This was in headlines earlier but the items are cycling so quickly that some people don’t get to see them before they’re gone. We’re working on setting up a separate page for items that have slipped off the front page. In the meantime, this one warrants flagging. Not because it’s news — it isn’t — but simply because of the jolt of schadenfreude it provides.

Corruption — in an environmental scheme? In the third world? Within an agency under UN supervision? Who knew?

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is supposed to offset greenhouse gases emitted in the developed world by selling carbon credits from elsewhere, has been contaminated by gross incompetence, rule-breaking and possible fraud by companies in the developing world, according to UN paperwork, an unpublished expert report and alarming feedback from projects on the ground.

One senior figure suggested there may be faults with up to 20% of the carbon credits – known as certified emissions reductions – already sold. Since these are used by European governments and corporations to justify increases in emissions, the effect is that in some cases malpractice at the CDM has added to the net amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere

One source who has been working closely with the CDM board had seen some companies filing reports with “all kinds of basic errors which make you wonder if they have any idea what they’re doing”. They included an entire report in a foreign language when basic rules require it to be in English; submitting a report containing remarks such as “we must check this before we submit the report”.

Other errors are said to be more serious, including conjuring up numbers when projects on the ground failed to provide them; giving a green light to commercial projects which make no contribution to reducing greenhouse gases; and approving existing projects which cannot claim to be part of the drive to cut emissions.

Most of the concern is around the crucial CDM test of “additionality” – proof that a project is delivering cuts in greenhouse gases that would not otherwise have happened. In an unpublished report, one of the CDM board’s expert advisers, Axel Michaelowa, examined all 52 Indian projects which had been registered up to May 2006 and found that a third of them failed this additionality test.

If you missed it in March, here’s the ultimate “additionality” clusterfark. Look for “TerraPass” and just keep scrolling.