UN gets tough on Kyoto con
In a signal of intent, the UN has suspended Romania’s right to trade its “surplus” carbon emissions after it breached rules on carbon emissions reporting. This ruling matters to the UN. It has to demonstrate that the Kyoto Protocol works and is trustworthy. Renewing the 27-nation Kyoto Protocol may be the only “hard” outcome from the climate negotiations in Durban this December. An all-nation binding agreement to cut emissions looks to be a vanishing prospect.
Romania is a member of the UN’s Kyoto Protocol, committing it to binding cuts in its CO2 emissions. The Protocol matters because it sets the legally binding framework for the EU carbon trading scheme, which is mandating serious change in energy use, especially in industries like steel and cement. The UN’s compliance body found “irregularities” in Romania’s 2010 greenhouse gas emissions data, and ruled that its national emissions inventory had been inadequately kept. Maybe tough measures will lead to more transparent information. It’s hard to evaluate whether Romania’s carbon reduction projects have really generated any savings at all.
Bucharest has been using the lightly regulated ‘Track 1’ procedure for carbon trading (selling its emissions commitments to a third party), allowable under the Kyoto Protocol’s Joint Implementation (JI) Mechanism. ‘Track 1’ deals are bilateral agreements regulated only by former Soviet bloc countries, and developed nations that want to offset their carbon emissions in them.
Third-party verification of projects is hard to establish when countries such as Romania “do not publish any information anywhere,” the UN said.
‘Track 2’ agreements are properly supervised by the UN’s Joint Implementation Supervisory Committee. Because of the UNFCCC’s ruling, Romania will now only be able to trade under Track 2. The real problem is that the whole Track 1 process is not transparent. The UN will have to get to grips with this issue urgently to ensure the credibility of the Protocol in Durban. In some countries, up to three quarters of their carbon credits are generated by Track 1 projects. The UN proposed merging the two tracks for project approval into a single system at last year’s UN climate conference in Cancún, but consensus could not be agreed.
Last December, Bucharest had hoped to earn €1.5 billion by selling 300 million carbon credits to two Japanese companies. But Romania has now been suspended from Kyoto’s carbon market – with immediate effect – until it can put in place an adequate system for monitoring emissions.
Prime Minister Emil Boc said he would fire the head of the country’s environmental protection agency. He also called for measures to allow carbon trade to be restarted within six months.
“Romania will prepare a revised version of the national inventory and send it to the UNFCCC and based on its evaluation will then ask to reinstall eligibility as soon as possible,” the environment ministry said in a statement.
On 25 August, another Eastern European country, Ukraine, was also suspended after the UN found that it had under-reported its greenhouse gas emissions.