To cut pollution, Dutch pay a dump in Brazil

To cut pollution, Dutch pay a dump in Brazil
Published: 15 August 2005

Brazilian workers and the Dutch government have been brought together in an unusual partnership by the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty under which most industrialized countries, other than the US, have pledged to reduce their global-warming emissions by 2012.

The workers are building a modern landfill, a rarity in the developing world. The landfill includes a system to capture methane from the city’s decomposing rubbish before it wafts up into the atmosphere. Methane is a particularly potent global-warming gas; by burning it to generate electricity and thus converting it into a less-potent gas, carbon dioxide, the landfill will significantly reduce its output of global-warming pollution.

That makes this garbage pile a useful asset in a new international market: the buying and selling of greenhouse-gas emission "credits." Each credit that a buyer in the industrialized world purchases from a seller in a developing country reduces the buyer’s obligation to clean up its act back home. In theory, the system will reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases by sending money from industrialized nations to developing ones to tackle projects that otherwise wouldn’t have gotten off the ground.  "Just by flaring methane," explains Pedro Moura Costa, a 41-year-old Brazilian-born scientist who founded EcoSecurities Ltd, the company behind the gas-recovery operation, "you’re creating a lot of credits."

 Through the World Bank, which was promoting the nascent emission-credit market as a way to boost foreign investment in developing countries, EcoSecurities struck a purchase agreement with the Dutch government. To pass muster with Kyoto’s enforcers, a group of bureaucrats who meet in Bonn, Germany, the landfill’s sponsors had to submit a detailed estimate of how many credits the landfill would generate. Taking into account Brazil’s hot, humid weather – great for decaying trash – and how much gas would be likely to escape without being captured, the target came in at 14 million CO2-equivalent tons, or 14 million Kyoto credits.

However the landfill isn’t yet generating any electricity. More than two years after it opened, its methane still is being piped to a metal building where it’s burned for heat to treat the landfill’s liquid runoff. Paulista failed to qualify for renewable-energy contracts from the Brazilian government that would have helped cover the cost of machinery to turn the methane into electricity. Now it’s trying to arrange power-purchase deals with private companies, Ms. Felipetto says.

The Kyoto treaty presents the Netherlands with "a very tough target," says Mr. Blanson Henkemans, the Dutch global-warming official. Getting cheap emission credits from the developing world, he says, has proved "more difficult than we expected."  (Abstracted from New York Times report)