently a PhD candidate at Massey University in Wellington, researching the global-warming mitigation potential of biochar systems and the implications of biochar in carbon markets. He has lived in this country 3.5 years.
Carbon markets include both carbon-offsetting and cap-and-trade. The Kyoto Protocol produced a carbon-trading system based on carbon-equivalence polluting rights, rather than the original pollution-fines system agreed by the G77. The change was made to secure the agreement of the USA. Ruy says carbon-offsetting is vulnerable to fraud & speculation. Cap-and-trade was designed to permit business as usual under the guise of greening industry.
We must differentiate global-warming from climate-change. Climate-change is natural and it occurs gradually all the time. Currently however, it is being forced by global-warming that is the result of greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere – primarily by polluting industries.
The inherent resilience of Gaia as a biosphere in dynamic equilibrium is consequently endangered. The inexorable trend of global-warming is driving the planetary system towards tipping points which we are now likely to encounter within our life-time. The global climate will then tip away from the stable state that has existed since the last ice age ended about 12,000 years ago, bringing an end to agriculture that we rely on to feed us.
Ruy says the Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism website provides different methods to account for carbon emissions (presumably depending on technology & environmental situation), that provide the operational instructions for carbon accountants. But most of the CDM methodologies were designed to just measure combustion, so he has progressed to the LCA framework.
LCA stands for life cycle assessment, which is the technical methodology used to evaluate environmental impacts of products (goods and services) along their whole supply chain, from "cradle to grave". Thus it is a more holistic perspective, Ruy says. What's more, it is the true cost accounting that the greens have been advocating since the 1980s.
His career path as a professional insider has made this accomplished young man wise for his years, and he tells us of serious concerns he now has about the way things are going. He says his field is still too young to have experts. It lacks transparency and paper standards are not being put into practice.
To those of us familiar with United Nations chronic bureaucratic dysfunction, this is no surprise. He has also arrived at our long-standing view that addiction to economic growth is the real source of the greenhouse gas problem.
He comments on James Hansen's alternative solution to that problem: fee & dividend, which is similar to what Al Gore has proposed. He identifies a flaw in Hansen's design. Dennis & Ruy discuss Hansen's critique of cap-and-trade. The floor of that market seems to be designed to ensure perpetual pumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the amount fixed to equal current production when the Kyoto Protocol was adopted.
Ruy tells us that reading Hansen's book influenced his thinking, as did his climate change concerns for his 3 year old daughter.
Ruy is part of Transition Towns Wellington & the Wellington Time Bank, 350 Aotearoa and Generation Zero.