UN Clean Development Mechanism in "Dire Need of Rescue"

The UN's Clean Development Mechanism isn't doing so well. That's the gist of two timely pieces coming out of Thailand and India.

Common Dreams reports that a UN panel held in Bangkok on Monday described the CDM as being "in dire need of rescue," and that, quoting a former UK civil servant, it has "essentially collapsed."

Behind the collapse is the fact that Europe is the only area of size that has an emissions trading scheme, and the recession and financial troubles in the Eurozone have caused carbon credit prices to fall from a high of $20 to $3 now. This has caused many investors to leave the market, abandoning CDM projects as financially unviable.

And then there's fraud. DNA reports how in India the CDM is being manipulated so that projects can qualify for the CDM but in actuality don't meet the criteria for inclusion in the program. In other words, projects don't have all if any of the environmental benefit their developers claim. In some cases developers have "manipulated and backdate documents to meet requirements as prescribed by the CDM executive board."

DNA's investigation finds that one main problem is that there is little verification that projects are doing what they say they are doing. Project validators rely on the claims of the project developer as to its green credentials, and then fails to conduct field inspections to ensure that what was planned is what was produced.

There are some pretty damning quotes accompanying the piece. One, from Soumitra Ghosh from the North Eastern Society for Preservation of Nature and Wildlife, sums it up well:

Of the 60 CDM projects that I have evaluated, there appeared to be not one that actually reduced emissions.

Granted, that's a small portion of all the CDM projects in India. There are over 2000 of them. But it does point to a problem inherent in carbon credit trading. Though I still believe it's essential that we price carbon pollution, make it more expensive to pollute than to not pollute, I've long be skeptical of the notion of carbon markets as the best way to do so. It just seems like more of the same behavior, albeit with a greenish hue.

A recent quote from George Monbiot, talking about pricing ecosystem services and not carbon markets but still entirely apt, really gets to the crux of this:

Commodification, economic growth, financial abstractions, corporate power: Aren't these the processes driving the world's environmental crisis? Now we are told that to save the biosphere we need more of them.

UN Clean Development Mechanism in "Dire Need of Rescue"
Collapsing carbon credit prices mean fewer projects are financially viable. And then there are those projects which don't actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions at all.

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