The Carbon-Markets Lobby - One big happy family

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Global warming.jpg This article is part of the Climate project of Spinwatch.

Amongst Britain's delegates to the Copenhagen summit is a well meshed group of London based carbon-trading and market-based solution lobby groups with considerable government connections. The 'tough targets' they demand on carbon emissions conflict with the carbon-intense industries they represent and in reality reflect only their desire to fix a price for carbon which profits carbon-traders and big energy companies alike, while emissions rise unabated.

Background

Emissions trading - the buying and selling of carbon credits under the 'cap and trade' scheme - is estimated to be a 5 trillion dollar industry worldwide [1]. The UK has capitalised quickly on the carbon-markets boom with 75% of carbon trading (and £12 billion of investments) going through London in 2007, stimulating new business for banks, hedge funds and offsetting companies.[2] Advocates claim that with schemes such as 'offsetting'- selling companies the right to pollute more, and using some of the money to sponsor 'clean development' projects in the global South, carbon trading can create big profit for the UK whilst seriously cutting greenhouse gases.

However, market-based climate change solutions have been heavily criticised by environmentalists. Kevin Smith of Carbon Trade Watch calls it 'an elaborate form of creative accountancy' which prevents long term solutions such as reducing carbon consumption and distracts from the central issue that carbon must be left in the ground.[3] A recent short film 'The Story of Cap and Trade'[4] describes the advantages of liberal carbon-markets for industry through the continuation of 'business as usual'- a trajectory which is predicted by climate change scientists to take the planet into irreversible runaway climate change.

The Grosvenor Gardens House gang - some key carbon-market players.

The UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy (UKBCSE) is a high level energy lobby group based in the upmarket Grosvenor Gardens House, London, which represents the 'energy cartel' of the six major British energy providers [5]. Conflictingly it is also a reputable mainstream authority on climate policy and renewable energy potential. It lobbies for 'strong renewables targets' but only if accompanied by the establishment of competitive markets for carbon trading which promote the lowest cost solution to carbon reduction, a policy which advocates the nuclear energy and 'clean coal' plans of its members.

The group has strong government connections, worked closely with Tony Blair and recruited free-market advocate Peter Mandelson as its only patron in 2003, to help them 'build the market conditions needed' for their success[6]. Its CEO David Green was even awarded an OBE in 2003 for his government work, which includes chairing the London Energy Partnership and being a UK delegate to the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Sir David did not have to move far to the UKBCSE from his last job as chair of the Combined Heat and Power Association (CHPA) - an organisation with links with the incinerator and nuclear industry - which is also based in Grosvenor Gardens House - the Belgravia hub of the carbon markets lobby. The CHPA office also collects mail for Sustainability First, a well-connected energy research and policy development agency.

Green is also connected to the coal industry through his other current job as company secretary of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (also based in Grosvenor Gardens House) - who spearhead the government's much-criticised 'clean coal' plans[7]. Pamela Rudolph, their executive secretary, is coincidentally also executive secretary to the UKBCSE, putting them firmly in the pocket of the 'clean' coal lobby.

Ms Rudolph is currently attending the Copenhagen summit, where she represents not only the UKBCSE but also the International Council for Sustainable Energy (ICSE), a powerful amalgamation of the European, American, Australian and British energy councils, also based in Grosvenor Garden's House.

Further along the corridors lives London Climate Change Services, a carbon-market trade association and lobby group, affiliated to the UKBCSE as well as UK Trade and Investment, a government department. Its chair Anthony Hobley is a top climate change and emissions trading lawyer working for Norton Rose, who also sits on the board of the Carbon Markets and Investors Association, a UK-based global carbon market lobby group affiliated to Carbon TradeEx, America.

Also in Grosvenor Gardens House is PRASEG - the all party parliamentary group for UK politicians and senior industry stakeholders on sustainable energy issues, whose supporting member group The Carbon Trust employs Tony Blair's ex-climate adviser Henry Derwent as a director.

Prestigious carbon offsetting companies Cool nrg, CH4NGE and Carbon Aided as well as oil company Mocoh Energy are also housed in the building.

Revolving doors and conflicts of interest

Located close to government offices, and with easy access to ministers and high powered lobbyists who frequent its corridors, organisations based at Grosvenor Gardens House have the potential to deeply influence UK and international climate change policy. The tight connections between the various groups mentioned, the government, and the biggest UK energy companies, create a strong and fairly impenetrable carbon-markets lobby, fed by London's successful carbon-trading business boom.

As long as this happy and high powered carbon-market family is allowed to persist there is little chance for tough carbon-reducing policies pleaded for by climate scientists [8] to bring us back from the brink of a climate disaster which will be detrimental to the earth and its inhabitants.

Resources

Notes

  1. Annie Leonard, 'The Story of Cap and Trade', the Story of Stuff Group. Accessed 10/12/09
  2. Jonathan Leake, 'Carbon trades fuel City boom, The Sunday Times (London) June 17, 2007.
  3. Jonathan Leake, 'Carbon trades fuel City boom, The Sunday Times (London) June 17, 2007.
  4. Annie Leonard, 'The Story of Cap and Trade', the Story of Stuff Group. Accessed 10/12/09
  5. In an Institute of Science in Society report, Faith, Hope and Chaos, Institute of Science in Society, 07/12/09, Alan Simpson MP claims: 'even OfGem recognise that the cartel of the big six energy companies cost householders something in excess of £100 per year, just for the existence of the cartel. It is the price of forcing competitors out of the existing energy distribution market'
  6. 'Peter Mandelson adds weight to business calls on sustainable energy", UKBCSE press release, 27 January 2003. UKBCSE 2003 News Archive. Accessed 11/04/09
  7. 'Trouble in store; Carbon capture and storage', The Economist. March 7, 2009, U.S. Edition. accessed 11 Dec 2009, sub req'd to see full article.
  8. See Connie Hedegaard. 'Copenhagen climate summit: tough times not an excuse to avoid hard decisions', The Telegraph, 7th Dec 09. among others