Spain Buys 6 Million Tonnes of Carbon Credits From Eastern Europe
Image credit: Rafael Laguillo/iStockphoto
According to the Spanish newspaper El País last week, Spain will be the first big buyer of CO2 emission rights from Eastern Europe, in order to fulfil the Kyoto Protocol. In 2007, Spain's emissions had increased by 50% since 1990, although the Kyoto protocol only allows a 15% increase for EU countries. "Luckily" the Kyoto protocol allows countries to sell and buy surplus emission rights. Hungary and other countries from Eastern Europe have a surplus on CO2 emission rights due to the closing down of some of their most contaminating factories in the early 90ies. The Spanish ministry of environment has already finalised a deal with Hungary to buy 6 million tonnes of CO2 and is negotiating with Poland, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and Estonia to buy more excess carbon credits that these counties accumulated with the closing down of their factories after the fall of the Berlin wall. The Spanish government admits that it needs 159 million tonnes (an optimistic number according to El País) due to the excess of emissions from transport and households. Other predictions reveal that the Spanish industry will have to buy almost the same number of tonnes if they cross the limits set by the Kyoto Protocol.
Here are the three trading schemes set by the Kyoto Protocol under which emission credits can be bought and sold, as explained by Reuters:
One scheme under Kyoto allows nations that are comfortably below their emissions targets to sell excess quotas to other signatories in the form of credits, called Assigned Amount Units (AAUs), that are not necessarily related to emissions cuts.
Another scheme allows rich nations to invest in clean energy projects in poor nations, and in exchange receive offsets called CERs. The third scheme sees rich countries buy offsets called ERUs from similar projects in former communist countries.
The Spanish government calculates to spend 1.2 billion Euro to satisfy the Kyoto Protocol, including the cost of green energy projects mainly in Latin America. There, long before looking into buying credits from Eastern Europe, Spain has launched projects to produce clean energy and hence offset 60 million tonnes of CO2. Not enough to comply with Kyoto, which is why Spain went shopping to Eastern Europe, something a lot of environmentalists criticise.
Critics argue that these contaminating factories in ex-communist countries, which closed down shortly after 1990, did not do so in order to benefit the environment, but because they were inefficient anyway and couldn't keep up with production. It is said that the right of Eastern European countries to sell emission credits allows them not to have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, the CO2 credits that can be bought from Eastern Europe have been labelled as "hot air", to demonstrate that they are not generated as a result of investment in clean energy, but rather a cheap way for countries to meet commitments under Kyoto. Joaquim Nieto, President of Sustain-Labour, International Labour Foundation for Sustainable Development, confirms that "the purchase of hot air is the worst of the options, because it doesn't reduce the emissions".
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