For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Kate Fried (202) 683-2500

Cap-and-Trade for Water: A Bad Idea for People and the Planet

Statement from Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director, and Maude Barlow, Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the UN General Assembly

WASHINGTON - "Yesterday, the CEO of Climate Exchange PLC trotted out the incredibly bad idea to, essentially, apply the flawed model of carbon cap-and-trade markets to water. The head of the UK-based company that made millions of dollars last year from its business facilitating carbon trading wants to take this scheme that has failed to reduce emissions of climate changing carbon gas and apply it to water extraction rights from the Great Lakes, according to an interview titled, 'Water cap and trade,' posted yesterday on Global Dashboard: Notes from the Future.

"Trading the right to emit carbon in one location so that emissions will be reduced in another location has been tried in Europe and failed. Governments and industries there have found ways around the system in order to hand out emissions permits, according to the April 13, 2009 edition of U.S. News and World Report. It's left consumers paying more for energy - 25 percent more for electricity in Germany - while carbon emissions have increased. In short, it's meant money for the energy corporations and carbon traders, but nothing more than a lump of coal for consumers and the environment.

"Despite that, the head of Climate Exchange PLC supports the possibility of capping rights to extract water from the Great Lakes and then selling those rights to the highest bidder, be they in Asia, the Middle East or elsewhere in the United States.

"This amounts to taking water, which belongs to everyone and to no one, and trading it away. In short, it commodifies water.

"This notion of a sort of cap-and-trade system for water rights to decrease water use is even more far-fetched than buying and selling carbon emission permits to reduce pollution and slow down climate change. It's a form of bluewashing that industry has cooked up to look like environmental stewards. Nationally and internationally, all the businesses that use water, particularly giant food and beverage corporations, can never be water neutral because they can't use zero water. In other words, their voluminous water extraction in one place can't be offset somewhere else because other companies are using water in those other places.

"Research shows that withdrawing too much water from a single watershed can have myriad effects. According to a recent report by the U.S.-based Groundwater Protection Council, withdrawing too much ground water can dry up wells, springs and wetlands, and reduce stream flows and lake levels.

"Water is a human right, not a corporate commodity. The idea that it can or should be bought, sold or traded away to the highest bidder must be stopped."


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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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