In early March 2005, the first carbon sinks project promoted by the World Bank's BioCarbonFund entered the first stage of registering as a CDM project under the Kyoto Protocol. Around the same time, a template document for BioCarbonFund sinks project developers to estimate sequestration rates was posted on the World Bank carbon finance website. The template used some slightly irreverent examples to illustrate how to fill in certain fields. The highlight was in the section “Contact (preferably email)” which was filled in “ fred@data_fiddling_Inc.jail.com ”.
SinksWatch has long argued that calculations to determine the amount of carbon cycling in a forest for carbon credits are flawed and that the figures cannot be verified because of the complex and ever-changing nature of how carbon cycles between forests, atmosphere and oceans. This natural exchange of carbon between forests, atmosphere and ocean distinguished biological carbon in e.g. trees from fossil carbon, which without human intervention (.i.e. fossil fuel burning) will rarely enter the atmosphere. Carbon storage in trees is thus very temporary and tree plantations acting as a ‘carbon sink' today may well turn into a ‘carbon source' in the near future. As Sten Nilsson of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria pointed out in a 2000 publication "The current state of knowledge regarding carbon sources and sinks cannot determine the levels and flows of carbon with sufficient accuracy to form the basis for the [Kyoto] Protocol and any viable trading scheme."
Proponents of carbon sinks projects, like the BioCarbon Fund, are trying to do the impossible regardless, pretending that the calculations put forth in their technical project documents are of an accuracy that many scientists argue cannot be achieved.
But maybe fred@data_fiddling_Inc.jail.com is not only beginning to doubt the sinks rhetoric of the World Bank's carbon finance unit. Could he also be concerned about potential “Inc.jail” risks? At a presentation at COP 10 in Buenos Aires in December 2004, cement company Holcim -who were involved in developing CDM projects but then pulled out– stated that t he CDM in its current form will create "other Enrons with project developers" and "other Arthur Andersens with auditors and desk reviewers". Inc. jail?
By Jutta Kill, SinksWatch, e-mail: email@example.com