A Non-Governmental Organisation in the Horn of Africa recently put forward a new proposal to account for emissions reductions from international shipping. The NGO, operating under the working title “Government of Somalia”, has devised a methodology for making robust and repeatable reductions in emissions from long-distance sea freight. The programme has been underway since early 2008 and has now applied for UN approval to become a recognised means of generating international carbon credits.
At the heart of the Somali proposal is engagement with a hitherto marginalised aspect of its society now known across the region as “ecopirates”. These unsuspecting climate heroes are being funded by the organisation to encourage regular emissions cuts in passing international shipping. The means of encouragement employed has not previously been clear until a spokesman was recently very candid when he said, “We hijack the boats and force them to drop anchor in secret Somali harbours. Then we imprison them there and they can thank us for having no more journey emissions. This is what we call carbon capture and stowage”.
The boldness of the approach has been attracting intense coverage as the UN’s annual climate talk shop gets underway in Poznan, Poland. Although many observers have moral objections to the scheme, supporters are quick to point out the attributes that make it a prime candidate for inclusion within the Clean Development Mechanism. The method delivers real measurable emissions reductions from a clearly identified business-as-usual baseline, it is based in a priority region that has not yet seen extensive CDM development and it offers widespread wealth improvement benefits to the largely maritime workforce that will be affected by the scheme.
One leading proponent said, “Some are branding our new ecopiracy as an illegal anomaly. This is nonsense. Our actions are simply accounting for the dangerous acts of fossil-burning climate criminals in developed nations. We need carbon credits to make it worth the ecopirates’ while”. He went on to explain that “modern ecopirates are no longer happy with treasure, hostages and ransom. Nowadays you won’t see a self-respecting pirate attempt a broadside without a decent shout of Certified Emissions Reductions thrown into the bargain”.
Although significant, these reduced shipping emissions are merely the tip of the iceberg for the region’s climate change plans. Currently being trialled, the second phase of the programme will involve monetising the avoided embodied emissions from captured goods on ships. The most attractive plan would be the immobilisation of oil-carrying supertankers originating in the Persian Gulf which would qualify for credits for the avoided combustion of their cargo. This in itself would have limited benefit because of the risk of impermanence issues. What if the tanker escapes and finally delivers its cargo? To solve this the oil must be taken permanently out of circulation. As burying loot in depleted oil and gas reservoirs is considered beyond the means and skill of most ecopirates, the most likely option is for an in-situ pre-combustion solution dubbed “carbon capture and scuttle” which would see traditional pirating skills leveraged to send millions of tonnes of carbon tumbling to the bottom of the ocean. The UN CDM Executive Board is considering this proposal and a decision is expected shortly as part of a wider ruling on the inclusion of CCS within the CDM system.