Oct 24, 2009

Flaws Detected in Kyoto Treaty

A critical accounting flaw in the Kyoto Protocol Treaty lowers the carbon emission targets set by the treaty, according to ScienceDaily. Scientists said the error undermines the accuracy of measuring compliance with carbon limits, but that the flaw was ‘fixable’.

The current guidelines fail to consider carbon emissions resulting from use of renewable energy, which means biomass is incorrectly considered carbon-neutral. These omissions include:

  • CO2 emitted from exhaust pipes of vehicles and chimneys of homes and industries that use bioenergy.
Problem: Both bioenergy and fossil energy lead to comparable carbon emission but if the growth of biomass exceeds its harvest to create biofuels, the carbon emission is ultimately lowered.
  • Emissions that result when biomass, such as maize, is grown and harvested, after clearing away other vegetation from the land (a process which emits carbon)
Problem: This may encourage oil and energy firms, as well as other industries, to clear up large areas of forests (by burning, which would release CO2 that isn’t accounted for) and plant biomass instead (which would result in carbon credits, in order to falsely comply with the treaty).
In short, the source of bioenergy is ignored when carbon emitted by bioenergy is not factored into the calculations.

These accounting rules were based on guidelines set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) when the Kyoto Treaty was being devised. These guidelines state that CO2 from bioenergy can be ignored only if the emissions from clearing up land (deforestation) are counted as ‘emissions from land use’. However, since the Kyoto Protocol doesn’t place limits on emissions from deforestation, this leads to an incentive to harvest good forestland, for the sake of compliance.

The solution is simple: carbon emission from both bio-energy and fossil energy should be accounted for, and then offset against the carbon emitted from deforestation (i.e. emissions from land use).

These accounting rules are also used for global warming related legislation passed in Europe (the European Union's Emissions Trading System) and USA (American Clean Energy and Security Act) and the errors within them must be ironed out before the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

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Source: BigStockPhoto, Science Daily

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