Dec 212010

Source: Latinamerica Press

By Cecilia Remon

Industrialized countries refuse to stop polluting and put a price on protecting forests

Industrialized countries and their companies do little to nothing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, which are in turn triggering climate change.

Instead, they have created a complex mechanism that allows them to pay to preserve forests in other regions; these expenditures, in theory, offset effects the countries and companies are producing by not reducing emissions themselves.

This process is called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD); it is part of the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM), and its objective is to reduce the production of six greenhouse gases that cause global warming: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride, the latter three being fluorinated industrial gases.

CDMs were included in the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2004 following ratification by Russia. They allow developed countries to invest in projects that reduce greenhouse gases, for example by reducing electric power, industries that pollute, private and public transport, and deforestation.

Peruvian economist Hugo Cabieses, an expert in rural sustainable development, explains that “the Kyoto Protocol established CDMs so that industrialized countries and businesses could reduce their greenhouse gases. One of these CDMs has to do with forestry issues, given that the burning or razing of forests generates greenhouse gases.”

One of the Kyoto Protocol´s commitments is that between 2008 and 2012, industrialized countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5%, using their 1990 levels as a baseline. Nevertheless, this has yet to happen.

“Every country that ratified the Kyoto Protocol was assigned greenhouse gas emission level allowances. If a country or a business exceeds that limit and does not comply with its greenhouse gas emissions levels, there is the possibility of buying carbon credits,” elaborates Cabieses.

A carbon credit is the right to release into the atmosphere 1 TM of CO2. For example, if a business has a 100,000 TM annual limit on CO2 emissions, and it not only reaches this but releases 10,000 TM more, it needs to acquire carbon credits equal to the excess amount.

At the same time, projects that stop producing greenhouse gases can obtain Certified Emission Reductions (CER); each CER represents 1 TM that is not released into the atmosphere, and can be sold in the carbon credit market.

The 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference — or Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009. It failed to reach a binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gases — that is to say, no goals or timelines were decided on due to the reluctance of industrialized countries, in addition to several developing countries like Brazil. Instead, the agreement that was reached was that the industrialized countries would donate US$30 billion during the 2010-2012 period toward climate aid to the poorest and most vulnerable nations; the accord provides for this figure to reach $100 billion before 2020. Money fixes everything.

Industrialized countries are responsible for more than 60% of worldwide CO2 emissions, while Latin American and the Caribbean are only accountable for 12%, according to the World Bank.

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