A: In the weird world of international carbon markets.

This year, new Clean Development Mechanism rules were approved that allow “more efficient supercritical and ultra supercritical coal plants built in developing countries to obtain carbon credits. So theoretically, a coal-fired power plant in Europe could be “offset” by carbon credits not through renewable energy, but through another carbon-burning coal power plant in India”. (with thanks to Think Progress blog for that passage)

Meanwhile, from Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator:

The following international units are included in the legislation establishing the carbon pricing mechanism:

certified emission reductions (CERs) from Clean Development Mechanism projects under the Kyoto Protocol, other than temporary CERs, long-term CERs, and CERs from nuclear projects,…

So… under mechanisms specifically designed to help the world achieve the most economically rational pathway to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a power plant that releases lots of emissions can be financially rewarded and help lazy developed nations who keep burning coal themselves “meet their target”.  Power plants that release no emissions at all are systematically demonised in said developed nations, maintaining the internal dependence on coal, but even if built in developing nations instead of coal… cannot be rewarded with carbon credits.


It really is some kind of freaky love-in between the mainstream environmental movement who lobby nuclear out and the fossil fuel industry who lobby coal in. The difference between the two is that the fossil folks actually know what they are doing…


  1. Great work, Ben. There is a good case to be made that climate change policy insiders are more anti-nuclear than pro-climate. NGOs are clearly much more anti-nuclear than pro-climate.

  2. I think a valid offset should mean there is less net CO2e than before. If a transferable credit is given for ‘less than otherwise’ it has the perverse effect of excusing both new and existing emissions. That means most CDM credits, efficiency certificates, methane flaring and so forth are misconceived. Carbon sinks like tree planting may be valid but are probably exaggerated as to amounts and duration. Conclusion; ban offsets from any abatement schemes.

    The geniuses in the World Bank, EU Commission and UN climate agency who introduced this should be shafted. Fortunately the greenhouse accounting bodies ignore the use of offsets which is why the numbers keep going up. In particular if an ALP government tries to buy dodgy foreign offsets in 2015 we should scream ‘fraud’. I’m also disappointed that my bank (not mentioning ANZ by name) is in on this scam. The whole key to emissions cuts is to burn less friggin’ coal.

  3. The Greens are the major impeders to realistic Co2 mitigation . Reading this Ben, I feel once again we have gone through the looking glass. ” bangs head on keyboard in utter desperation “

  4. And note that the ban on CDM for nuclear project is not limited to Australia: http://cdmrulebook.org/348

    All this to say that there is a sense of priorities along world decision makers when a treaty must be signed: nuclear is worse than coal deaths & climate change taken together!

  5. I’m not sure if there is some conspiracy here.

    If I have a Country A and they have 3 coal plants (X,Y,Z) with stable demand. One of those coal plants (Y) is old and is to be replaced with a Nuclear plant (R). Now we have 1 Nuclear plant (R) and 2 Coal plants (X,Z) reducing the real emissions by a 1/3 (assuming all coal plants have the same intensity and generation).

    Under this CDM program if Nuclear was included I could offset Coal plant X with the certificates from Nuclear Plant R. On an accounting sheet it would appear I have cut my emissions by 2/3 when in reality there are 2 plants putting out emissions and the cut has only been a 1/3.

    Is this correct?

    If so there may not be a conspiracy here, and that it is a bastard system. Are there minutes from the meetings where they discussed this to see what the rationale was??

  6. @IC in effect it’s double counting. The key incentive should be the nuke plant pays no carbon tax. If they then get to sell carbon credits it’s like winning the lottery after being let out of jail.

    To their credit (not carbon credit) both the LNP and the Greens have clued onto this. If re-elected the ALP will spend billions buying all these cheap CDM offsets from the EU in 2015. Meanwhile sick people can’t get beds in hospitals.

    1. The mind boggles. I did realise that our 5% target is off the backs of other nations efforts to decarbonise.

      There needs to be a tighter strategy for this. Coal is too ingrained in Australia and alternative cleaner uses need to be sought i.e. syn-fuels. Decarbonise the grid and lower demand through efficiency and productivity.

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