The HFC-23 scam shows how well-meant politics like the UN/Europe CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) can be hijacked by intelligent mafiosi of the industrial complex.
The story is not quite new, but rekindled fresh interest after Cancun.
The production of the refrigerant chlorodifluoromethane HCFC-22 (also known as R22 or freon 22) has a usually unwanted byproduct, the HFC-23. whose quantity is about 2.3% of that of the HCFC-22. As all fluorocarbons this gas has a very high globalwarming potential, about 12000 to 15000 according to different sources. That is it 15000 times more potent than our humble CO2. As the UN/EU want to save the planet, they pay producers (world-wide there are 19, most in China and India) of this gas to destroy it, which seems relatively easy (starting removal by molecular sieves is one option). The producers received valuable CER certificates that they may sell to other (European) countries who must offset their CO2 emissions (Luxembourg for instance bought such carbon certificates for a high price from Estland).
This has created an incentive to produce more HCFC-22 (which should be phased out also by developing countries in the near future) as the byproduct is so valuable. Read a short history from Sourcewatch on CDM and HFC-23 here. Clare Perry from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) writes at the EurActiv website: “The CDM has made destruction of HFC-23 so valuable that, at least for some manufacturers, it has become the product, not the by-product”.
As a consequence, the UN decided to not give carbon credits (UN Certified Emission Reduction credits, known as CERs) any more to HCFC-22 producers, mostly found in China and India as said above. This made quite a splash, with Chinese producers blackmailing the EU and UN with venting all their HFC-23 stocks to the atmosphere! The UN backed down, and issued 2 million credits worth about 30 million US$ to the Juhua company in Hangzhou.
Mundus vult decipi!