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UN's Climate Change Gurus Disagree on Cap and Trade in Debate that is Off-set for $2500

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, August 1 -- A split emerged Wednesday between two of UN-world's big guns on climate change, on the relative merits of carbon trading or taxation.

            Tuesday, Jeffrey Sachs came down on the side of taxing carbon and subsidizing its sequestration. His comments were in line with doubts expressed by Joseph Stiglitz, who said that the "reason that I argue for a carbon tax is it's very difficult to decide on the allocation of emissions rights." In essence, corporations like Duke Energy, given emission rights, are free to sell any they don't use, and charge consumers for what they do use. Perhaps it's no surprise that the CEO of Duke Energy favors such a scheme: it's "heads I win, tails you lose." Click here for yesterday's story.

            Yvo de Boer on Wednesday said that "business wants long-term certainty." In response to Inner City Press questioning of emissions trading, de Boer said, "I am skeptical on the notion of carbon taxation. I think it will take a long time to agree to and even longer to decide to give the tax proceeds to the United Nations to address climate change." Video here, from Minute 21:15 to 26:02.

            Inner City Press asked about campaigns to de-fund coal projects, and asked de Boer for his view of the role of such activism in the climate change movement. De Boer called coal "essential," and said that China, India and South Africa will not just leave it in the ground. And what of activism? Climate change has become an insiders' game, someone said.

Yvo de Boer, UN's carbon offset in Kenya not shown

            The Food and Agriculture Organization's executive director Jacques Diouf was also at the UN, and Inner City Press asked him for FAO's view on the warning that increased use of land for bio-fuels will significantly raise food prices for the poor. Diouf answered that it depends on which country, that some have enough extra land and water that it would not have that effect. Click here for Inner City Press' separate story on the question of FAO in the North Korea and the continuing lack of an audit.

            The General Assembly debate that brought Sachs, de Boer and Diouf to UN Headquarters was said to be carbon neutral. A press release went out quoting GA President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa that "the emissions from the air travel to bring experts to the debate and the entire carbon-dioxide emissions of the UN Headquarters are being offset by investment in a biomass fuel project in Kenya."

            Wednesday Inner City Press asked the GA President's spokesman how much this off-setting cost and how it was calculated.  The answers:

How much CO2 will the panelists and special guests use to travel to the event?   43,300 kgs of CO2
How much CO2 does the whole of the UN Secretariat emit per day based on total electricity consumption?   52,890 kgs of CO2
What is the total cost to make the two day thematic debate carbon neutral, including the Secretariat’s emissions?   US$ 2512

It makes one wonder, why didn't the musicians in the Al Gore global warming concert just lay down a few hundred bucks? And does Ban Ki-moon offset his travel, right now to Haiti? And what about the UNFCCC meeting in Bali, December 3-17? Wednesday the mission of Indonesia projected:

189 countries (approx. 2500 persons)

Media: 2500 persons

Civil society 5000 persons

Air transportation: current situation 6400 seat[s] per day with 17 international airlines directly fly to Bali. There are six national carriers that fly between Jakarta and Bali.

  Doing the math should be simple enough.... Developing.

* * *

Click here for a previous Inner City Press UN / climate change story. Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from a still-undefined trust fund.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540