Carbon Traders Feel Wind in Their Faces Biking to Expo

Biking to Expo, Past an Unfinished Nuclear Power Plant
Wunderland Kulkar is an amusement park constructed from a nuclear power plant that never went online. Photographer: Dirk Kruell/laif/Redux

By Catherine Airlie

The road from Rotterdam to Cologne is lined with ancient Roman forts, quaint Dutch villages and German industrial facilities. Three dozen bankers, traders, policy experts and I noted these and much else on a three-day, 360-kilometer (224-mile) cycling trip organized as a prelude to a major annual climate change finance event.

We biked more than 100 kilometers through the Netherlands on the first day, snaking along artificial levees built to keep out the North Sea and windmills built to pump water off land. Experts from around the world are converging in Cologne, Germany, this week for the Carbon Expo, a conference charged with finding ways to boost direct investment into greenhouse-gas emissions-cutting projects in a fractured global policy environment. Even as global climate policy has faltered, Australia, China, New Zealand, South Korea and California are among the latest group of governments that are, or shortly will be, road-testing markets for tradable CO2 pollution credits.

Riders representing 16 different nationalities joined the ride for various reasons. Some are bankers, traders and brokers, who help finance carbon-reduction projects, or find buyers, mostly in Europe, for the carbon-emission credits they generate. Some cyclists are developing methodologies to measure and verify carbon pollution reductions. Fernando Bucheli, an Ecuadorian diplomat, is working to build international support to avoid tapping the 846 million barrels of oil resting under the country's Yasuni National Park. The government estimates that the oil is worth about $7 billion. If left unburned, it would avoid more than 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. And if the forests were left intact that would save an additional 800 million tons of emissions. Yasuni boasts one of the world's richest biodiversity hotspots and is home to the remote Tagaeri and Taromenane tribes. Eneco NV, a Dutch utility, organized the ride.

Just over the German border, on day two, we passed Wunderland Kalkar, a would-be nuclear power station that was abandoned before its completion. In 1996 it was converted into a hotel and theme park, featuring water rides and roller coasters.

On the final day, we hit the Rhine River and peddled through Germany's industrial heart. Factories and power stations towered over us to one side as the river, the life blood of Europe's biggest emitter, flowed on the other. Our tires rolled through coal dust that litters the ground between barges and riverside power stations -- the same carbon dust these traders and bankers are trying to clean up through better-functioning markets.

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-0- May/31/2012 20:48 GMT
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