MAC: Mines and Communities

Carbon Trading: Constructive - or a Massive Con?

Published by MAC on 2005-01-24

Carbon Trading: Constructive - or a Massive Con?

When the Chicago stock exchange set up a small futures market in clean air, some twenty years ago, many must have asked: "Whatever next?". Trading in dirty air - that's what. For today in Europe "carbon trading" is becoming big business, with significant monetary gains to be made. The rationale behind this new market seems simple enough: those firms that clean up their acts, and reduce C02 emissions below a certain level, get to sell permits to filthier enterprises which then don't have to clean up their's. As a result, overall CO2 emissions are supposed to fall.

But, at the root of the whole enterprise, is profiteering not principle. This, despite the fact that a new UN-US-UK-Australia report ("Meeting the Climate Challenge") warns of global "disaster" in just ten years, if the rise in CO2 emissions continues at the current pace.

As the following articles demonstrate, it's not only plant operators which get to benefit, but also big banks (ironically including ones - like Barclays - which also fund some of the most polluting mining enterprises). Nor are energy utilities alone in the scheme - pulp and paper manufacturers have now joined and, in the very near future, metal producers will be recruited. The opportunities for dodgy or corrupt dealing seem wide open. Even before trading is really up and running, at least one European country, Spain, has succumbed to pressure from its coal industry to "re-jig" internal permit allocations.

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