An essential issue that must be tackled to ensure ambition in the Paris agreement this December is the fate of 11 billion ‘hot air’ credits built up through countries submitting low climate pledges and lack of environmental standards in market mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol (KP). While the solution is simple, convincing some parties of its necessity will be the political equivalent of pulling teeth.
Sometimes, in the never-ending line-up of negotiations for a climate change agreement, we get lost in the details of setting up the system needed to obtain our objective and forget the objective itself: reducing human-induced climate impacts on our earth. Under the Kyoto Protocol, emission reduction targets were set for developed countries. For the first commitment period (2008-2012), pollution permits were allocated to each country, which, if left unused, could be traded to other countries or banked into the following commitment period (2013-2020).
Countries who overestimated their emissions for the first commitment period were left with a large excess of permits that could be sold to other countries for their polluting needs. Additionally, low-quality climate projects that generate credits (one tonne of emission reduction is equal to one credit) have been found to reduce pollution less than the number of credits attributed. Simply put, mistakes of the past have accumulated into a pile of free passes to pollute that equal 11 gigatonnes of pollution. Saying that this equates to real climate action, well, is a lot of hot air!
No carry-over: Preventing the problems of tomorrow
We are approaching the finish line for a new international climate agreement in Paris this December, but
the weight of excess hot air credits jeopardises the potential of the agreement to deliver real emission reductions.”
Fortunately, there is a simple solution. These credits should not be carried over into the compliance period established by the Paris agreement, which starts in 2020. For many Parties, this can be seen as taking a lead-painted toy away from a toddler; it’s good for them, but they’ll still throw a temper tantrum.
Strict eligibility rules to use market mechanisms
Strict eligibility rules should be put in place so that only parties with ambitious reduction goals are allowed to use market mechanisms.”
This way we ensure that the new agreement avoids previous mistakes that lead to the build-up of hot air we are currently grappling with. For Parties, as with children, it is sometimes hard to show the benefits that can be reaped by taking more responsibility. It is, for this reason, evident that clear participation requirements must be established to achieve our climate objectives. They’ll understand when they’re older.
By Kelsey Perlman, Policy Researcher at Carbon Market Watch
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