By Christopher Booker
We pay billions of dollars to Asian countries for the right to continue emitting CO2 here in the West , says Christopher Booker.
One could not want a better vignette of the gulf that has opened up between our “political class” and the rest of us than a bizarre little item which emerged last week on an obscure part of the European Commission’s website. The British Government, as revealed by the EU’s Official Journal, has allocated £60 million of taxpayers’ money to be spent on buying carbon credits from the Third World for the use of government buildings and other official purposes – so that our civil servants can continue to benefit from the CO2 emissions needed to keep their offices warm and lit.
The Government has contracted to buy these credits, mainly available from China and India, through 10 British and foreign companies, including Barclays Bank and a branch of JP Morgan rather oddly situated in a back street in Oxford.
Our entire Government machine – politicians and civil servants alike – is now obsessively dedicated to the proposition that we must drastically cut our “carbon emissions” to save the planet, at virtually unlimited cost. But when it comes to the officials and politicians themselves having to make sacrifices, as our own fuel bills soar, they have quietly arranged for the rest of us to shell out £60 million to allow them to carry on much as before.
The story then becomes even more bizarre. The contracts with Barclays, JP Morgan and co – who will retain up to £9 million in commissions – will be used to buy Certified Emissions Reduction (CER) credits under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) set up under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Easily the largest beneficiaries of this curious system are firms in China and India which receive the credits for showing that they have at least nominally cut back on their own greenhouse gas emissions. They can then sell their CERs through intermediaries, to allow organisations in the West, such as the British Government, to continue pumping out greenhouse gases such as CO2.
The largest and easily the most lucrative component of the CDM market, administered under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is a peculiar racket centred on the manufacture of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), classified under Kyoto as greenhouse gases infinitely more potent than CO2. The way the racket works is that Chinese and Indian firms are permitted to carry on producing the refrigerant gas known as HCFC-22 until 2030. But a by-product of this process is HCFC-23, 11,700 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2. The firms can then destroy the HCFC-23, claiming allocations of carbon credits worth billions for doing so (while much of the useful HCFC-22 is then sold on to the international black market).
According to the UN Environment Programme – a body set up in 1972 by a Canadian businessman, Maurice Strong, who was its first chairman and also father of the UNFCCC – destruction of CFCs as of last year accounted for more than half the CDM credits issued, in a market which will eventually be worth an estimated $17 billion.
Thus we pay billions of dollars to the Asian countries for the right to continue emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gases here in the West, including the £60 million contributed by British taxpayers to keep our civil servants warm. As a result we enrich a small number of people in China and India, including Maurice Strong, who now lives in exile in Beijing, having been caught out in 2005 for illicitly receiving $1 million from Saddam Hussein in the “Oil for Food” scandal.
He played a key part in setting up China’s carbon exchange, to buy and sell the CDM credits administered by the UNFCCC – of which Strong himself was the chief architect.
The net result of all this trading and jiggery-pokery is that, after billions of pounds and dollars have changed hands, with a hefty commission for those bankers and other carbon traders along the way, there is no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions whatever. But at least our political class can continue to work in warm offices and fly righteously round the world on our behalf – while the rest of us foot the bill.