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Bond, Patrick (2012) COP17 coverage: South African business media blind faith in markets
 : 1-10.

One of the most important determinants of markets is the quality of information that participants get. The leading business newspaper on the African continent is Johannesburg’s Business Day, serving Africa’s largest financial marketplace (in Sandton, Johannesburg) and the continent’s largest emitters. (Indeed the world’s largest single-source CO2 emissions site is Sasol’s Secunda operation.) For that reason, it would be natural for the respected Business Day newspaper to pick up a seemingly-limitless supply of news – e.g. from Reuters’ service – about the world carbon markets, especially given the heavy reliance of Durban’s COP17 outcomes on healthy markets.

But while the markets are decidedly unhealthy, in the five weeks following the COP17, at least forty Reuters news stories about market imperfections (including fraud in France and Germany), massive oversupply and outright crashing prices were practically ignored by Business Day. The headines and URLs for those negative stories are supplied in the first BOX, while the second contains the only two stories in Business Day corresponding to this news flow (aside from a minor reference to carbon markets and African air transport). The first story in Business Day, by Sue Blaine on 15 December 2011, was decidedly positive about carbon markets and is reproduced in full, whereas the second – by two co-authors of this report – was included only after a half-dozen requests were made to Business Day editorial page directors, to address the newspaper’s intrinsic bias. As illustrated in the third BOX, the six months of reports by Business Day prior to the COP17 were also very upbeat about the prospects of South Africa (and Africa) benefitting from a renewed commitment to Kyoto. Contained in the fourth BOX are the only two forthrightly critical analyses about CDMs and the broad carbon trading strategy that we are aware of appearing in mainstream (Independent Newspaper group) periodicals around the time of the COP17, again by this report’s authors.

In December 2011, two of the main commentators Business Day relied upon for information about carbon markets were former leading officials from Pretoria’s Department of Environment: Crispian Olver and Joanne Yawitch. Both were responsible for leading South Africa towards endorsement of market-based strategies and promoting CDMs such as Bisasar Road, and both are lucratively employed in the private sector, suggesting once again that a ‘crony capitalist’ relationship between the SA state and business has become a significant problem.

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