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Carbon trading: may save a coal deposit, but farmers die, rivers run dry, and some are left homeless and poor

Posted By Joanne Nova On October 4, 2011 @ 1:52 am In Big-Government,Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Perhaps this insurance costs too much?

Between Jan 2010 and March 2011, allegedly, 23 Honduran farmers have been murdered by the owners of a UN-accredited palm oil plantation.

“EU carbon trading rocked by mass killings”

At issue are the reported murders of 23 local farmers who tried to recover land, which they say was illegally sold to big palm oil plantations, such as Grupo Dinant, in a country scarred by widespread human rights abuses.

In July, a report by an International Fact Finding Mission was presented to the European Parliament’s Human Rights Sub-committee, alleging that 23 peasants, one journalist and his partner, had all been murdered in the Bajo Aguán region, between January 2010 and March 2011.

The deaths were facilitated by the “direct involvement of private security guards from some of the local companies who are complicit with police and military officials,” the report said.

In some cases it cited “feigned accidents” in which peasants were run over by security guards working for two named palm oil businessmen. In other cases, the farmers were simply shot, or “disappeared”.

Strangely, though the report was released in July, it’s become news now that a Green MEP and EU policy makers announced they’re shocked. Hmmm.

In Brussels, the Green MEP Bas Eickhout called the alleged human rights abuses “a disgrace”, and told EurActiv he would be pushing the European Commission to bar carbon credits from the plantations from being traded under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Green MEPs have been moved to demand that Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard act now against carbon credits from the Honduran palm oil plantations.

The carbon credits gained from the plantation are still being sold on the EU CDM market. The newsworthy issue appears to be that the CDM board recently ruled that the project had met the criteria of it’s mandate — but, there are delays or such-like… a three year gap between stake-holder consultations, and project approvals.

Therein lies the dilemma — if they add in “human rights” to the approval process — it all gets just that much more difficult, costly, burdensome, and even slower. And, in the end, without a trial done in a country with a high quality law and order system, someone could toss in fake allegations to destroy competitors, and the EU would have to protect itself from that too.

It’s not like this “unintended consequence” is unprecedented. In Uganda recently, the New Forests Company burned down people’s houses to grow pine and eucalyptus trees for the carbon credits. In China, rivers have dried up after hydroelectric dams stopped the flow, and people have been evicted from homes and paid little in compensation. Since 2003 new dams have been supposed to get “environmental approval”, but at least one local government admits nearly 40% still go ahead without it.

What can we say? No matter what was traded, in a third world country, we can’t be sure there will be no abuses, no deaths, and no corruption.

But the world has so many bigger problems to deal with than setting up premature trading schemes, which swap pieces of paper for bazillions of dollars in order to solve imaginary problems. Indeed, the too-clever-by-half complexity of trading something that’s difficult to measure, and in a form where corruption is hard to detect, sounds like the best way to attract and feed predatory financial sharks. If there are white collar psychopaths out there (and we know there are), why wouldn’t they find trading CDM’s with the third world appealing?

In the first place, given that GDP is highly correlated with CO2 emissions, it seems cruelly perverse to ask the third world to emit less carbon dioxide so we can emit more.

Good old fashioned trading schemes where people buy real goods would be more likely to be useful to the farmers of Mongolia. In real free markets,  money-for-nothing scams are easier to detect, and demand for services or goods rises naturally, rather than “instantly” with a government dictat. Loop-holes are less likely.

A market is a powerful tool. Governments should not “play God” and invent them from thin air, except with extreme care, lest the unintended consequences  include the deaths of the innocent and the empowering of the crooked.

First do no harm.


PS: Bear with us with the inline comments, and don’t be surprised if your “reply” drops to the end of the thread (but it might not). If you figure out whats going on, do tell!

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