CMP Plenary Discussions on Clean Development Mechanism

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) all the rage in today’s CDM talks

By: Shannon Gibson

Researcher

PhD Candidate

University of Miami

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and equitable distribution of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects were the main topics of today’s two hour discussion on CDM in the second meeting of the CMP (Conference of Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol) at COP16/CMP6. (Plenary webcasts available here).

The CDM under the Kyoto Protocol (KP) is deemed a “Flexible Mechanism” in that it provides alternatives methods to domestic mitigation (i.e., states enacting domestic carbon taxes or legislating carbon caps for industries) for developed countries aiming to meet their KP emission reduction targets. Through the CDM, developed countries are allowed to purchase emission offset credits from carbon reduction projects conducted in the developing world.  Theoretically, the CDM is to provide mutual benefits to developed and developing countries – developed countries receive a more politically attractive method for reducing emissions (i.e., by doing so where labor and services are cheaper and in a way that doesn’t require action from their own industries) and developing countries receive financial cash flows, infrastructure investment and a degree of technology transfer.

In today’s plenary discussion, the majority of interventions, from both developing and developed countries, showed strong support for the continuation and extension of CDM projects in the post-2012 era.  One proposal, supported by Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Qatar, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, Granada and others, is the inclusion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as an accepted CDM project (it is not currently allowed under the KP).

CCS (also commonly referred to as “Clean Coal”) is the process of separating CO2 from industrial and energy-related sources and transporting it for storage in geological formations (ex., depleted oil reservoirs), the ocean, in mineral carbonates or for use in other industrial processes.  While CCS could provide a cost effective manner for mitigating or sinking carbon emissions, concerns include human and ecosystem concerns related to the possibility of future leakage of CO2 from storage facilities and other gaps in scientific knowledge concerning the potential negative externalities of CCS (For review of CCS and relevant issues, see the IPCC’s Special Report on CCS and Greenpeace’s The Case Against Coal).

Also, in todays plenary there were multiple calls, for example by Niue, Senegal, Jordan, and others, for fair and equitable distribution of CDM projects.  While the CDM was designed to benefit all countries simultaneously, many argue that only a select group of developing countries are consistently recruited by investors and approved for CDM projects. For example according to the UNFCCC, as of 2006 more than half of CDM projects were conducted in Asia and the South Pacific (over 75% of these were in India and China), 30% in Central and Latin America (with half of these projects in Brazil), and only 7% in Africa.

Today’s plenary clearly indicated support for the extension of current CDM projects and expansion into new projects, such as CCS, by member parties. However a rousing dissenting viewpoint came toward the end of the plenary in an intervention from a delegate representing the Global Forest Coalition, an environmental non-governmental organization. The delegate declared that the CDM is inherently flawed and results in bogus carbon credits (a comment on current ‘additionality’ requirements under the mechanism).  He called on delegates to thoroughly consider the environmental integrity of all mitigation baselines and targets and demanded that emissions cuts should be made at the sources rather than in developing countries. Additionally, rather than pitching CDM as a trickle down financial stimulus for developing countries, perhaps countries could reallocate the approximately 1.7 trillion dollars spent per year on world militaries in order pay ecological debt back to developing countries, whom have bore the majority of resource extraction and effects of climate change.

While many argue that the future of mitigation efforts hinge on the outcome of COP16 and COP17 next year in Durban, the future of the CDM seems sound.  Despite legally binding treaties, trends in the implementation of other non-Kyoto market mechanisms such as REDD, indicate that market-based mechanisms will surely be pursued via bilateral agreements and at the behest of international financial institutions and development banks (Note: the World Bank made a whopping 7 minute intervention in the plenary…the time limit is 3).  Stakeholders must pay attention to these developments here in COP16 as well as other multi and bilateral venues.

Shannon Gibson is working with Global Justice Ecology Project during COP16/CMP6 to provide daily negotiation updates and policy analysis.  She is a Ph.D. candidate in International Studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where she researches issues pertaining to global environmental politics and global civil society.

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