COP17, the CDM and climate change mitigation
Although the UNFCCC COP 17 international climate change negotiations taking place in Durban this year officially kicked off on 27th November, it really wasn't until the beginning of December that things really got moving for the private sector.
Attending these negotiations as a private sector observer, priorities have almost always been focused on tracking the proceedings of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This year developments surrounding the CDM are especially poignant given the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end on 31st December 2012.
As someone who works for a CDM project developer, I think the CDM definitely epitomises what the private sector is able to achieve in terms of climate change mitigation efforts when given a clear framework and appropriate incentives. To date, the CDM has evolved over the past 10 years to establish an incredibly effective mechanism, which has been responsible for the financing and registration of over 3,500 projects. These projects have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by some 750 million and leveraged over $140 billion in climate change finance (according to a recently issued UNFCCC report).
Alongside these significant achievements also lie regulatory institutions which benefit from effective, transparent and efficient processes, which underpin the issuance of real robust and permanent carbon offsets - otherwise known as CERs, and could provide a universal and fungible linking currency in the ongoing development of regional emission trading schemes.
Thursday of the first week marked the opening meeting for the contact group, which provides guidance to the CDM EB. Designed to provide technical direction to the CDM EB for 2012, the outcome from this contact group is important in continuing to develop a scalable platform with the CDM which can continue to deliver significant amounts of GHG emission reductions. However, discussions even in this initial session were marred with political controversy with both Venezuela and Ecuador insisting that the rather thorny issue of the CDM and a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol needed to be addressed in this forum saying that the CDM should conclude at the end of 2012 if no new commitments were agreed. The majority of other countries thankfully do not agree with their position!
Legal opinion (both that of the EU and also the International Emissions Trading Association) is clear that with no provision in place to actually end the CDM, it will continue beyond the first commitment period. It is admittedly somewhat disconcerting to find the CDM and its future being used as a political football. At a time when the private sector is being increasingly looked at to provide the majority of the financing for future climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, it seems somewhat ironic that one of the most successful GHG reduction mechanisms is being treated in this way, at a time when scientists are recommending that countries need to do more and go further with regards to GHG emissions cuts….as opposed to doing less.
Check out my daily blog later in the week for more updates and developments arising from the COP17 international climate change negotiations.Rachel Mountain