Pope Francis encyclical warns on use of carbon credits

Published 11:45 on June 18, 2015  /  Last updated at 22:51 on July 4, 2015  / Ben Garside /  Climate Talks, International  /  Comments Off on Pope Francis encyclical warns on use of carbon credits

Using carbon credits would not help global efforts to cut greenhouse gases, according to Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change released by the Vatican on Thursday.

Using carbon credits would not help global efforts to cut greenhouse gases, according to Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change released by the Vatican on Thursday.

The comprehensive document contained the same brief paragraphs as an earlier leaked draft and also cautioned that the internationalisation of environmental costs risked unfairly burdening poorer nations.

The encyclical is aimed at influencing the debate ahead of UNFCCC talks in Paris in December and called for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the destruction of the ecosystem before the end of the century, and that failure to act would have grave consequences for humanity.

“The strategy of buying and selling carbon credits can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide,” the pope said in the document.

“This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require,” he added.

The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), a business association promoting the use of markets to tackle climate change, welcomed the overall message calling on all society to take action but said the Pope’s reference to carbon markets “was out of step with the views of most economists and analysts.”

“IETA stands firm in its belief that market approaches can benefit climate action and enable businesses to do well by doing good,” it said in a statement.

The pope’s comments should not be seen as an outright rejection of emissions trading, according to Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a consultant to the Vatican in preparing the encyclical.

“The pope is more or less asking scientists to check if this is an instrument which will provide a solution,” he told Reuters.


There are 17 Emissions Trading Systems in place across four continents, accounting for around 40% of global GDP, according to ICAP, an intergovernmental body that tracks and supports emissions trading initiatives worldwide.

Many other countries are interested in setting up carbon markets as part of their INDCs but some nations, particularly several Latin American nations including Venezuela and Bolivia, are sceptical about measures that commoditise nature or enable industrialised nations to duck their historical responsibility for causing climate change.

The UN’s CDM helped channel over $300 billion in carbon-cutting investments to the developing world by facilitating projects from which industrialised nations could buy carbon credits to meet their own emission reduction goals.

Yet, the world’s poorest nations host very few CDM projects, with the vast majority undertaken in the rapidly-advancing economies of China, India and Brazil.

The mechanism also faced criticism because many projects were deemed to lack environmental integrity and sustainable development. As well, richer nations came under pressure to do more to cut their own emissions rather than outsource reductions to countries where cutting GHGs costs much less.

As a result, few developed nations have included plans to outsource emission reductions in their post-2020 contributions to a Paris climate pact that requires all nations to contribute to GHG cuts. They are instead focused on domestic or regional emissions trading markets.

Yet, many governments are still interested in developing rules under the new UN regime where governments can count emission reductions made in another nations towards their own commitments.

“Through their cost-effectiveness, market approaches can enable more ambitious emissions cuts to be achieved – and more quickly than cumbersome regulations,” IETA said.

By Ben Garside – ben@carbon-pulse.com