Officials from the leading nations pushed the question of a limit, or cap, on emissions trading off the table during the first week of talks. They want to paper over a disagreement between European nations, which see emissions trading as a minor supplement to actions they take at home, and an opposing group led by the United States. Along with Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia, the U.S. wants a free-for-all in buying pollution quotas, even though this could undermine the effectiveness of the Kyoto agreement.
A cap on emissions trading is a motor for technological innovation in industrialised countries which is absolutely essential for fighting off global warming. Without it, the Kyoto Protocol could collapse like a souffli, said the report's author Nick Mabey, Head of Economic Policy at WWF UK. It begs the question as to whether this is the hidden agenda of those wanting a free-for-all in pollution trading, he said.
According to WWF, capping the use of emissions trading is the main way to prevent western industrialised countries buying inflated carbon pollution quotas from Russia and Ukraine. Countries buying these non-existent emissions could claim they were meeting their own Kyoto reduction targets while in reality allowing their real emissions to continue to grow. This would deliver no benefit to the world's climate.
WWF is not totally opposed to trading but wants western industrialised countries to meet at least 70 per cent of their Kyoto targets by cutting pollution at home. The organisation argues that the west would benefit economically in the medium-term from concentrating now on exploiting low-cost domestic options to improve energy efficiency. In turn, this creates a base of technological and investment experience allowing countries to support much-needed, more ambitious cuts in carbon pollution into the next century.
Ministers must not shy away from making a political decision in Buenos Aires to limit emissions trading, said Nick Mabey. They should not be seduced into allowing trading in non-existent emissions that look good on paper but don't protect their citizens or the environment from global warming. It is a simple political question of making sound investments in our future common security.
WWF's international delegation at the Buenos Aires talks today staged a theatrical presentation to simplify the complexities of emissions trading. On behalf of a masked President Yeltsin, WWF auctioned 700 million tonnes of non-existing CO2 that Russia could have for sale in 2008. The bidders for WWF's carbon pollution permits were an enthusiastic President Clinton and Prime Minister Obuchi of Japan, a reluctant Prime Minister Blair of the UK and a highly-reluctant Chancellor Schroeder of Germany. WWF's backdrop read: No climate swindle. Cut CO2 at home.
For more information:
Andrew Kerr, tel: 969 7117 (Englsih)
Ulrike Hellmessen, tel: 427 5509 (German)
Mariana Lomi, tel: 427 5508 (Spanish)
Makiko Mizuno,tel: 429 4011 (Japanese)
(1) Costs and Benefits of Trading Caps, Nick Mabey. WWF International. November 1998.