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From Saving the Climate to Free Trade in Greenhouse Gases

"The fundamental success of the Kyoto Protocol negotiations was the decision to employ market-based mechanisms as a primary means of achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions."

                                      - International Climate Change Partnership, an industry lobby group involving BPAmoco, TotalFinaElf, Statoil and many other TNCs. [24]

missions trading became a serious factor during the COP-2 climate negotiations in Geneva in July 1996. It was during this round of negotiations that the US government, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, for the first time announced that it would support a binding UN climate treaty. The commitment, however, came at a price- greenhouse gas reductions should be pursued through "market-based solutions that are flexible and cost-effective," US negotiator Tim Wirth explained. [25] The message was clear- the US government would only accept a climate treaty that did not threaten US corporate interests. Over the next 18 months until COP-3 in Kyoto, US negotiators stubbornly forced market-based mechanisms onto the agenda. The result was a Kyoto Protocol with a very meagre commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and with the prominent inclusion of the three market-based mechanisms. An escape route was thus opened-up for Northern governments hoping to avoid cutting emissions at home, as well as new creating new avenues for the boosting of corporate profits. A satisfied Al Gore, then US vice-president, praised "the magic of markets" as the way forward in tackling climate change. [26] Environmental NGOs warned against potential 'loopholes', while the Danish minister of environment went a step further and labelled emissions trading as "climate fraud". [27]

Since the Kyoto summit, the US has continued to steer the negotiations towards the Protocol's current dominance through market-based mechanisms. After the last official negotiations session before COP-6 in Lyon from 11-15 September, US lead negotiator David Sandalow reaffirmed the US position- no limits on the use of emissions trading and no restriction on the use of carbon sinks. The second key US demand, that large Southern countries like China, Brazil and India accept emissions reduction targets, is closely linked with a desire to use the Kyoto mechanisms to their full potential. If these countries accept greenhouse gas limits, they will consequently have plenty of emissions credits to sell to US corporations. Several initially skeptical Northern governments have further undermined the Kyoto Protocol by gradually embracing greenhouse gas trading. Japan, for example, was quick to jump on the emissions trading bandwagon. At COP-4 in Buenos Aires, the Japanese delegation pushed for the inclusion of corporations, and not only countries, in the market-based mechanisms. This vision has since gained further momentum, opening the floodgates wider for climate fraud and profiteering from the Kyoto Protocol.

As mentioned, an EU-wide emissions trading programme is under development, but also individual member states have 'backed-down' from a critical stance on the market-based mechanisms. The Netherlands for instance plans to achieve 50% of its reduction commitments abroad through emissions trading. [28] Sweden and Finland are promoting the use of 'carbon sinks', driven by the potential to earn carbon credits and make massive profits from industrial tree plantations. The UK, France and several European Commissioners are pushing for the inclusion of nuclear energy investments in the Clean Development Mechanism. Within the EU, the Danish government is one of the few that still officially opposes the attempts to undermine the Kyoto Protocol by allowing climate fraud. "We will cut the 21% of greenhouse gas emissions as we promised in Kyoto, and we will do it at home," Danish environment minister Sven Auken said in March 2000. [29] While the Danish government's position illustrates alternatives to entirely selling out to commercial interests, this critical stance is under growing pressure from Danish industry and the Ministry of Finance, which wants to buy cheap emission rights abroad to enable the continued export of electricity from coal-fired power plants. [30]

The US offensive to turn the UN climate treaty into a trade agreement for greenhouse gases was intended to protect US corporate interests and placate the business lobbies that vehemently opposed any international rules. While most US lobby groups continue to obstruct the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, they have fully embraced emissions trading just like their counterparts in other Northern countries. Corporate lobby groups, on the national, regional and international levels, have lobbied for the unrestricted use of market-based mechanisms since the Kyoto meeting. They have played a key role in pushing more and more governments, not the least in Europe, into the emissions trading trap. Industry has grabbed this golden opportunity to simultaneously pre-empt government restrictions on their expansive ambitions and at the same time open up lucrative new opportunities for profit-making.

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