carbon trading – a questionable answer

In the hunt for a climate change solution both major parties in Australian Government have turned to carbon trading. Many agree such schemes are a questionable answer, with their heavy focus on sequestration (carbon capture) and limited ability to force emissions reductions.

One of the major issues I can see with carbon trading is that national emission levels are largely determined by the sequestration capacity of the content.
Dr Rich Conant (joint-winner of the Nobel Peace alongside Al Gore in 2007) explains, “sequestration is the ability of the land to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Certain land masses, due to their soil type, climate and vegetation naturally capture more carbon dioxide than others”. It is this varying ability which becomes the major determinant of national emissions levels across continents.

But why is this such a problem?

Under a global scheme nations on continents with higher capturing capabilities could gain significant advantage through carbon trading. For instance, “the US continues to sequester more carbon in their land than they release by fossil fuel burning” Dr Conant says. “This means the US could potentially contribute to other nation’s carbon management”.

Technically, nations like the US could sell credits based on their already existent forests, without changing current industrial practices or reducing emissions. And this is where the real danger lies. These sorts of systems reduced incentive to deal with emissions now, and can delay the introduction of emission reduction programs and decarbonisation policies.

Over the next little bit I plan to delve further into the issues of carbon trading, presenting some alternative answers to the difficult question of how we should manage climate change.

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