LONDON The biggest emissions-cutting projects
under the Kyoto Protocol on global warming have directly
contributed to an increase in the production of gases that
destroy the ozone layer, a senior U.N. official says.
In addition, evidence suggests that the same projects, in
developing countries, have deliberately raised their emissions
of greenhouse gases only to destroy these and therefore claim
more carbon credits, said Stanford University's Michael Wara.
Kyoto is meant to curb emissions of the greenhouse gases
blamed for global warming, but is undermining a separate pact
called the Montreal Protocol, meant to phase out gases which
harm the earth's ozone layer.
That layer in the atmosphere shields the planet from
damaging ultra-violet rays that can cause skin cancer.
At the heart of the clash is a carbon trading scheme under
Kyoto, worth $5 billion last year, whereby rich countries pay
poorer ones to cut greenhouse gas emissions on their behalf,
called the clean development mechanism (CDM).
The most popular type of project has been to destroy a
potent greenhouse gas known as HFC 23, one of a family of
so-called hydrofluorocarbons, in China and India.
The problem is that HFC 23 is a waste product in the
manufacture of a refrigerant gas which damages the ozone layer,
called HCFC 22, and chemical plants have used their CDM profits
to ramp up production.
"This is certainly one of the major drivers now in the
increase in production of HCFC 22," Rajendra Shende, director
of ozone issues at the United Nations Environment Programme,
which administers the Montreal Protocol, said on Monday.
HCFC 22 now risked undoing recent repair to the ozone
layer, Shende said in an interview.
Chemical plants have used CDM profits to cut the sale price
of HCFC 22, pricing out alternatives that don't deplete ozone
such as carbon dioxide and ammonia.
"(U.N.) bodies need to work more together, to see the
actions of one don't risk the actions of another," Shende said.
Governments signed up to the Montreal Protocol will likely
vote next month to accelerate the complete phase out of HCFC 22
in developing countries by 2025 or 2030 from 2040 now, he said.
CDM projects which destroy HFC 23 are especially lucrative
because the gas is 12,000 times more potent a greenhouse gas
than carbon dioxide (CO2), although its overall contribution to
climate change is far less because CO2 is much more common.
As a result, destroying HFC 23 spawns far more
money-spinning carbon credits than any other way of curbing
greenhouse gas emissions.
Carbon trading isn't the only reason why HCFC 22 production
is up, said Shende. A fund raised under the Montreal Protocol
has paid makers of air conditioners and fridges to use HCFC 22
instead of more dangerous ozone-depleting gases, CFCs.
In addition, increasingly affluent classes in developing
countries are now better able to afford air conditioners.
The environmental credentials of HFC 23 projects are
further undermined by evidence that chemical plants in China
have deliberately "tuned" their factories to produce more of
what should be a waste product, to make more money under CDM.
Chemical plants participating in CDM make twice as much HFC
23 as a proportion of the actual end product refrigerant than
those in rich countries which can't participate in the scheme,
said Michael Wara, research fellow at Stanford University.
"It doubles the flow of carbon credits, but there are real
questions whether it's hot air," Wara said. The carbon credits
are being used as carbon offsets to allow companies to continue
to produce greenhouse gases in Europe.
"They've tuned the plants to double the amount of HFC 23
you would normally produce, for example in Europe or the United
States. All CDM participant plants came in at 3 percent (HFC 23
versus HCFC 22), the Kyoto Protocol maximum, versus 1.5 percent
in countries that can't participate in the scheme."