Seal the Loopholes in the Carbon Market

Posted on 08 December 2011 by admin

Loopholes in the CDM must be sealed to allow participation of African countries. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu

DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 8 (IPS) As the United Nations climate change negotiations comes to a close, environmental experts agree that carbon markets could provide the funds for climate change adaptation and mitigation projects, but only if existing loopholes are sealed to allow participation of African countries.

“When the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) was introduced under the Kyoto Protocol, we all knew that it was a fantastic idea because it was, and still is, the only mechanism that enables developing countries to take action against global warming,” said Mithika Mwenda, a climate change expert and the Coordinator for the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance. The CDM allows emission reduction projects in developing countries to earn certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one ton of CO2. These can be traded.

Currently, there are more than 3,600 registered CDM projects in 72 developing countries worldwide, with about three percent of them in Africa.

However, according to Mwenda, the architectural designs for implementing projects such as the CDM is far beyond the reach to most African organisations, institutions and communities because of the investment cost and the conditions attached.

“It has worked well in other countries like China, but less can be achieved from the African continent, which unfortunately is bearing the biggest burden of climate change,” he told IPS.

Mwenda cautions that there is a danger that the developed world will use carbon credit markets as an excuse to pollute more.

“In many cases under the markets’ architecture, the developed countries are allowed to pollute, and then buy credits from developing countries that sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Yet, what we need first is a commitment to reduce carbon from the atmosphere and to then use the markets as a supplement,” he said.

Lessons about carbon funding projects in Africa can be drawn from the Green Belt Movement, a non-governmental organisation implementing a CDM project in Kenya.

“It is clear that it requires massive investment to kick-start and sustain a CDM project,” Benjamin Kimani Kiuru, the senior project officer in charge of Climate Change and Carbon Projects at the Green Belt Movement, told IPS.

He said there were limiting conditions in the Kyoto Protocol that made it difficult for Africa to benefit from the CDM.

“One of the most limiting conditions as stipulated under the Kyoto Protocol is that the site where trees are to be planted must have been deforested before 1990. Yet given the fact that most forests in Africa have been intact until after the 1990s when people started destroying them, it makes it very difficult for investors to locate appropriate sites suitable for such projects,” said Kiuru.

His sentiments were echoed by David Lesolle, a climate change expert at the University of Botswana’s Department of Environmental Science.

“The way CDM was structured is that you need it only if you are ‘dirty’ (where countries have destroyed their carbon sinks). Yet Africa is not dirty,” he told IPS at the 17th Conference of Parties.

But he quickly pointed out there is need to continue implementing the CDM because it still plays a role in climate change mitigation.

Also, Africa does not have experts to develop CDM project designs.

“We have to rely on experts from the developed world, which is an extremely expensive affair,” Kiuru said.

Lack of upfront funding from the World Bank for CDM projects was listed as another limiting factor.

So far, the Green Belt Movement has planted 1.5 million trees on 1,500 hectares in Kenya under the CDM, but the first disbursement of money from the World Bank is expected to come through only next year when the project is supposed to be assessed.

“It is important to note that two percent of money generated under the CDM projects worldwide is supposed to be used for adaptation. And today, the Climate Adaptation Fund has over 160 million dollars, which countries and organisations are supposed to apply for – but they haven’t,” said Lesolle.

However, Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change believes the CDM has been successful.

“CDM is a success story of the Kyoto Protocol. It has incentivised investment in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to sustainable development in some 72 countries.

“The object of the dialogue is to reflect on the CDM experience – both the good and the bad – and build on this important mechanism for the future,” Figueres told the media during launch of a high-level policy dialogue on the CDM. (END)

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