CDM – Transparency Matters

How does coal power plants help in reducing emission?

“Offsets are an imaginary commodity created by deducting what you hope happens from what you guess would have happened.” Dan Welch, the Guardian

One of the most important flexible mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol is the Clean Development Mechanism which aims at reducing carbon emissions that are traded as commodities. The Clean Development Mechanism was introduced to keep United States into the talks and as a mechanism for easy transition to a low carbon economy. But, with no emission cuts in sight since the first CDM was registered in 1994, there is a cause of worry.

As we look towards a post 2012 climate regime, we need to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them but instead make amends, in the text and on ground. With this interest I attended the Informal Consultation on issues relating to the clean development mechanism at the Candelabra. As I took my seat at the back of the meeting, I was handed out the CMP 7 agenda item 7 draft texts. The draft text consisted of VI agendas and knowing how the climate talks went, there would be a debate on language. And a debate there was until we got to the part on Governance. As brilliant a policy might be a pre-requisite but governance is a key to any form of tangible change. The bottleneck started at the paragraph 14 and continued to 15 and 16 that

Requests the Executive Board to continue its work to ensure that the regulation of the clean development mechanism is clear and simple, sets clear timelines, safeguards environmental integrity and sustainable development and is provided in a consolidated and consistent manner; “, “Improve the consistency, efficiency and transparency in its decision making”, “publish technical reports that it uses in its decision making process”.

India started off by saying that it did not know and needed explanation on environmental integrity. It underlined the lack of methodology to qualify what environmental integrity meant. An example of how India wants to not let its critics talk. The chair suggested the bracket (which means it would be discussed in a closed meeting session later) be placed on environmental integrity. After some support and interventions, the co-chair decided to delete the paragraph but not without defense from Japan and Norway. The Executive Board has already been requested by many civil society organizations to emphasis on Environmental integrity of projects like the Coal power plants, HFC and N2O for example, the CDM Methodology Panel released its analysis of the coal crediting methodology and found that the methodology overestimates greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants in the CDM pipeline by 51 to 62%.

Since the beginning of the talks, countries have promoted the need for transparency, accountability and integrity in the mechanisms under the framework. But, all seems lost when countries are negotiating in closed groups and push for their personal interest. As much as a comprehensive deal is important, the CDM in its current form forms a very important mechanism of the Kyoto and a weak, non-transparent mechanism will lead to a weak legal framework, as well. With civil societies trying to take over the corporate supremacy, it’s at the nascent stage that we should make these corporate not let their greed be rewarded under the excuse of trading carbon. Public participation and scrutiny is paramount. This would greatly improve project success and would avoid negative publicity that often stalls the projects. The developing nations are usually plagued with corruption, non-transparency and it is extremely important to set the tone right in the international negotiations and move this responsibility away from the respective nations.  Most importantly, it is important in delivering what it had set out to achieve- Sustainability.