Copenhagen 2009: Will see a new mechanism for reductions & development?
2009 is a critical milestone in the arena of international efforts to address climate change. With the upcoming UNFCCC negotiations, it is crucial that we now evaluate the efficacy of the 1992 agreements made through the Kyoto Protocol. Assessing the efficacy of the Kyoto agreements is a critical need in order to inform the design of successful strategies this coming December in Copenhagen. International climate change agreements should be a part of an iterative process in which strategies are designed and implemented, learnings are gained and understandings are then applied in the design of future efforts.
As we all know, climate change is a global crisis. That being said, strategies for combatting climate change represent opportunities for economic growth in developing nations. A key component of the Kyoto Protocol that sought to accomplish economic development and reductions in GHG emissions was the clean development mechanism (CDM). The CDM is an innovative arrangement that allows industrialized countries with a GHG reduction goal to invest in development projects that reduce GHG emissions in developing countries. The CDM represents an alternative to expensive reductions efforts in developed nations which at the same time, encourages economic growth in developing nations where typically, GHG emissions levels are steadily increasing with growing populations and energy demands.
CDMs: How effective are they?
To give you a sense for the scale at which these projects operate, 1,128 CDM projects have been registered (as of July, 2008) with 4,000 projects in the process of certification. Given that the energy sector is typically the largest emitter of CO2 in most countries, the energy sector has become the largest recipient of CDM projects throughout the world with China and India being the dominant national recipients.
Criticism against the efficacy of CDMs has recently increased as economists and scientists have begun to see flaws in the design of the mechanism and abuse in the CDM regulatory process. Perhaps, the greatest accomplishment of CDMs to date lies in the fact that their presence in the global market has raised valuable awareness in developing countries and among investors around the urgent need to reduce global GHG emissions. However, the goals of the CDM are not to raise awareness; the goals are to actually reduce emissions.
Criticisms of CDMs include:
Projects with embellished environmental accomplishments have been approved without the proper certification.
Projects that would have been implemented without the benefits of the CDM are benefiting from the financial support of being listed as CDM projects.
A majority of the certified projects address reductions in GHG emissions but do not focus on CO2 which scientists claim should be most aggressively addressed.
It is too difficult to measure additionality and as a result, a financial and science-based mechanism based on additionality is fundamentall flawed.
How will the talks in Copenhagen be shaped by the lessons learned from the failures and successes of the the CDM since it’s implementation? What innovative new strategies will the international community devise and how will these mechanisms improve upon what is offered by the CDM?
My hope is that we will see a measurable strategy that directly reduces the actual emissions counts of the polluting companies, not one that enables them to continue with current emissions levels. Additionally, my hope is that we will see the US government take a leadership role in shaping a new and more effective strategy for emissions reductions while at the same time setting an example to the international community by rapidly embracing global agreements and enacting the necessary legislation to bring new mechanisms to the market place.