A new study has revealed that a majority carbon credits generated by Russia and its neighbor Ukraine were not actual carbon emission cuts, instead represented an increase in emissions by up to 600 million tons.
The offset scheme not only undermines efforts to reduce carbon emissions, but also highlights the reluctance of nations to meaningfully combat climate change.
Researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute analyzed 60 projects in the countries and realized that up to 73 per cent of the offset credits claimed did not meet the vital criteria of “additionality.”
This meant that the controversial projects would have occurred even without the carbon credit finance. What the countries simply did was claim compensation for projects they had provided for long before.
Vladyslav Zhezherin, a coauthor of the study said, "Some early projects were of good quality, but in 2011-2012, numerous projects were registered in Ukraine and Russia which had started long before and were clearly not motivated by carbon credits. I would say that many of them were fake.”
Researchers believe in some instances, chemicals known to increase carbon dioxide emissions were produced and then destroyed, to claim carbon credits. Zhezherin said, “This was like printing money.”
The credits were then sold to the EU’s flagship Emissions Trading Scheme. This may have compromised the EU emissions by up to 400 million tons of carbon dioxide valued at $2 billion in current exchange rates.
The researchers however, pointed out that in some countries, the carbon emissions credit finance program was a complete success. In Poland and Germany, where similar credits were subject to stricter criteria, significant emission reductions were recorded.
Anja Kollmuss, a coauthor of the study said, "We were surprised ourselves by the extent, we didn't expect such a large number. What went on was that these countries could approve these projects by themselves there was no international oversight, in particular Russia and the Ukraine didn't have any incentive to guarantee the quality of these credits."
The report, which has been approved by the UN and published in the journal Nature Climate Change, has not been taken lightly by Russian authorities. Michael Yulkin, an official at Russia’s Environmental Investment Center completely dismissed the report saying, "That's just not true. All the projects have been validated and the additionality has been proved - it was all following the rules and if the rules allowed them to be in, so you have them in."
By bending the rules to claim compensation for no work done, Russia and Ukraine benefited illegally from a program that was meant to stem the emission of climate hurting carbon dioxide. To make it worse, their actions led to an actual increase in emissions by millions of tons, complicating the world’s atmospheric balance and completely wiping out years of progress in reducing carbon emissions, both for themselves and their EU neighbors.