Friday, August 12, 2005

Gallant effort for Kyoto

The Dutch are actually making an effort to meet some of the Kyoto goals. Other countries have made little or no progress, all but abandoning the goals.
NOVA IGUACU, Brazil -- In a big dirt pit here, workers wearing protective masks piled rocks around cement columns jutting up from rotting trash. Some 6,000 miles away, Dutch officials awaited word of their progress. The Brazilian workers and the Dutch government have been brought together in an unusual partnership by the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty under which most industrialized countries, other than the U.S., have pledged to reduce their global-warming emissions by 2012. The workers are building a modern landfill, a rarity in the developing world. The columns are part of a system to capture methane from the city's decomposing rubbish before it wafts up into the atmosphere. Methane is a particularly potent global-warming gas; by burning it, and thus converting it into a less-potent gas, carbon dioxide, the landfill will significantly reduce its output of global-warming pollution. That makes this garbage pile a gold mine in a new international market: the buying and selling of greenhouse-gas emission "credits." Each credit that a buyer in the industrialized world purchases from a seller in a developing country reduces the buyer's obligation to clean up its act back home. In theory, the system will reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases by sending money from industrialized nations to developing ones to tackle projects that otherwise wouldn't have gotten off the ground."Just by flaring methane," explains Pedro Moura Costa, a 41-year-old Brazilian-born scientist who founded EcoSecurities Ltd., the company behind the gas-recovery operation, "you're creating a lot of credits." The Netherlands agreed under Kyoto to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. Cutting a ton of emissions in the Netherlands is expensive: about $25 to $50, Dutch officials estimate. So for half their planned cuts, the Dutch shopped around mostly in developing countries for cheaper deals. Here in Nova IguaƧu, they've agreed to buy as much methane as this landfill is expected to snag -- for $4.15 per ton.
But now they get off track:
"We never can reach this target by doing things at home" exclusively, says Maurits Blanson Henkemans, the Dutch economic ministry's senior official on climate issues..
Yes, they could do it at home - by reducing their economy. From all evidence that is what the Kyoto architects intended - to save the earth by shutting down the United States' economy, and incidentally one or two other advanced countries. And notice that they are not getting rid of CO2, but methane.
So far, the results aren't encouraging. Renewable-energy projects recently have been producing only about a third of the credits sold on the international market, according to a report from the World Bank, one of the market's biggest boosters. The problem is that CO2-reducing projects are proving less desirable to credit buyers than projects that go after more-potent, but less prevalent gases. A project that avoids the emission of a ton of CO2 produces just one credit. But, because scientists say a ton of emitted methane does as much damage to the planet as 21 tons of CO2, a project that cuts a ton of methane generates 21 Kyoto credits.
The results are mixed. They are burning methane and getting credits for it. But not as much as expected and the finger pointing begins. Scientist Moura Costa says the landfill operators are relying on seepage of the methane, but they should get serious about extracting and install pumps, etc. And they expected to be generating electric power by now, but they are not. The Wall Street Journal has the story. Subscription required, I am afraid.

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