UN plans to make its carbon credits available to all

The United Nations climate change secretariat is planning to enable local governments, companies and individuals to offset their planet-warming emissions using UN-certified carbon credits.

It announced on Wednesday that the secretariat’s staff and their families had signed up to buy certified emission reductions (CERs) held by a UN fund for climate change adaptation to address the emissions they generate at home and work.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, described the move as “just the start”.

“We are currently looking at ways to easily allow others, for example individuals, companies, cities, events and the wider UN system, to calculate their emissions and carry out a simple transaction to offset them with a broad range of available UN-certified offset credits,” she said in a statement.

CERs are produced by emission reduction projects in developing countries, such as clean cookstoves and wind power, registered under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

UNFCCC spokesperson David Abbass told Thomson Reuters Foundation no date has been set for the launch of the wider campaign, but a plan is “taking shape”.

The market for CERs is currently mainly governments trying to meet their targets for cutting emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty for mitigating climate change. Companies, airlines and other buyers have also been able to purchase CERs through brokers to offset their emissions or demonstrate corporate social responsibility.

But the forthcoming campaign aims to allow anyone to buy CERs easily through “a few clicks” on a website, Abbass said. The board of the CDM is looking “for new sources of demand” and wants it “to happen fast”, he added.

Climate-neutral life

Figueres said individuals should make wise choices about what they buy and eat, how they travel and the energy they use to power their homes. But “after these efforts, some emissions associated with our daily life still remain. This new campaign offers the opportunity to offset those remaining emissions, moving us towards a low-carbon, indeed a climate-neutral, life.”

UNFCCC staff members will purchase their credits from the Adaptation Fund, which is supposed to get most of its cash from a 2 percent levy on all issued CERs.

The fund has dedicated $226 million to building climate resilience in nearly 40 countries in the past three years. But the low price of CERs has forced it to ask donor governments for additional resources to fund its pipeline of projects.

Figueres said offsetting “is not a silver bullet, nor an alternative to the deep and decisive emission reductions that economies and communities have to make now and into the future”. But it can generate some of the funding needed for clean energy and adaptation projects in developing countries, “to assist them in their ambition for a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous world”, she added.

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