'Carbon' becomes dirty word for climate investors

LONDON Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:38am EST

LONDON (Reuters) - In a sign of the tough times facing the carbon sector, the Carbon Markets and Investors' Association last month dropped the word "carbon" from its name.

The group, which represents more than 50 firms that finance and invest in emissions reduction, is now the Climate Markets and Investors' Association CMIA.L.

"The new name reflects both the need and potential for the diversification of the role of the private sector in combating climate change," said Miles Austin, director of the CMIA.

"We need to explore supplementary routes to drive investments."

The VCS Association, which manages a voluntary carbon offset standard, stopped spelling out the word "carbon" in its name last year.

"We never really thought twice about moving away from the word 'carbon'," said VCS Chief Executive David Antonioli.

"Carbon trading in particular does not have the best reputation so if you want to stay in this space but draw less ire from some quarters it would make sense to use climate instead of carbon."

Tough economic times and soured efforts to set up a U.S. national emissions trading scheme have hurt the sector.

So have scandals in the EU emissions trading scheme, including carbon permit theft, tax fraud, re-use of U.N. carbon credits and internet scams.

Just a few years ago, many investors were betting on a $2 trillion global carbon market by 2020.

Instead, carbon prices in both the EU ETS and a U.N.-backed carbon offset scheme have tumbled, hit by slowed economic growth and over-supply.

That has forced many firms to pull out of emissions trading altogether or scale back investment.

It has also prompted many organisations to reconsider how they communicate on issues related to climate policy.

"(The shift) is mainly related to the negative image that was created around carbon markets in the U.S.," said Russel Mills, global director of energy and climate change policy at Dow Chemical.

"Energy security, clean energy and jobs from shale gas or efficiency are the only topics one can safely touch in Washington for the time being," he said.

U.S. public concern about climate change has been steadily falling since 2007, a Nielsen opinion poll showed in August, as people focus on more immediate economic concerns and question the science behind climate change.

The United States, the world's second largest emitter, is the only industrialised nation not signed up to the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol for curbing emissions.

A U.N. summit in Copenhagen in 2009 failed to deliver a binding pact to succeed Kyoto, while a summit starting next week in South Africa is likely to produce only modest steps towards one.

(Editing by Jason Neely)

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