(Carlos Andrey Patino Guzmán, Unimedios)
(Translated by Rolf Schoneborn, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN’s volunteer editor.)
These are the words of Graciela Chichilnisky, author of the carbon market concept and the carbon finance unit. She is asking the Colombian government, the private sector and even the Bogotá stock exchange to make the most of the nation’s biodiversity and not destroy it by way of an extractive economy, but rather make the world pay Colombia for saving its natural resources.
That a country would decide to leave 20% of its oil in the ground and preserve something very precious like the Amazon jungle for all mankind seems to be, ahem, an illusion in a society driven by fossil fuel. But Ecuador cherishes this idea and says to the rich countries of the planet today, “You have to pay us for our stewardship of the forests that clean up the air that you polluted on a massive scale with your carbon dioxide.”
The Ecuadorian government is now pioneering with the Yasuní Initiative a formula which is designed to save the environment rather than ruin it by drilling for oil. The goal is to leave a Thousand Million barrels of crude oil untouched in the Yasuní National Park.
Graciela Chichilniski is certain that this is the best example for how the carbon market functions, i.e. the system that she developed 18 years ago, designed to reduce environmental pollution which is the most important goal of the UN Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
At the Universidad Nacional de Colombia conference on a sustainable economy, the Columbia University and UNESCO professor Chichilnisky sent a message, which was practically tantamount to screaming, “Leave the minerals where they are. That type of an economy is not good for Colombia in any way.”
She asked the productive sectors and the Colombian government to make use of the carbon market instead and with those earnings conserve biodiversity. A reporter for the journal of the Universidad National (UN Periódico) talked to the expert of Argentine origin.
UN Periódico: Has the carbon market led to a reduction of green house gases?
Graciela Chichilnisky: The pollution has gone down in Europe because there you have a carbon market that manages US$165 billion and has provided developing countries with $50 billion for clean energy projects. The system works but not in the entire world, not in the United States, which happens to be the greatest polluter on the planet.
UNP: What’s the problem with the United States?
GC: They signed because they thought they just needed to pay for emitting pollutants, but the carbon market is more complex than that. They realized that there were serious commitments to reduction involved. They can’t back out now and go against the logic of the market, which is a significant concept in the minds of North Americans because this would negate the fact that the market works as a system. It’s important to note that the carbon market works differently.
UNP: What’s the difference between a carbon market and a common market?
GC: A carbon market implies that there are no rights of ownership regarding the atmosphere because it is a global common good. This means that there are limits to the emission of pollutants, and a given country can make use of the atmosphere up to a certain point only, since other nations need the atmosphere also. On the other hand there are property rights in a common market.
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