The United Nations body that oversees greenhouse gas reductions is reeling from another cap-and-trade scandal that may have put 600 million tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere — roughly speaking, the annual CO2 output of Canada or Britain — while the emissions were ostensibly suppressed, according to an independent study.
In the process, the fraudsters, largely in Russia and Ukraine, were likely able to transfer credits for more than 400 million tons of their apparently bogus greenhouse savings by April 2015 into Europe’s commercial carbon trading system — the largest in the world –thereby undermining that continent’s ambitious carbon reduction achievements.
Perhaps significantly, the vast bulk of the assumed fraud took place in countries that are — or were, in the case of Ukraine — notorious for their kleptocratic leadership under the regimes of Vladimir Putin and ousted Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled his country in 2014. In Russia, much of the contract work for carbon project approval was carried out by state-owned Sberbank, which has been sanctioned by the U.S. and the European Union as part of the Western response to the Ukraine crisis.
The bulk of the fraud occurred under the battered Kyoto Protocol for greenhouse gas emissions, but researchers who detailed the scandal warned that without tough international policing and clear definitions of what every country involved in the climate deal aims to achieve, something similar could happen in the global climate change deal that world leaders are expected to endorse in Paris in December and that is intended to start up in 2020.
It remains to be seen whether those safeguards will be in place. Among other things, the emerging deal is based on what the U.N. calls “intended nationally determined contributions,” or INDCs, that leave individual countries wide latitude for “estimating and accounting for anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and, as appropriate, removals,” as well as how the countries themselves consider their INDCs to be “fair and ambitious.”
The Obama administration has vocally proclaimed its support for the impending new climate agreement, and has announced its intention to impose dramatic cuts in U.S. carbon emissions of 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and make “best efforts” to make the steeper cuts.
The most recent scandal — there have been others — involves the United Nations Convention for Combating Climate Change (UNFCCC), the body that oversees the Kyoto Protocol, as detailed in a 128-page analysis issued by the Stockholm Environment Institute, a widely-respected, Swedish-financed independent think tank whose authors staunchly support the need for a new climate deal.
The authors claim that their study represents a “subjective judgment” of the evidence “based on the limited information publicly available,” but also say that it is “based on a careful analysis applied in a consistent manner across projects.”