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“CDM has no validity”, says leading UK climate scientist

CDM has no validity, says leading UK climate scientist

On 23 June 2009, the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee interviewed Kevin Anderson, Research Director at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Anderson is one of the UK’s leading Climate Change scientists. The interview is available here.

It is highly recommended listening. Anderson points out that the UK government’s planned carbon cuts would have a “50-50 chance” of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2°C. He notes that this is not really an acceptable level of risk, given the dangers involved of runaway climate change.

He stresses that deforestation, food, aviation and shipping should be included in any emissions reductions targets for the UK and insists that emissions reductions should be calculated on the basis of consumption (including the emissions of goods imported to the UK) not only on national emission levels.

Anderson also suggests that emissions from deforestation are not only the responsibility of forested countries:

Deforestation could be as high as 25 per cent of total emissions. That wasn’t taken into account by the committee as far as I’m aware, which you could argue implicitly suggests that deforestation is a responsibility of the countries that deforest. Given that we’ve already deforested in Annex I nations I think that is possibly not a fair allocation of those emissions. So I think countries that do deforest, and that will undoubtedly go on, some of those emissions are the burden of Annex I nations. And that significantly changes the budgets.

While he is not necessarily opposed to carbon trading, Anderson’s opinion on the clean development mechanism is clear: “I think CDM shouldn’t be allowed. I completely disagree with CDM.” His argument is that CDM might be valid if all countries had a cap based on reaching a maximum temperature increase of 2°C. “But that’s not what CDM is about. CDM’s about buying emissions from countries that have no caps.”

He suggests an interesting test for “additionality”:

If you can imagine Marconi and the Wright brothers getting together to discuss whether actually in 2009 Easyjet and the Internet will be facilitating each other through internet booking, that’s the level of additionality certainty you’d have to have over that period. You cannot have that. Society is inherently complex. The CO2 is there [in the atmosphere] for that long. So additionality is a meaningless concept in a complex system, which society is over that sort of time frame.

CDM has no validity as a mechanism for reducing CO2 emissions in the absence of caps.

Looking at the way the various government departments work in UK, Anderson compares the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), to “little snapping dogs on the ankles” of departments such as the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Treasury.

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  1. Deforestation emission is calculated to be between 14 and 20%; according the CDM reasoning, if the 20% deforestation emission is successfully traded; fair enough but what about the other ~80% still taking place from energy use, burning of fossil fuels etc. If Annexe1 countries are serious in this matter – they must consciously cut down on their ~80% emission. REDD will not solve the problem. Just imagine. Money from the trade will result in improved standard of living – a bigger house, two more vehicles in the garage, a washing machine and a drier, a TV and other white goods, more travels overseas (..people from non-annexe1 countries have developmental aspirations too). Have we really succeeded in reducing the 20% emission?