Carbon Trading: "Bad for the South, Bad for the North, Bad for the Climate"

Mon, 2006-10-23 08:45Ross Gelbspan
Ross Gelbspan's picture

Carbon Trading: "Bad for the South, Bad for the North, Bad for the Climate"

An exhaustively-documented new book says that the  “carbon trading” approach to climate change is both ineffective and unjust. Carbon trading unnecessarily prolongs the world's dependence on oil, coal and gas. Moreover, trading “dispossesses ordinary people in the South of their lands and  futures without resulting in appreciable progress toward alternative energy systems,” said the book's editor.


Previous Comments

Admittedly, I’m very, very, very undereducated regarding how credits/trading systems work. But my understanding is that the Kyoto trading system was based on something that actually worked in the Great Lakes region to reduce acid rain. Iff that’s true, then what’s different such that it won’t/can’t work globally (or within Europe)?

Hey DeSmogBlog,

Your sloppy reporting and headlines are starting to really piss me off. Here’s another example.

Your title says: ”Carbon Trading: “Bad for the South, Bad for the North, Bad for the Climate”

If I follow your link, the book synopsis talks about a SPECIFIC carbon trading scheme used in the EU:

“The growing debate over what to do about climate change promises to heat up further this week with the publication of an exhaustively-documented new book that says that the dominant “carbon trading” approach to the problem followed by the Kyoto Protocol and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is both ineffective and unjust.”

This does not appear to be different than what was reported this week in the Economist, and reprinted today in the Edmonton Journal in an article entitled “California can learn from Europe’s failure to cut emissions”:

…California would be wrong to conclude from Europe’s experience that emissions-trading schemes cannot work.

But, as America’s successful campaign to cut emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides showed, such schemes need to have longer time-horizons and less generous allowances to industry.

As for Europe, it needs to think again. In the short term, the commission, which is due to rule on countries’ allocation plans next month, should slash them. In the longer term, the scheme needs to be redesigned.

Europe’s governments like to think of themselves as the world’s greenest; but if they nurture a carbon market only to let it wither and die, they will do their cause more harm than if they had never tried.

The Economist article and the book both seem to suggest that the PARTICULAR type of carbon trading used by the EU is/was ineffective.

It does NOT suggest that ALL carbon trading is “Bad for the South, Bad for the North, Bad for the Climate”.


If the Anonymous author of “Another Drive By Shooting” (the first comment under “Carbon Trading: Bad for the North, etc.”) had bothered to read the document, she or he would see it is critical of all emissions trading schemes (not just the EU version). Especially illuminating are  the “Lessons Unlearned” chapter (three) and the Appendix (“Durban Declaration on Carbon Trading.) The critique  of trading (as best exemplified by the Kyoto agreement) rests on the fact that it attempts to solve the climate crisis through market-based solutions.  But given the fact that nature requires 70 percent worldwide reductions in our use of coal and oil, there is no way that transition can be accomplished by the play of free markets.  Instead, the authors suggest actions which are similar to those listed in the last chapter of my book, “Boiling Point.”  They include withdrawing the subsidies from fossil fuels and constituting equivalent subsidies for non-carbon sources and launching a large-scale public works program to accomplish the transition guided by a system of intelligently-crafted government regulations.  Despite the ingenious nature of a number of trading schemes, the bottom line remains:  we can’t finesse nature with accounting tricks. – Ross Gelbspan

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Unfortunately, the book does not appear to be available in Canada, so I have relied upon the summary provided.

The North-South axis suggests that participant countries are allowed to seek credits from outside their national or union borders. Given that carbon trading is still in its infancy in North America, and the Canadian gov’ts stated unwillingness to purhase overseas credits, it is not readily apparent to this reader that some sort of North American carbon trading would not have some short term benefit - a starting point at least- perhaps not enough to reach the longterm 70% reduction, but you have to start somewhere.

Carbon trading may not be the be all to end all, but should not be dismissed outright.

My concern with many of these studies and headlines is that people will just give up.

The editor’s notes at the bottom of the referenced page seem to also suggest the basis of the study:

2. Carbon trading has two parts. First, governments hand out free tradable rights to emit carbon dioxide to big industrial polluters, as under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Second, companies buy additional pollution credits from projects in the South that claim to be emitting less greenhouse gas than they would have without the carbon market investment.

Not all carbon trading need to be International accounting schemes.

Read the book. It slams all carbon trading.