Copenhagen loopholes could mean rise in emissions, report says

Climate chaos0



The most serious loophole is known as “hot air”. Countries such as Russia and Ukraine were set targets to reduce emissions in 1997 when the Kyoto treaty was signed. They were also awarded carbon pollution permits for some of their expected emissions, to trade with nation that could cut carbon more cheaply. But since then their heavy industries have crashed, meaning their targets have been surpassed and they have billions of unused carbon credits which they want to carry over into the next round of targets.


“Russia could be allowed to emit more than 30% more than today, Ukraine over 50%, and they could still meet their targets. In addition, they can sell the surplus credits to another country, allowing the country that buys them to emit more,” says the report. In the worst case, it says, this loophole could result in more than 15% more greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere.


The second loophole allows rich countries to “creatively account” for emissions from forestry and land use changes. If a country can show that its forestry activities emit more carbon than they store away, UN rules allow it not to account for these emissions. But if their forestry activities do store away carbon, they can account for this sequestration and receive carbon credits. “It’s like claiming that building a new coal-fired power plant every year was a planned development and that the resulting emissions increases should not be accounted for,” said the report.


The third loophole identified is carbon offsetting. This allows rich countries to emit more greenhouse gases than their target by paying for emission reductions in other countries. Friends of the Earth estimates that the use of offsets would lead to up to 9 per cent of cuts on 1990 emissions being wiped out from the cuts offered by rich countries.


A further 5% of emission cuts could be avoided if no agreement can be reached on aviation and shipping which account for as much as 5% of all global emissions. Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: “Rich countries must realise that these loopholes are making a mockery of the targets they have put on the table. We need cuts in line with what the science demands – cuts of at least 40 per cent by 2020. Unless rich countries plug these gaping holes, any agreement in Copenhagen will be as leaky as a sieve.”