Beijing: The global carbon market will still have enough momentum to survive even if the international community fails to come up with a new deal to combat greenhouse gas emissions, a European policy coordinator said on Thursday.
Jurgen Lefevere told a conference in Beijing the European Union was pushing forward with plans for an international carbon trading platform that could exist independently of any new global climate accord.
“Even after the failure of Copenhagen, the EU is moving ahead in building an international carbon market,” said Lefevere, the European Commission’s policy coordinator for international climate change negotiations.
“The next meeting is at Cancun (in Mexico) and we recognise the negotiations are very difficult, but the EU market is not dependent on what happens internationally,” he said, referring to a major UN climate meeting to be held at end-2010.
Carbon traders and project developers at the Beijing conference expressed concern that the failure to secure a binding agreement at UN-led climate talks in Copenhagen last December was sucking the energy out of the market.
Copenhagen failed to provide any clarity on whether the Kyoto Protocol, the UN’s main weapon in the fight against climate change and a key driver of the carbon market, would be extended or absorbed into a broader new treaty.
Kyoto’s first commitment period for rich nation emission targets expires in 2012.
The protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) helps industrialised countries meet their mandatory UN emission targets by investing in clean energy projects in developing countries such as China and earn internationally tradeable carbon offsets in return.
Demand remains key issue
Lefevere said the legal infrastructure behind the CDM, which underpins a carbon market worth billions of dollars a year, would continue to exist after 2012, and that it would take “positive action” from the countries involved to abolish it.
“CDM institutions will still be funded after 2012 -- the only thing that ends is the targets,” he said.
The key issue was demand for carbon credits, but Lefevere was optimistic it would remain intact.
“Demand is not driven by international targets but by national targets -- and there will be targets in the EU regardless of the international negotiations.”
Europe has agreed to cut emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. The EU will also ramp up its emissions trading scheme from 2013 and will continue to allow offsets from CDM projects to be used in the scheme.
Lefevere said Europe was continuing to push for a “sector-based” system that would eventually replace the current CDM, which works on a project-by-project basis.
“We want to focus not on the CDM but on evolving a more complex and complete set of mechanisms,” he said.
He conceded that the EU had not yet successfully persuaded countries such as China to back their scheme, which Beijing regards as a attempt to impose mandatory cuts by stealth.
Lu Xuedu, the deputy director of China’s National Climate Centre, which is involved in the country’s climate negotiations, said while the country was keeping an eye on alternative solutions such as bilateral emission trading, an international accord would remain the priority.
“Our first choice is a multinational framework but if it doesn’t work, then we will look for an alternative,” he said.
Lu said the negotiations remain “intense”, and that while Europe was looking towards the United States for a breakthrough, Washington was continuing to look to China.
“If there is no deal next year it will be a disaster, and an agreement is crucial whatever form it takes,” he said.