29 August 2011

The Folly of Emissions Trading: New Zealand and Europe

Coming Clean - New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme Explained from Lindsay Horner on Vimeo.

The video above was brought to my attention by a student in my graduate seminar this term.  It was done by one of his classmates in grad school in New Zealand (Thanks Adam!).  The video is exceedingly well done.  If you have 15 minutes and are interested in the debacle that is New Zealand's carbon policy, have a look.

News from Europe is similarly discouraging about the prospects for emissions trading, EurActiv reports:
European chemical manufacturers are covertly venting huge quantities of the powerful 'super greenhouse gas' HFC-23, according to a study by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA).

The report, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, says that Western Europe's emissions of HFC-23s – an 'F' or fluorinated gas mainly used as a refrigerant – are between 60-140% higher than officially reported.

Italy alone was found to be emitting 10-20 times more HFC-23s than it officially reports. The greenhouse gas has a global warming potential which is 14,800 times higher than CO2.
The UK and the Netherlands also emitted around twice as much as they claimed, although the figures for France and Germany were "within the reported values".

"We think it is scandalous," Clare Perry, a campaigner for the Environmental Investigations Agency, told EurActiv. "These gases have a very high global warming potential over a short timeline."
EMPA, the Swiss agency that conducted the research, explains the significance:
International agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) basically have one snag: it is almost impossible to independently verify whether participating countries abide by the agreement. Thus the evaluation of whether or not the countries have achieved their reduction targets is based on the official reports by the countries that are signatories to the UNFCCC (‘United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’). If they report reduced emissions they're sitting pretty; if not, they are pilloried.
Some might say that the response should be more regulation, more reporting, more rules -- all negotiated through a comprehensive global framework. Of course, that approach hasn't gotten very far to date.