JUICE: Help Wanted – Carbon Market GoverNet

By Published On: January 28, 2011

There were no closed-circuit cameras. No fingerprints. No speeding getaway car. Last week, $9 million evaporated after the European Union’s carbon market was cyber hacked. The emission allowance heist should set off alarms here in California. Although we may like blaring sirens about as much as robbers like cops, the electronic theft should be a red alert, particularly to those who advocate that the free hand of the market and its carpal tunnel wrist will help solve California’s climate woes. Cyber thefts occurred in a handful of European Union member states over the last two months, the European Commission revealed Jan. 19. Hackers also breached the carbon market several times earlier in 2010 and the year before. The total amount of easily-traded, intangible allowances stolen was $39 million, according to news reports. The lightning fast scams occurred in emission spot markets in nations where e-security cops and protocol guardians are constrained by cash shortages. There goes California but for the grace of timing. The California Air Resources Board adopted its trading program Dec. 16. It hopes to have it operating by January 2012. Like the EU trading market, California also plans to issue carbon emission allowances to utilities and other stationary pollution sources for free. In addition, the Air Board hopes to expand the state market regionally and nationally. If our trading system is not adequately monitored and secured, we are wasting huge amounts of time and precious resources. We will fail to achieve the stated goals of a carbon market—to curb carbon emissions by allowing polluters and others to profit when their greenhouse gases fall below the emission ceiling regulators set. The cyberspace theft in Europe’s six-year-old carbon trading scheme was about as welcome as holes in parental controls promising to let mom and dad relax by blocking Bunkie’s access to X-rated online material. California needs a carbon “Net Nanny” that provides protection against carbon market hackers—both external and internal. We also need to know how much that governess will cost, the tab for keeping her up to date on security threats, and the price of a backup alarm system and enforcing market security protocols. Real and tangible emission reductions would be achieved more securely and at a lower cost by a carbon tax. It is measurable, as is the fossil fuel energy resource upon which it would be based. Traders need not apply because middle men and women would not be needed. Many Californians hate taxes but they will hate even more paying indirectly for a complex carbon trading system that not only eludes them but rips them off. Not only have black e-market thieves been able to steal emissions credits from the European system, but some black-humored pranksters have been able to hack a carbon trading system all too familiar to the one adopted here in California. California’s carbon trading market blueprint was almost four years in the making. The state seeks to cap about 80 percent of the greenhouse gases created while fueling California. The program allows carbon emissions trading among regulated industries and unregulated parties, like financial institutions, in an attempt to cut carbon emissions to 1990 levels. Initially the carbon allowances were to be auctioned, as urged by an economic advisory panel. After intense lobbying, the Air Board revised the plan to instead give away for free most of the allowances at the early stages of the program. It also agreed to let almost half the emission reductions be met with offsets from forest and far away programs touted as creating emission reductions. CARB and others should take a close look at the “Super Promo Climate on Sale” bogus homepage some eco-hackers used to replace the European Climate Exchange’s homepage last weekend following the electronic thefts. The faux home page noted that cap-and–trade includes granting to industries “plenty of free licenses to pollute,” ensuring the carbon cap is “susceptible to corporate lobbying” and allows “the cap to be raised by additional offset credits and other holes in the system.” It continues that the carbon market also “distracts attention” from the real systematic changes needed to tackle climate change. http://nassibou.atspace.org/tax. If a market is launched, Californians will pay for the scheme in more ways than one and most will not understand how it works, have little say in how it functions, or know who is trading what. Meanwhile, if a competent, reliable carbon governess isn’t on the scene, hackers could steal the electronic loot in the quiet of their living rooms. The only emission reductions would come by eliminating the need for the getaway car.

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