Comment: Glasgow gives global emissions trading a second chance

Emissions trading is often disparaged as “indulgence trading”. That is unfair, at least as far as the intra-European trade in CO2-Certificates (ETS) regards. Unlike a tax, for example, this instrument offers the possibility of setting a fixed upper limit for greenhouse gases and gradually lowering them.

The situation is different with the dingy sister of the ETS, the international trade in compensation. For every tonne of CO emitted2 a project is to be financed somewhere in the world that saves the corresponding amount again, for example through reforestation. The idea behind it: The money should flow to where it brings the greatest benefit. Ideally, this would also improve the living conditions of the locals. At least that’s the theory. In practice, however, it is difficult to check this.

Gregor Honsel has been the TR editor since 2006. He believes that many complex problems have simple, easy to understand, but wrong solutions.

Such projects are certified by various organizations. The biggest of these is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the UN. Until 2013, its certificates could also be traded within the framework of EU emissions trading. After that they lost importance because there were doubts about their seriousness, they did not get along well with the idea of ​​a fixed upper limit for emissions and an oversupply ruined prices.

In the past few years, however, they came up again because the aviation industry relies heavily on such compensations as part of its “Corsia” program. However, it was not yet clear how the CO2– Savings of a project are counted twice – once for the reduction targets of the respective country within the framework of the Paris Agreement, once for example through the sale of certificates within the framework of Corsia.

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At least this problem appears to have been solved by the countries at the Glasgow climate conference. “A very important goal was achieved: All countries without exception must avoid double counting of emission reductions,” said Lambert Schneider, research coordinator for international climate policy at Öko-Institut, compared to the Science Media Center. “This is exactly what Brazil had resisted with hands and feet in recent years. In Glasgow, Brazil moved and contributed constructively.”

With the new set of rules, all transferred emission certificates must be balanced, similar to a bank account, says Schneider. “That should actually be a matter of course, but it had to be fought hard: There were plenty of creative suggestions for accounting tricks.”

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However, the compromise was bought with the fact that old certificates from the Kyoto Protocol are also recognized. That could Calculations According to “in the worst case, efforts to protect the climate by several billion tons of CO2 undermine”.

“Overall, the new Glasgow rules on international emissions trading create a good basis, but they also have numerous loopholes,” says Schneider. “The rules can clearly be abused. But they also set a minimum standard that prevents each country from simply calculating its carbon footprint according to its own rules.”


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