You are here

Carbon Trading Enriches the Few (for no global benefit)

Wonder where all the money the developed world is investing in the developing world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is going? To the privileged few, of course:
Among their targets is a large rusting chemical factory here in southeastern China. Its emissions of just one waste gas contribute as much to global warming each year as the emissions from a million American cars, each driven 12,000 miles. Cleaning up this factory will require an incinerator that costs $5 million — far less than the cost of cleaning up so many cars, or other sources of pollution in Europe and Japan. Yet the foreign companies will pay roughly $500 million for the incinerator — 100 times what it cost. The high price is set in a European-based market in carbon dioxide emissions. Because the waste gas has a far more powerful effect on global warming than carbon dioxide emissions, the foreign businesses must pay a premium far beyond the cost of the actual cleanup. The huge profits from that will be divided by the chemical factory's owners, a Chinese government energy fund, and the consultants and bankers who put together the deal from a mansion in the wealthy Mayfair district of London.
So why aren't the carbon traders investing in less ethically-challenged projects?
As word of deals like this has spread, everyone involved in the nascent business is searching for other such potential jackpots in developing countries. As for more modest deals, like small wind farms, “if you don't have a humongous margin, it's not worth it,” said Pedro Moura Costa, chief operating officer of EcoSecurities, an emissions-trading company in Oxford, England.
I'm wondering whether the term "carbon pirates" might not be useful here.