Clean Development Mechanisms – the reality in Pacific Countries

Anare Matakiviti,  Energy Programme Coordinator at IUCN Oceania critics the on-going Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) training programme currently being conducted in African, Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries and proposes an alternative view on what the CDM programme focus should be in Pacific Island Countries.

Anare Matakiviti Photo: IUCN

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is one of the flexible market mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol designed to enable Annex I countries (developed countries) meet their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets by purchasing Certified Emission Reductions from developing countries.

Small countries such as the Pacific Islands Countries (PICs) have hardly benefited from the CDM with only two CDM projects registered to date with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Board (EB). This is two projects, a geothermal and hydro project in Papua New Guinea and Fiji respectively, out of the 2,500 or so CDM projects that have been registered worldwide.

A new approach which has been endorsed by the CDM Executive board called CDM Programme of Activities facilitates the participation of Least Development Countries and Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) in the CDM programme. It is the lack of CDM projects in SIDS that prompted the decision to engage UNEP under the UNFCCC framework to carry out a capacity building programme targeting ACP countries. So far three regional training workshops have been undertaken targeting a number of  PICs including Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.

PICs and other SIDS face a daunting task in accessing CDM due mainly to the lack of capacity – both in terms of governance and technical capacities - in the countries. In addition the transaction costs relating to CDM projects are well beyond the capacity of SIDS. Despite the good intention of the capacity building exercise in the ACP countries carried out by UNEP, the approach undertaken has two major flaws.

Firstly, the timing for the capacity building exercise in PICs is long overdue. With the Kyoto protocol coming to an end in 2012, and with some critical players openly indicating that they will not sign any extension of the protocol, throws the debate on the subject into chaos. The situation is exacerbated by the inability of developed countries to honour the commitment they made during the COP15 to allocate funds to support the CDM programme to the tune of 100 billion dollars per year by 2030. Unless and until there is a binding commitment by the parties for a post 2012 mechanism for CDM programme, the capacity building programme runs the risk of being unproductive and ineffective.

Secondly, the reluctance and the lack of will on the part of the PICs to establish the governance and procedural mechanisms for CDM programme in-country is a sign that countries do not see the CDM programme as critical to their development programmes. So far only three countries from a total of 14 have established their Designated National Authority, a requirement before a country can participate in the CDM programme. There are a number of factors that contribute to this situation. Prominent among these is the lack of legally binding instruments for reducing global GHG emissions. The lethargic attitude of developed countries (including big GHG emitters like China and India) to place the reduction of GHG emissions as of paramount importance in their national development plans and sign on to a globally binding emission cap, places the GHG emission debate as a myth. This has resulted in some small island economies questioning the integrity of  climate change mechanisms such as CDM.

During a time when countries are faced with deep economic problems, it is of paramount importance that there is a clear link between the CDM programme goals to the economic aspirations and policies of the countries. It is unfortunate that countries still cannot relate the values and benefits of the CDM programme to their overall national social and economic programmes. This, in my view, should be the target of the capacity building programme undertaken by UNEP. Too much emphasis has been placed in the technical and procedural understanding of the CDM programme, as a result the training targets a small group of bureaucrats who have little or no influence on national policies. The lack of understanding of the benefits of CDM to the national economies by decision makers especially the politicians is an area that should be the main focus of the training programme.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN.

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