One of the central concepts behind carbon emissions trading, something that I was involved in for around seven years, is that an emissions saving anywhere in the world is equally valid. By this I mean if emission levels can decrease from a project or effort in China it has the same environmental worth as one in, say, Germany. If we want to lower carbon emissions globally then it really does not matter where the effort has taken place.

This concept has been incorporated into the European Union’s Emission Trading System, its flagship environmental programme that attaches a cost to all emissions from thermal units producing over 20 Mega Watts. The system has some flexibility and will allow the emission level to be matched against a carbon credit bought from the home or any other member state (European Union Allowance) and it also allows for credits called Certified Emission Reductions to be bought from a UN registered project elsewhere in the world via a Clean Development Mechanism. All of these costs are attached to your electricity bill.

One of the most popular methods of generating a CER is via wood burning stoves installed in one of the Less Developed Countries. The logic behind this system is that cooking stoves with greater fuel efficiency are installed into homes (often free of charge) in LDCs, often in Sub-Saharan Africa. The greater the efficiency of a stove, the lower the carbon emissions. This then generates the CER.

However, under the rules less than 2% of the stoves are checked each year, and they only have to show signs of having been used once. Ever. In other words, if a stove is used just once (probably on its day of installation) a totally imaginary number of carbon emissions will be recorded for years and years, and the developer will be paid according to the European price of carbon emissions, potentially until 2030. And that charge will be attached to your next power bill.

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