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The Guardian: Eco Soundings

John Vidal
Wednesday December 12 2007 Fuelling dissent

Even as ministers knuckle down in Bali to cutting the world’s fossil fuels, a new coal age begins back home – on a hilltop on the edge of Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales. Western Europe’s largest open-cast pit is about to be dug to extract 11m tonnes of coal. It will not only devastate 1,000hectares (2,470 acres), and anger communities such as Dowlais and Mountain Hare, where some houses will be less than 40m from the site, but studies predict it will lead to health problems and more than 30m tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted. So you would think that the Welsh assembly would be worried about it. No, no, no. It is determined to go ahead with the Ffos-y-fran scheme and has done all it can to help the developers. Last week, as protesters chained themselves to heavy machinery to prevent work starting, Rhodri Morgan, Wales’s first minister, delivered the Sustainable Development Leadership lecture in Edinburgh, saying: “It’s easy to talk the talk, but the test is whether we can walk the walk. . . The national assembly is one of the few administrations anywhere in the world where there is a statutory obligation to promote [sustainable development].”

Trader places

Bali is heaving with lobby groups, but the likes of Greenpeace, WWF and the World Development Movement are small fry. The largest group there by some way is the International Emissions Trading Association. It has no fewer than 336 representatives at the talks, including lawyers, financiers, emissions traders, consultants, certifiers and people from 170 companies, including Shell. What does it do? Apart from organising expensive cocktail receptions, it is pushing as hard as it can the line that it is cheaper, easier and more efficient to pay for emissions reductions in developing countries, while developed countries continue to pollute. The fact that emissions trading is deeply implicated in corruption, and has come under fire for failing to deliver real cuts, is a mere detail.

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