Barcelona, 21st November 2011. A new report released today by GAIA – Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, reveals serious flaws in CDM-backed Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) projects. Most of these projects support incineration technology to burn waste and landfill gas systems (LFG) to bury waste, which ultimately increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and displace informal workers communities’ livelihoods, amongst other problems. By buying CDM carbon credits from these projects, the EU is contradicting its own policies on waste management, which prioritize recycling, pollution controls and waste diversion from landfills. The report calls for a EU ban on CDM carbon credits in the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).
The report released today “The European Union’s double standards on waste and climate policy” shows severe contradictions between the European Union (EU) climate and waste policies that needs to be recognized and eliminated without delay. On the one hand, the EU policies on municipal solid waste (MSW) management prioritize waste reduction, reutilisation, and recycling. Furthermore, MSW management in Europe is successfully taking steps towards more organic waste diversion from landfills and increasing recycling rates, in the spirit of increasing the efficient use of natural resources.
On the other hand, EU climate policies are built around the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) to comply with its emission reductions targets. This scheme allows member states to buy carbon credits, known as Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), generated by projects developed under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) — including landfill gas systems (LFG) and waste incinerators, the very disposal methods at the bottom of the Waste Hierarchy.
The report shows that the CDM creates a perverse incentive to landfill as much waste as possible, in contradiction to the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC). Since the CDM promotes landfill gas capture on a profit-basis, i.e., the more gas one captures, the more profitable the project will be, landfilling of MSW—especially organics—is ultimately encouraged in this counterproductive climate mitigation strategy. In fact, one third of CDM-backed LFG systems are pure waste disposal without resource or energy recovery – those LFG projects that only flare.
“At least 64% of CDM-backed LFG projects scrutinised by GAIA plan to stay open and receiving MSW during their crediting period”, said Mariel Vilella, GAIA’s Climate Policy campaigner. “In this way, the waste keeps being landfilled and it produces the methane emissions that later will be captured, flared, and finally certified as emission reductions by the CDM. Consequently, emissions will actually increase, at the same time as more carbon credits are earned for supposed reductions”, Vilella added.
In its turn, CDM support for incineration provides an incentive to burn recyclable and compostable materials. “This contradicts the waste hierarchy established by the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC and the EU Resource Efficiency Roadmap, which gives priority to waste prevention and reuse of materials before energy recovery or incineration”, said Joan-Marc Simon, GAIA’s Europe Coordinator.
“By buying carbon credits from CDM-backed MSW projects, the EU is actually fostering the generation of toxic emissions, jeopardising current practices of recycling and composting, and filling up the EU ETS with carbon credits that are in reality “non-additional”, said Vilella. “Ultimately, the EU is supporting waste management projects in developing countries that would be illegal on European soil”, concluded Simon.
The continued purchase of CDM carbon credits into the EU creates a double standard on waste and climate policies that needs to be addressed without delay, by excluding such carbon credits from the EU ETS.
GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 650 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without waste incineration or landfill.