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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Minerals should stay where they are! This type of economy is not good for the country

(Carlos Andrey Patino Guzmán, Unimedios)
(Translated by Rolf Schoneborn, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's volunteer editor.)
These are the words of Graciela Chichilnisky, author of the carbon market concept and the carbon finance unit. She is asking the Colombian government, the private sector and even the Bogotá stock exchange to make the most of the nation's biodiversity and not destroy it by way of an extractive economy, but rather make the world pay Colombia for saving its natural resources.
That a country would decide to leave 20% of its oil in the ground and preserve something very precious like the Amazon jungle for all mankind seems to be, ahem, an illusion in a society driven by fossil fuel. But Ecuador cherishes this idea and says to the rich countries of the planet today, "You have to pay us for our stewardship of the forests that clean up the air that you polluted on a massive scale with your carbon dioxide."
The Ecuadorian government is now pioneering with the Yasuní Initiative a formula which is designed  to save the environment rather than ruin it by drilling for oil. The goal is to leave a Thousand Million barrels of crude oil untouched in the Yasuní National Park. 
Graciela Chichilniski is certain that this is the best example for how the carbon market functions, i.e. the system that she developed 18 years ago, designed to reduce environmental  pollution which is the most important goal of the UN Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
At the Universidad Nacional de Colombia conference on a sustainable economy, the  Columbia University and UNESCO professor Chichilnisky sent a message, which was practically tantamount to screaming, "Leave the minerals where they are. That type of an economy is not good for Colombia in any way."
She asked the productive sectors and the Colombian government to make use of the carbon market instead and with those earnings conserve biodiversity. A reporter for the journal of the Universidad National (UN Periódico) talked to the expert of Argentine origin.
UN Periódico: Has the carbon market led to a reduction of green house gases?
Graciela Chichilnisky: The pollution has gone down in Europe because there you have a carbon market that manages US$165 billion and has provided developing countries with $50 billion for clean energy projects. The system works but not in the entire world, not in the United States, which happens to be the greatest polluter on the planet.
UNP: What's the problem with the United States?
GC: They signed because they thought they just needed to pay for emitting pollutants, but the carbon market is more complex than that. They realized that there were serious commitments to reduction involved. They can't back out now and go against the logic of the market, which is a significant concept in the minds of North Americans because this would negate the fact that the market works as a system.  It's important to note that the carbon market works differently.
UNP: What's the difference between a carbon market and a common market?
GC:  A carbon market implies that there are no rights of ownership regarding the atmosphere because it is a global common good. This means that there are limits to the emission of pollutants, and a given country can make use of the atmosphere up to a certain point only, since other nations need the atmosphere also. On the other hand there are property rights in a common market.. Land would be a good example here. The carbon market exists insofar as countries are required to respect the environment. Another difference is that the carbon market sets limits for developing countries that also make use of the atmosphere.
UCP: That's to say, they are allowed to pollute. How so?
GC: The countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia need to develop just like the rich countries did, they have a right to do so. But they also want a sustainable development, which means lowering emissions, and that's why they were in favor of the Kyoto Protocol. But for poor countries it is more profitable, meaning they earn more by not polluting and as a result have a clean development. The Yasuní Initiative in Ecuador is a good example here.  I helped edit one of those chapters.  We are talking about the interests of just one country here, whereas the carbon market and the Kyoto Protocol, given that they constitute international law, also constitute obligations for all countries.
UNP: Now the US is a powerful country. How can that country be made to cooperate with the carbon market?
GC: In fact, the US did not want to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because it was found not to be suitable. However, the carbon market is like a virus, which has found its way to the US, which it cannot get rid of. The country is actually benefiting financially from the carbon market. On November 3rd of this year a referendum was defeated in California, which would have suspended Proposition 23 (the Global Warming Solutions Act). The carbon market established itself in the richest state of the Union with this decision by California voters.
UNP: One of the criticisms levelled against the carbon market insists that it  does not obligate the industrialized countries to lower the emission of green house gases in practice.
GC:  It could look as though we are letting the rich countries pay in order to be able to kill granny. How could a society function this way? At the Copenhague Climate Conference (2009)  I recommended an investment fund for the companies in rich nations to try to make use of negative carbon technologies (without pollutants) in developing countries. At this point many might say, "this would mean giving more money to the rich". And my answer is, "but it is money that'll generate super- clean processes in poor countries. This in turn would mean that polluting would really be costly because of the penalties imposed by international law, whereas clean companies could expect additional earnings. That's the logic of the carbon market. The United States presented this recommendation as its own and it turned out to be a great success. The US viewed it  favorably from a capitalist perspective because of the profit motive, and therefore I'd have to say that the carbon market is a double-faced virus and the US sees the face that it wants to see.
UNP; Mining will play an ever larger role in Colombia; there are fears because of possible environmental impacts, however. How can the two be reconciled and what role can the carbon market play in this?
GC: Minerals are not a good business proposition, they should no longer be of any interest! They do not stand for progress and do not help Colombia to break into international markets. Mining is a thing of the past, of the last century that just benefits a few and harms all others as a result of environmental damages.
There are things Colombia could do! It could create a water market, comparable to the carbon market and get the Bogotá stock exchange involved as a political instrument, given the fact that it is doing quite well at the moment. Colombia should also be interested in the growing biomass market, but careful, corn, sugar cane and palm oil should definitely not be considered as a renewable energy source but rather algae as biomass, which can function as CO2 scrubbers and grow at a fantastic rate.
Photo 1
Graciela Chichilnisky, author of the carbon market concept and Columbia University research professor  - Victor Manuel Holguin/Unimedios
Photo 2
Indigenous Waorani in Ecuador know that there are 846 Million barrels of oil right under their feet.       
This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.



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