By David L. Brown
We have written recently about the fact that some Kyoto Treaty signators may be cheating on their reported emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG), bringing the entire program into doubt. Of particular concern is that sales of carbon permits (“pollution rights”) could result in massive fraud (see the article “The Kyoto Treaty: Scandal in the Making?” posted Saturday, June 24).
My earlier article referred to a piece in New Scientist which quoted independent reports from two researchers in Europe, one Italian and one British, who concluded that many countries were understating their GHG emissions. Particular violaters were France and Britain, but the article also mentioned a curious fact that I didn’t comment upon in my earlier analysis. It was that just as the scientists were preparing to issue their objective reports on actual vs. reported emissions, Germany suddenly revised its emissions estimates sharply upward.
Now, in what seems to us to be a stunning development, Germany has reversed itself on its commitments to emissions reductions. Here is an excerpt from a news report titled “Germany Slams Brakes on Emissions Targets,” appearing yesterday in New Scientist:
Europe’s efforts to meet its Kyoto protocol targets for greenhouse gas emissions are heading for trouble after Germany, the driving force behind the continent’s emissions reductions for the past 15 years, slammed on the brakes.
Since 1990, Germany has cut its emissions by 17.5 per cent, more than any other country in the European Union. Its Kyoto target is a 21 per cent cut, but on 28 June the environment ministry revealed that it would only require a further 0.6 per cent cut from its major industrial emitters between now and 2010. To make matters worse, it exempted new power plants from any limits until 2022. The government says it will make up the difference by encouraging German motorists, who are now allowed to drive on some highways at unlimited speeds, to drive more slowly.
The announcement came as European nations submitted their proposed emissions targets under the EU’s carbon trading scheme. These “pollution permits” cover roughly half of most countries’ emissions, but exclude cars.
The article doesn’t seem to include the discrepancies uncovered by the recent studies, and which dimmed the previously glowing pictures that were being projected by European participants in the Kyoto protocols. The article continued to say:
Germany is Europe’s largest emitter, and the move jeopardises the EU’s promise to cut emissions overall by 8 per cent between 1990 and 2010. Until now, the EU has allowed newer members such as Spain and Ireland to increase emissions, while Germany, the UK and other countries have been forced to make steeper cuts. The UK remains on target after announcing proposals last week that should ensure a 16 per cent emissions reduction between 1990 and 2010.
While this news item says the UK “remains on target,” the recently reported independent studies concluded that Britain was “among the worst offenders” [in under-reporting] emitting as much as 92 percent more methane, a major GHG, than it declares under Kyoto. France was possibly emitting 47 percent more, that report said. It seems that the Germans, realizing they have been caught with their fingers in the fudge, are confronting the fact that it is probably not possible to meet the Kyoto protocols while maintaining a First World economy. The statements above might suggest that the UK and other countries are refusing to accept the claims of under-reporting, and continuing to pollute while cooking the books to appear to be meeting their carbon goals. This may or may not be true, but the implications are there.
What gives the Kyoto Treaty protocols the ability to create the opportunity for a vast and fraudulent conspiracy is that they require advanced nations to make the greatest cuts in emissions, while giving a pass to “developing” countries such as India and China. To reward the rich countries for their supposed sacrifice, they are allowed to sell carbon credits to less “clean” industries and nations, essentially licenses to pollute.
The fly in the ointment here is that there is potentially a great deal of cash on the table, money to be made from the sale of carbon credits. At the same time, considerable sacrifices must be made to reduce carbon emissions in order to qualify to sell those credits. It might be all too tempting to misrepresent the sacrifices by merely fudging the figures, then grabbing the gold.
If this is what is going on, it represents what might be the greatest example of corruption in history. What a travesty if First World nations were to commit fraudulent grand larceny against Third World nations while continuing to pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gas emissions.
We might expect the UN to take immediate action … but we would expect that only if we are self-deluded idiots who have not been paying attention to the Oil for Food scandal and other signs that corruption is endemic in the international sphere.
What an enormous joke this is, but we are not laughing. At a time when it is becoming crystal clear that global warming is very likely the greatest threat humankind has ever faced, to see that threat used as a mere cover for criminal malfeasance on an international scale is just plain disgusting. GHG emissions are a serious business and need to be faced on a worldwide basis, with strict checking and significant penalties for cheating.