The production of potent greenhouse gasses at four industrial plants in Russia increased following the launch of projects under the Kyoto Protocol that allowed them to claim credits for capturing and incinerating greenhouse gas emissions, reports a paper in Nature Climate Change. The authors suggest that this could represent the undermining of international emission reduction policies through the creation of counterproductive economic incentives.
Joint Implementation (JI) projects established under the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only climate change treaty, provide industrialized countries flexibility in meeting their greenhouse gas reduction commitments. The projects allow plants to claim credits for capturing and incinerating greenhouse gas emissions rather than venting them into the atmosphere. The credits can then be traded on the international market. Plants can only claim credits for captured emissions that are in addition to what they were already capturing; however, what is considered additional is determined nationally.
Lambert Schneider and Anja Kollmus analysed waste gas generation data from four plants in Russia and found that the plants generated much more of the powerful greenhouse gases HFC-23 and SF6 after the establishment of the JI projects. This happened at the same time as three of the four plants changed their emissions accounting rules, allowing all captured and incinerated emissions to be defined as additional emissions (the JI project at the fourth plant in Russia was developed and approved in 2011/2012 and claimed credits retroactively). This created an economic incentive to produce more greenhouse gasses to earn more credits. The authors conclude that, since abandoning safeguards to avoid these incentives in 2011, 66 to 79% of credits were issued in excess. The research shows that project-based mechanisms such as the JI run the risk of over-crediting, emphasizing the need for greater national and international regulatory oversight.