Saturday, January 12, 2008

Carbon colonialism

"We have been monitoring the EU carbon trading scheme and how it is failing to reduce emissions and we’ve done a lot of field research on the impact of offset projects on Southern communities, helping to shine a more critical light on what is going on with those projects instead of the glossy coverage you get from the companies themselves. People may have been hearing a lot from lobby groups like the US Climate Action Partnership how wonderful carbon trading is, but we have a very different story to tell.

Carbon colonialism is about treating the supposed low cost emissions reductions in Southern countries as a new commodity that can be profitably exploited for the benefit of Northern consumers and companies. What we are also seeing, and Jutta can say more about what is happening in these Southern countries, is that often these projects have a harmful impact on local communities. This fact has been brushed under the carpet so people can keep doing it. We hear very little about these communities and what is happening on the ground, we only hear the positive side. Our experience is that people on the ground are having a very rough time with these projects.

If we are trying to offset emissions with tree planting we would need to look for other planets to plant the trees on.

Through personal offsets, companies are commoditizing peoples desire to do something about climate change. They are taking people’s impetus to do something real and reducing it to a mouse click — another act of consumerism.

One of the reasons why so much emphasis has been put on offsets and carbon trading is not because of the track record in reducing emissions this way, because they have no proven track record in this, but because of the compatibility with the current economic system which is very market oriented and fixated on year upon year growth. We need to address this growth-fixation and its corresponding growth in fossil fuel consumption in order to deal with climate change. There needs to be some movement toward extracting ourselves from the current economic system as it stands."

From the excellent Trans National Institute, on carbon trade. Trade and colonialism and classical, growth-oriented economic system. Again. But this time, it gets even worse: no cheaper products for people from developing countries (the usual excuse for encouraging unbridled trade), just cheaper pollution.

1 comment:

sarap said...

I noticed you were talking about carbon trading, and I thought you might be interested in a new documentary that has just been released that examines the impact of carbon trading around the world.

The Carbon Connection looks at two communities affected by one new global market – the trade in carbon dioxide. In Scotland a town has been polluted by oil and chemical companies since the 1940s. In Brazil local people's water and land is being swallowed up by destructive monoculture eucalyptus tree plantations. Both communities now share a new threat. As part of the deal to reduce greenhouse gases that cause dangerous climate change, major polluters can now buy carbon credits that allow them to pay someone else to reduce emissions instead of cutting their own pollution.

What this means for those living next to the oil industry in Scotland is the continuation of pollution caused by their toxic neighbours. Meanwhile in Brazil the schemes that generate carbon credits gives an injection of cash for more planting of the damaging eucalyptus tree. The two communities are now connected by bearing the brunt of the new trade in carbon credits. The Carbon Connection follows the story of two groups of people from each community who learned to use video cameras and made their own films about living with the impacts of the carbon market. From mental health issues in Scotland to the loss of medicinal plants in Brazil, the communities discover the connections they have with each other and the film follows them on this journey.

40 minutes | PAL/NTSC | English/Spanish/Portuguese subtitles

More information at