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RWE and BMW: Continue your dirty business, we have the CDM!

26. November 2008

Are we living in two different universes? I am talking about the German environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, and myself. Just yesterday, he congratulated himself for the fact that Germany had already registered 112 Clean Development Mechanism projects and was therefore number 4 of the world’s CDM registering countries.

Ok, first of all I am asking myself what his media advisors were thinking when they put out that press release. Having registered the 112th CDM project? Newsworthy? Number 4? Where is the hook, where is the news?

I guess since the German government is granting subsidies to car manufacturers, car owners, car buyers, and road builders left and right, Gabriel and his boss Angela Merkel must have thought that there was a need for some news indicating that yes, Germany is still pretty active on the environmental front – 112 CDM projects, that’s not peanuts, no? All those pretty little energy saving lamps that Germany introduced to India, they’ll save a little bit of that dirty carbon that all those BMWs will emit next year, won’t they? And surely also contribute to reducing – at a global level of course – the 180 million tons of CO2 that the 31 planned coal-fired power plants will emit in Germany in the coming years.

Well, the bad news is that they won’t. Three quarters of all CDM projects were already up and running by the time they were approved for the CDM. So they were already built when they asked for the CDM cash, all the while claiming that the project would only be built if it would get the CDM funds. Clearly, there is no global emission reduction embedded in this scheme – existing energy projects get a little extra cash for not being a coal-fired power plant in Germany? RWE and BMW are allowed to continue emitting in Germany, while Germany subsidizes Chinese hydropower plants, and yes, solar cookers and lightbulbs in India.

The Xiaoxi Hydropower Project in China - approved as CDM project by the German government. (Christina Larson)

The Xiaoxi Hydropower Project in China – approved as CDM project by the German government. (Christina Larson)

And while the press release was of course highlighting the pretty CDM projects that everyone loves – have you every heard anyone complaining about solar cookers or lighbulbs? – the fact is that most of the German money goes to slightly more controversial projects, such as dams in China. AARGH – everyone knows Three Gorges, everyone knows that dams in China mean displacement, so it was probably a clever move of those media advisors to not mention the 13 large – above 20MW – hydropower projects in China that the German government has already approved as CDM projects – or the other 27 in the pipeline that RWE wants to use to be able to keep powering their coal-fired power plants in Germany.

Sigmar Gabriel and Co. talk about the environment, poverty reduction and climate protection when they talk about the CDM. But what they are really fighting for is the continuation of dirty industries in Europe, allowing them to continue emitting and emitting and emitting, CDM project by CDM project by CDM project.

The article was first published by Ann-Kathrin Schneider at her Blog on the website of International Rivers.

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