"The strategy of buying and selling 'carbon credits' can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors." -- The Pope's Encyclical Letter
For years, Food & Water Watch has criticized cap-and-trade and other market-based pollution control approaches as part of the problem, not the solution. It’s pay-to-pollute, and the Pope is absolutely right when he says it doesn’t allow for the change needed to remedy our climate crisis.
It’s a bold and honest statement from the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. Of course, he really couldn’t have it any other way, since the New Testament proclaims, “For we are each responsible for our own conduct,” (Galatians 6:5) and pollution trading schemes are designed for one purpose: to allow polluters, through credit purchases or offsets, to avoid accountability for their own conduct and clean up their own mess. It’s a way for corporations to dump responsibility onto the backs of others while poisoning the planet.
Whether pollution trading is geared towards carbon emissions in the air or, in the new market push, agricultural pollution in the water, the result is the same. It’s an avoidance technique that prolongs business as usual and delays serious action regulating polluting industries or, in the case of water pollution, undermines existing proven legislation like the Clean Water Act. Read our report about the problems with pollution trading.
In addition to his stance on pollution trading, the Pope also sharply criticized climate deniers and our ongoing dependence in dirty fossil fuels. “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels…needs to be progressively replaced without delay.” Unfortunately, delay is what we get as “Politics and business have been slow to react in a way commensurate with the urgency of the challenges facing our world.”
Whether it’s climate denial, addiction to fossil fuels or the introduction of false solution schemes like pollution trading, there’s also one more important thing that the Pope understands about the mechanism for change – it’s going to have to come from organizations around the world who remain true to the cause while pushing for political power and better policies:
"We cannot fail to praise the commitment of international agencies and civil society organizations which draw public attention to these issues and offer critical cooperation, employing legitimate means of pressure, to ensure that each government carries out its proper and inalienable responsibility to preserve its country’s environment and natural resources, without capitulating to spurious local or international interests."
Unfortunately, there are many in the current, mainstream environmental movement who have capitulated to spurious interests and embrace irresponsible trading and market approaches to our ongoing pollution problems. But they’re no solution at all. Let’s hope the Pope’s comments help sway the debate on pollution trading and move us all away from fossil fuels.