14 June 2007

Emission Impossible

Last year, the CarbonNeutral Company calculated that Tony Blair, his cabinet colleagues, and their officials clocked up 6.5 million air miles during the 2005/6 financial year and, in doing so, pumped 966.4 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In response, since last April the Government has been paying [using our taxes, remember] to offset its emissions from air travel, ostensibly neutralising the amount of carbon used by reducing emissions by the same amount elsewhere.

The World Wildlife Fund PandaToday the World Wildlife Fund says the European Union's carbon trading scheme — supposedly one of the world's most important mechanisms to tackle climate change — is set to fail because of unimaginative plans that allow European companies to meet their commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions by investing in dubious projects in the developing world, such as hydroelectric power plants in India and China and the reduction of flaring and use of recovered gas for methanol production in Equatorial Guinea, rather than schemes that will genuinely help reduce emissions.

This news comes just a month after the New Scientist reported that firms are profiting from carbon offsetting schemes while doing little or nothing in return — in fact, by doing what they would have been doing anyway. So, for instance, oil companies are being paid to pump CO2 into oilfields, but this is one way they extract oil anyway, so any money paid to them from selling the carbon offset credits simply increase their company profits!

This whole scam scheme is now valued at $5billion (that's £2,500,000,000) a year. Nice work, if you can get it... I think I'll go have another read of Graeme Leach's article in the current issue of The Difference, "Should we heed Stern's warning?", in which the chief economist and director of policy at the Institute of Directors asks whether, with the science still far from proven, expensive measures to combat global warming represent value for money.