The Ethics of Kyoto
Dr. Michael C. Clarke, CPEng, FIEAust, FAusIMM, RPEQ
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The push for the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol by elements of industry, academia, and society raises numerous ethical questions. These include the question of the veracity of the linkage between possible global warming and anthropogenically generated gases. This commitment to the Greenhouse hypothesis, such that very serious alterations are made to the world economy, has serious ethical overtones. Given the contradictory science and scientific evidence on which Kyoto is based, questions concerning probity in scientific process must be raised. Other ethical questions of relevance to Kyoto are: does Kyoto promote inter-generational equity in terms of the use of resources, has Kyoto fostered an overly pessimistic view of the World's resources and their use, will Kyoto lead to the stunting of economic development, and lastly will the 'Kyoto financial mechanisms' foster criminality and corruption in the developing world.
1. 0 INTRODUCTION
The adoption of the Kyoto Protocol raises numerous ethical questions. The first question concerns the veracity of the linkage between possible global warming and anthropogenically generated gases. Other ethical questions concern the application of the Protocol and its consequences to society.
Anthropogenically induced global warming is the foundation of the Kyoto Protocol. It is however a hypothesis that is based on scientific conjecture. The science behind Kyoto is questionable because global warming is not an undisputable fact, and the linking of anthropogenically generated carbon dioxide to this possible global warming is not supported by scientific fact, as pointed out by De Freitas. Questions concerning scientific probity and process should be put to those vehemently supporting Kyoto on the basis of the available evidence for the hypothesis.
The application of the Kyoto Protocol also raises other serious ethical questions. Through its 'mechanisms' Kyoto is creating significant opportunities for criminality and corruption. Those mechanisms include financial instruments that allow for carbon trading and trading in renewable energy. These instruments provide opportunities for the unscrupulous to profit from others' good intentions. As Evans pointed out, ENRON was one organisation that was eagerly looking forward to participating in the largess of Kyoto.
The attraction of Kyoto to many developing nations is that they can participate in Kyoto by participating in Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI) and Emission Trading (ET) and probably growing carbon sinks (forests) post 2003 (CDM Conference, Manila). JI will facilitate 'capacity building and technology transfer' for countries with transitional economies such as those of Eastern Europe, and CDM will do likewise for developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America (UNFCCC ). Inferred in the first two mechanisms is that there will be a transfer of resources (funds) from developed nations to the developing. (The funds will nominally be for 'capacity building' and 'technology transfer', these being descriptor euphemisms for the projects sponsored by international development organisations.)
The possibility of stunting human development, by the adoption of Kyoto, is another factor that should be considered in examining the broad connotations of acceding to Kyoto. By enforcing the stagnation or even reduction in energy supply, many energy dependant economies will be harmed. The level of damage will not be universal, but will be most obvious in developed economies such as Australia, Canada and the United States. In Europe, with its very mature energy supply systems, (including nuclear) and with an economy that is becoming less energy demanding, the economic harm will be less obvious. The ethical point here being the right of one group of nations to interfere with the economic well-being of another group.
In the developing world, the lack of growth in the developed economies will cause the reduction in demand for its raw materials and exported labour. For some peoples in the developing world the slow-down in their and in the developed economies will mean the loss of opportunities for poverty alleviation. Again the ethical question here is, do those who believe that economic development should be curtailed for their environmental hypothesis have the right to determine the economic viability of others?
Another question of ethics concerns inter-generational equity in terms of the use of resources and the condition of earth after the expiry of present generations who have had access to resources, and in some cases have wasted resources. The obvious and disturbing comparison of the extravagances of over abundance of resources by some nations and groups, as against the paucity of others, may have led people to accept a level of guilt when it comes to resources used by these seemingly well-off sections of society.
Kyoto is a prescription for Australia and the United States to reduce their economic abilities to foster economic growth and trade in the developing World. The invitation (demand) for Australia and the United States to adopt Kyoto by Europe and Japan is also in essence a call for Australia and the United States to reduce living standards, whilst Europe and Japan continue to prosper, in part by placing their energy intensive industries off-shore. Is this the ethics of, do as I say, and not do as I do?
2.0 ETHICS AND SCIENTIFIC FACT, OR UNCERTAINTY
For many in the scientific community, adherence to Kyoto may be through the mistaken belief in what is put forward as being 'good science'. For some it will be a way of appeasing a guilty conscience caused by the realisation of the great inequalities that are so apparent in the use of finite resources. For others it is simply being the 'flavour of the decade' and joining 'the Greenhouse club'. For the well meaning it will be a belief that we must be 'doing something' to prevent the continual degradation of the earth.
Boehmer-Christiansen and Kellow  discuss the corrupting nature of 'consensus science', with consensus science being the reaching of a conclusion before fundamental research questions have been satisfactorily answered. This being a epistemology employed by those scientists who are supporting the Kyoto Protocol through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As Boehmer-Christiansen and Kellow point out, 'Once agreement has been reached (on a Multilateral Environmental Agreement) and policy commitments have been made, there is a need for science to support it, and this can add to the factors which might have a corrupting influence on science, as the scientific consensus can become a tool for securing additional research funding for scientists'. The corruption of science for supporting a policy position and/or obtaining on-going financial support are major ethical questions.
For some members of the general community Kyoto represents a response to a real threat based on science. The threat has been discussed in many public forums by 'learned scientists' who often have been allowed to express views without challenge. The demand from the community for action on the Greenhouse Threat is based on the view that global warming is a fact and that the causes of global warming are anthropogenic. The community is thus being confused by the mistaken belief that scientific hypothesis (speculation) is equivalent to scientific fact. In fact Global Warming is not scientific fact and nor are the causes of global temperature variation attributable to anthropogenic origin.
De Freitas offers the following as a considered response the community concern over the Greenhouse Threat, 'A balanced summary would include the following statement. Although the future state of (the) global climate is uncertain, there is no reason to believe that catastrophic change is underway. The Earth's surface has warmed slightly, but floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes have not changed for the worse. The atmosphere may warm because of human activity, but if it does, the expected change is unlikely to be much more than 1 °C, and probably less, in the next 100 years'.
In the above statement, De Freitas addresses the public concern over the apparent increase in cataclysmic weather events being the result of man induced Global Warming. In a second paper, De Freitas states that, 'there is little scientific evidence to suggest any change will result in an increased risk of natural disasters', from a risk management standpoint. In that paper De Freitas has touched on the concept that risk is a function of public outrage, as defined by Sandman. The community is conscious of what it believes is a great environmental hazard and is outraged that something is not being done to remove the hazard.
Global Warming is a relatively new theory. Kenny mentions that as late as the 1970s the dominant speculation was that the world was going into another ice age. With the realisation that carbon dioxide was a 'greenhouse' gas, and the evidence that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have been rising for a century, Houghton came up with the afterthought that we might be going into a man induced global warming nightmare. The lack of credibility for Kyoto comes about from the lack of scientific fact supporting the hypothesis. The two significant facts that support the hypothesis are: the measured increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide in the last 100 years and that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Facts that tend towards not supporting the hypothesis are:
1. the earth has been coming out of a mini-ice age, since circa 1400 AD, and there is the possibility that the earth is still warming as suggested by Kenny,
2. Arnold stated that some indicators show warming and some cooling. De Freitas suggests that there is no significant trend either way, and
3. models of Greenhouse Warming based on CO2 in the atmosphere show a relatively rapid warming should be happening, but according to available evidence provided by Spenser and Arnold, and interpreted by De Freitas, is not.
An alternate hypothesis:- Changes in the water vapour cycle are countering the effect of increasing CO2 and this is the reason that the climate models do not show agreement with the physical situation. This is a hypothesis based on the basic science of the interaction of water, CO2 and energy.
The problem for many people who are pushing for ratification of Kyoto is the confusion between fact, hypothesis and speculation. The supporters of the Kyoto Protocol are telling the community that global warming is a fact and that carbon dioxide that is (has been) produced by fossil fuel combustion is the cause. The community, outraged by this apparent fact, is asking for remedial action and in effect is asking for the inappropriate application of the Precautionary Principle.
2.1 The Precautionary Principle applied to the Greenhouse Speculation.
Since we do not have strong evidence of global warming or an established relationship between the measured increase in carbon dioxide and global temperature, what we do have is the mischievous application of the Precautionary Principle. The Precautionary Principle as defined by Deville and Harding  is: 'Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation'. Does this mean, 'If unsure, turn off the lights'?
Since the acceleration of the Greenhouse effect is not proven, and in fact there is some indication that we are moving towards an ice age, as suggested by Joughin & Tulaczyk , Doran  and Spencer , great caution
in our response to calls for changes in our energy usage should be exercised. Given the above, and with the additional costs associated with renewable energy as delineated by McLennan Magasanik Associates , it is irresponsible for Australia (or any other nation) to move beyond the 2% Renewable Energy target as set for 2010 and under the Precautionary Principle, as applied to our greater existence, should not be attempted.
There is a strong case for not producing more carbon dioxide than is necessary from the combustion of fossil fuels. This case is simply that wasting energy is foolish and should be avoided. Since energy is a major community and business cost, its conservation through Demand Side Management makes good business sense, and should be further encouraged. However there is no case for reducing carbon dioxide production (energy supply) such that production of useful goods and services is limited and the standard of living is reduced.
3.0 HONESTY AND PROBITY
Financial instruments that are being created to meet Kyoto requirements are supposed to facilitate participation in the implementation of Kyoto by developing nations and their small renewable energy producers. Other interested parties in the creation of those instruments will include groups who consider that they have relevant expertise for reducing perceived impact of fossil fuel use on the environment. The creation of such instruments will however offer great opportunities for rogues to participate in energy supply.
The stated aim of those supporting the creation of these instruments is to cap and eventually lower the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They aim to reduce the increase in CO2 to levels that existed before the second period of Western intensive industrialisation, or failing that hold them at the levels of the 1990's, the period of the ending of the Cold War. Carbon dioxide abatement is being proposed by the following actions:
· the introduction and use of CO2 neutral renewable energy systems,
· the creation of CO2 sinks in regions of energy production and use, and
· linking the use of energy in the developed world with the creation of sinks and efficient energy management schemes in the developing world.
The linking of the use of energy in the developed World to the creation of carbon sinks in the developing World is where the greatest threat of gross dishonesty and corruption fostering exists. As Evans pointed out, ENRON was looking to make a fortune from trading carbon credits, and in ENRON's own words: 'ENRON will continue to help expand existing emissions markets, and we're introducing some exciting new trading programs as well, including a much anticipated greenhouse gas (GHG/CO2) trading program. Our complete commitment to this field guarantees that we will be the first to bring the precise answers you need to your environmental concerns.' ENRON had found the possibilities of emissions trading and by 2002 they had emerged as one of the World's great financial brigands.
For elements of the business community, as represented by Environment Business Australia (EBA), the support for Kyoto comes from concern that Australia will be excluded from commercial treaties and international contracts if it does not sign and ratify. EBA argues that ratification of the Kyoto Protocol 'is necessary to give the country access to a number of market mechanisms' such as the Cleaner Development Mechanism (CDM). It is obvious that since the CDM is a very part of Kyoto structure, Australia should not expect to be part of the mechanism if it does not accede to the Protocol. However being part of Kyoto and its Kyoto mechanisms would not provide Australia with major benefits since Australia will be only a minor player. Australia only having a minor role in CDM is assured by the relatively small contribution that it makes to World Greenhouse gas production from its own energy use and energy exports.
3.1 Renewable Energy Certificates and other financial instruments.
Financial instruments that allow for renewable energy trading have arrived. Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) - also known as Green Certificates, allow for traditional energy and power producers to purchase their CO2 neutral energy quotas from renewable energy suppliers. The concept involves letting each energy supplier concentrate on the form of energy production in which they are most competent. RECs will also be tradable instruments and as such will be subject to financial controls and audits. They will represent actual tradable blocks of energy that will be in all probability traded at a significant premium to the lowest priced electrical power; that being power derived from coal in Eastern Australia. They will be open to abuse in that suppliers of renewable energy will need to certify its availability in terms of quantity and time of supply. An energy policeman will be needed to certify that RECs do represent what they purport.
RECs will also be able to be traded in the market-place. As such they will become another toy for gamblers in the commodity markets. The very existence of the market could provide the opportunity for serious market manipulation as did occur in the silver market in 1979/80 (Silver Thursday - ANZ Financial Dictionary). The result of manipulation could be the disruption of supply, and the loss of confidence in renewable energy. RECs will enter the Australian market place in 2003, with their introduction being eagerly anticipated by some punters, who find LOTTO too slow and horse races too fast. Green Certificates, the international version of the Australian REC, will offer the same trading possibilities across international borders.
Carbon trading instruments are about to appear on the world scene. The UK is presently in the process of setting up a carbon trading market using Carbon Trading Certificates (CTCs) as described by Carrington. Like RECs they will be tradable financial instruments. Unlike RECs they will in many cases cross international boundaries, with for instance a Canadian re-afforestation group having instruments created on its tree plantings being traded to United States fossil fuel based utilities. Carbon trading will essentially involve the creation of carbon sinks. At present the only financially and technically proven man-made carbon sinks are forestation/re-afforestation schemes. (It is acknowledged that carbon sequestration in new forests can have many environmental benefits besides that of carbon removal from the atmosphere. These include erosion control, groundwater improvement, rural revival and the eventual provision of forest products.)
Carbon Trading Certificates (CTCs) will need to specify how the carbon is prevented from entering the atmosphere or is sequested from the atmosphere, the quantities involved (probably in multiples of 1000t CO2 (eq)) and the period over which the carbon will be under the provisions of the CTCs. Given the length of time over which a CTC will need to guarantee the sequestration of a given amount of carbon, the role of the energy policeman will need to extend over a long period. The temptation of turning a sequestration (conservation) forest into a sawlog forest would also be there as the constraints of the CTC drift into the past.
3.2 Developing Nation participation in the creation and use of tradable energy instruments.
On December 4, 2002, a conference, sponsored by the Dutch Government, was held in Manila, Philippines. The conference discussed the introduction of Clean Development Mechanisms into that country. The stated aim was the introduction of CDMs that will be the Dutch Government's contribution to help mitigate climate change. The scheme is for the Dutch Government to reduce the CO2 (eq) emissions by 200 Mt, with most reductions coming from 'the Netherlands itself; the remaining part should be achieved in other countries by the three Kyoto mechanisms: CDM, JI and ET'.
The Dutch interest in the Philippines being the setting up of a system to create CDMs and thence produce Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) that will be purchased by the Dutch to complete their CO2-eq emission reduction targets. The means of doing this is for the Dutch Government to produce MoUs with host governments. Columbia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama and Uruguay presently being signed on, and Indonesia and the Philippines being under consideration. The structure being proposed for or by the Filipinos is that they create a new quango (with Dutch Government assistance) to seek suitable projects for registration as CDMs and thence for the creation of CERs.
(Many of Filipinos who attended the Manila Conference relished the idea of having a new quango. Suggestions that existing quangos concerned with energy management and development be redirected to manage the CDMs were scoffed at, whilst questions of how probity in such a body could be maintained were ignored. The idea of a new cash flow from the Netherlands to a few of the local Kyoto in-crowd must have seemed very inviting to some of the participants.)
CERs like RECs will require auditing and in actual situations performance surveillance. The necessity for performance surveillance will require international carbon and energy policemen for, verification and reporting, compliance and abuse monitoring, and finally CER annulment in cases of gross abuse. Of the five host nations mentioned above, only Costa Rica has a reasonable score (4.5 out of a possible ten) on the Corruption Perceptions Index-2002. The Philippines and Indonesia have low ratings on the index, 2.6 and 1.9 respectively. (Australia, by comparison, has a score of 8.6); therefore will honest auditing be possible in those host countries?
4.0 INTER-GENERATIONAL EQUITY
A question of ethics is:- Can Kyoto improve intergenerational equity? If yes, then perhaps ratifying Kyoto should be seriously considered even if the science is doubtful, but if no, then what are the more appropriate ways of promoting intergenerational equity in terms of energy availability and use.
One answer is, that the community can play a role in promoting inter-generational equity without investing in Kyoto. By improving the production efficiency and resource use, future generations will be assured of at least being able to attain the benefits available to these generations. On the contrary, if the community takes an extremist view of what are realistic resources and accedes to unrealistic restrictions on the use of resources, in the cause of misdirected environmental concerns, then the community itself will be responsible for the loss of opportunity for future generations.
An understanding of the extent and economics of energy resources is a significant area where the community needs to have an informed knowledge of energy demand, resources and conversion technologies that will provide energy in the future. Such an understanding will clearly answer the above question in the negative.
5.0 SHARING THE WEALTH
The question of whether Kyoto can help in re-apportioning the wealth of the World needs to be addressed. The proposition that Kyoto will help wealth re-distribution was eagerly taken up at the Philippine CDM conference. That conference however did not seriously address how the benefits would flow onto the small producers of green energy or those with a local forest sequestration project. The better sharing of the World's wealth is a major ethical issue, but the goal for the developing World should be to find more equitable ways of finding resource equity amongst its own people.
If Kyoto causes economic growth to recede at a rate faster than population growth then the total World pie for sharing must become smaller. From the viewpoint of the poor in developing nations that smaller pie will mean fewer chances to escape the poverty trap. For the financially endowed it will mean a more concentrated effort to retain and even increase wealth.
In practical terms, the provision of adequate energy allows populations to move from being subsistent to having a secure surplus. Energy for the developing World will allow the populations of major urban and regional centers to live with basic human dignity. Energy for the developed World will maintain the demand for developing World manufactured goods, resources and labour. That demand will see the flow of capital from the rich to the poor nations in a more equitable way than the artificial mechanisms of Kyoto.
That the Kyoto Protocol is based on doubtful science is undisputable given the lack of reliable evidence of Global Warming and a cause-effect relationship between anthropogenically generated greenhouse gases and global temperature variations. Public outrage has been created by members of the scientific community erroneously and repeatedly stating that there is a proven environmental hazard that has been created by emissions from fossil fuel use. That outrage has caused governments, corporations and individuals to seek remedies to remove or mitigate that unproven environmental hazard.
The continued and probable increased use of fossil fuels into the distant future will certainly test the Greenhouse Hypothesis (Speculation). Despite the lack of scientific evidence to support Kyoto, many members of the scientific and general community are asking for the immediate application of the Precautionary Principle to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions. The reductions in emissions that are being demanded will however mean significant disruptions to the economies of developed and developing nations.
For some members of scientific community Kyoto has been a bonanza, they have joined the Kyoto gravy-train. For rogues and opportunists in the business community, Kyoto offers another opportunity for endless largesse. For those with a pessimistic view of the World's resources and their use, Kyoto offers a reason to put the break on the use of resources. For the well intentioned who consider that the World has been abused too much, it is the chance to get a global commitment to find effective remedial actions for reducing environmental hazards (damage).
For the Australian and US business communities, their fear of exclusion from trade treaties that are linked to Kyoto may be real, but the threat is probably not. Australia and the US as a politically stable suppliers of raw materials, manufactures, and services will not be excluded from major markets because of not adhering to an unproven theory.
Given the general poor state of governance in the developing World (including Eastern Europe) Kyoto will essentially be providing their leaders with the opportunity to partake of the Kyoto largess by corrupting the CDM and JI processes, as well as siphoning off funds from established re-afforestation projects, and carbon sink maintenance and verification programmes - ET processes. To prevent dishonesty in such situations, strong corruption control measures will need to be employed that must be trans-national in nature. Three ethical questions are involved here. These being: the presentation of additional opportunities for corruption to developing World officials and functionaries, the challenges to national sovereignty that trans-national corruption control will necessarily entail, and the waste of more development resources, where corruption control fails.
Ethics can and should be applied to science, business, and society. However the introduction of the Kyoto Protocol has done and will do little for the ethics of science, business or society. For all the well meaning talk and actions taken in the name of the Kyoto Protocol, there is little probability that Kyoto will prevent climate change, or provide the economic stimulus for growth in developing nations.
Possible useful and positive spin-offs of Kyoto are that it may focus attention on the environmental and societal questions of, land use, population pressure and the equitable sharing of resources. It may also foster re-afforestation of much of the World; this being a necessity that must happen. If Kyoto can stimulate the greening of those parts of the Globe denuded through human activity then there may be some small pay-back for all the 'hoop-la' of Kyoto and its supporters, but is the price of this small positive aspect worth the cost.
The clarification of temperature measurements and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, as well as the methodologies by which those measurements and calculations are made, will help the understanding of the World climate. Such an understanding will eventually prove or disprove the Kyoto Hypothesis, but more importantly it will provide humans with sound scientific information by which to plan our future development in an ethical and effective way.
May we have ethics in all human activities but without going broke in the quest to resolve our own or others' guilty consciences.
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2. Evans R. ENRON and the Politics of Influence, The Australian, 25 January, 2002
3. CDM - Manila (2002). Introductory Statement by The Netherlands Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment. Clean Development Mechanisms, Conference, New World Renaissance Hotel, Manila, December 4.
4. UNFCCC, (2003). FINANCIAL MECHAMISN(S)
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change http://unfccc.int/issues/financemech.html
5. Boehmer-Christiansen S. and Kellow A, International Environmental Policy: Interests and the Failure of the Kyoto Process, Edward Elgar Publishing, November 2002, p4.
6. De Freitas C. R.. Perceived change in risk of natural disasters caused by global warming. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, Vol. 17 No. 3, 2002, pp 34-38.
7. Sandman P. Responding to Community Outrage. The American Industrial Hygiene Association. Fairfax, Va. 1993.
8. Kenny A. Prepare for the big chill, The Spectator, 22nd June 2002.
9. Houghton J. Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, Cambridge University Press, 2nd Edition, 1997
10. Arnold J. (2002) NASA Accurate "Thermometers" in Space, and Understanding the Global Water Cycle. www.ghcc.msfc.nasa.gov/MSU/
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13. Joughin I. & Tulaczyk S. "Positive mass balance of the Ross Ice Streams" Science, Vol 295, Jan. 2002, Issue 5554, pp 476-480.
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15. Spenser R. (1997) Statement Concerning the Role of Water Vapour Feedback in Global Warming, Presented to the House Science Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment
16. McLennan Magasanik Associates Pty. Ltd. (2000)
Projections of Price of Renewable Energy Certificates to Meet the 2% Renewable Energy Target. Final report to the Australian Greenhouse Office.
17. ENRON (2001) Maximizing Opportunities in Emissions Trading. Emission Services.
18. EBA - (2002). The business case for the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Environment Business Australia, A discussion paper. http://www.emiaa.org.au/EBA%20Kyoto%20Protocol%20paper%2025.10.25.pdf
19. RECS (2001) Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/
20. ANZ Financial Dictionary. Silver Thursday. http://www.anz.com/edna/dictionary
21. Carrington M. (2001) Preparing for the UK emissions trading scheme. Global Sustainable Solutions, Price/Waterhouse/Coopers http://www.chpa.co.uk/Mcarr
22. Corruption Perceptions (2002) CP Index - 2002. Published by Goettingen University and Transparency International. http://www.gwdg.de/~uw
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Kyoto Protocol (Kyoto): The text of the Protocol to the UNFCCC was adopted at the third session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997.
CDM - Clean Development Mechanisms, a Kyoto financial mechanism
CTCs - Carbon Trading Certificates
EBA - Environment Business Australia, an Australian environmental business lobby group
ENRON -- The Enron Corporation, power traders
eq -- Equivalent
ET -- Emission Trading, a Kyoto financial mechanism
GHG - Greenhouse Gas (principally water vapour, CO2, and N20)
JI - Joint Implementation, a Kyoto financial mechanism
RECs - Renewable Energy Certificates
UNFCCC - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
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Author: Michael C Clarke
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