ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Analysis / opinion / reporting by Mathew Carr
April 20, 2022 — A group of carbon market specialists advocating for special treatment for certain kinds of carbon credits has been criticised as a bunch of self-serving colonialists.
Here’s the post, published on Carbon Pulse.
The post criticises the UN-overseen carbon market for airlines (known as CORSIA) of erroneously endorsing special carbon credits from companies and countries that protect forests.
Those forests, largely in developing nations, play a crucial role in absorbing carbon dioxide released by the world, especially developed countries that have high emissions per person.
The world’s structure of markets has failed to reward countries absorbing CO2 in the 30 years since nations supposedly decided to tackle climate change under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
That failure is a key reason why the climate crisis has become so acute. Forests are now worth so much more cut down than left intact. That needs to change.
The post’s authors, including Charlotte Streck, a Managing Partner in Berlin at consultancy Climate Focus, say the forest credits threaten “to undermine carbon market integrity.”
I respect the authors’ views, yet they appear to be failing to see the forest because of the trees, so to speak.
Carbon market rules and regulation are not yet set. Carbon markets under the Paris climate deal struck in 2015 can be bigger and bolder than many people dare to imagine. (Even bigger than carbon market advocates forsee, it seems.)
Forests already absorb about 16 billion tons of the world’s 50 billion man-made tons of CO2 emissions each year.
The Paris climate deal struck in 2015 potentially creates markets that could substantially boost that, perhaps by 11 billion tons.
Better soil management, ocean programs and carbon capture projects can be boosted as “sinks”: ie they can absorb more CO2 equivalent out of the atmosphere as mankind continues to spill it there. This could add further billions of absorption power, as reported here in a post designed to be thought provoking rather than a picture of the future.
The context here is that some huge western-based companies are seeking special carbon market prices for removing CO2 from the atmosphere using fancy direct air capture factories (for instance), when those who are already doing it are hardly being rewarded at all.
While subsidies ARE needed to encourage new technology, rewarding some carbon removal when other carbon removal gets nothing will stoke climate injustice and geopolitical tensions. (Russia is by far the world’s biggest nation by geography, remember — and it’s going for more with its incursions into Ukraine. Land mass will be increasingly important.)
The flipside of putting a price on carbon is rewarding everyone who is removing the heat-trapping gas from the atmosphere. To eliminate climate injustice, I can’t see how the world can have one, without the other.
Kevin Conrad, Executive Director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, responded to the carbon-market advocates’ post on LinkedIn with some much-needed punchy frankness and hopefullness (I contend).
I’ve copied and amalgamated this words here (tweaking the order in the LinkedIn post for clarity and to highlight important bits. There are many other interesting comments from various folks that I have not pulled out, BTW):
So the forests of developing countries should remove your carbon emissions for FREE year after year? What a colonialist perspective buried in a self-serving ‘additionality’ rubric !
[CarrZee note: Additionality is the concept that only emissions-cutting or emissions-removal activity that is beyond business as usual should be rewarded with carbon credits. It can be and is argued that resisting the temptation to cut down forests is additional effort.]
Conrad continues: While not a supporter of CORSIA or any alleged standard they have adopted, we must accept that in the near future, an emission must be matched by a removal. And all other emissions must be eliminated.
We need the removal power of rainforests correctly recognized in carbon markets now
… it’s the future. Think OPEC, REDD+ countries realize they can’t swamp markets with removal credits.
But we must begin recognizing this valuable eco-system service commercially today.
Conrad continues: Charlotte Streck Hi Charlotte. Respectfully, that is such a failed, tired and lame suggestion. From where will the funds come? When? And at what scale? We are losing rainforests too quickly for such false promises by proponents who can’t deliver!
While the science shows that standing tropical forests remove the carbon that rich countries emit, we expect that service to be provided for free?
So why don’t we eliminate all the VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) markets and their hot air and create carbon markets that really work under the Paris Agreement under a global accounting system with consistent methodological standards?
We have 50gt [giga tons or billions of tons of CO2 equivalent] of emissions and maybe 6gt of removals from rainforests. It’s not a hard nut to crack.
Conrad continues: Charlotte Streck Charlotte, it seems you fundimentally misunderstand carbon markets, or those we must build to succeed. To pair a forest removal with another emission under the UNFCCC’s global accounting and methodologies is exactly how the Paris Agreement (PA) is designed to reach its goal of carbon neutrality.
Real carbon markets can and are being designed to achieve that goal. And valuing existing removals by sinks is integrated throughout the Paris Agreement — including Art 6 (See note in caption in snip below).
Another series of great comments came from
Policy Officer at the European Commission, who said:
On the other hand, not all forests have the same value.
In my opinion, we should go to great lengths to preserve primary forests as they are a much better carbon sink and hold more biodiversity: even if it means reviewing the concept of additionality.
This reminds me of the case of Ecuador in ~2010, which told the world they wouldn’t start drilling the oil reserves from the Yasuni Park, one of the world s most biodiversity rich area, if the world paid three billion dollars. The world didn’t pay, so Ecuador scrapped the Yasuni Park protection plan because of the opportunity cost.
Streck conceded the original Carbon Pulse post could have been better.
See this snip:
(Makes it more clear where Conrad is commenting; earlier smooths language, adds geographical area of countries ranking chart. More to come. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org)