CDM should cut, not offset emissions to attract buyers: report

by Ben Garside | Reuters Point Carbon
Monday, 9 September 2013 19:30 GMT

A demonstrator holds up a sign during a march past the White House to protest against the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline in Washington, Feb. 17, 2013. REUTERS/Richard Clement

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LONDON, Sept 9 (Reuters Point Carbon) – The U.N.’s ailing Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) could attract more buyers if its projects went beyond merely offsetting greenhouse gases to generate absolute emission cuts, researchers said in a report Monday.

The U.N. programme has raised more than $200 billion for schemes in the developing world since 2005 but is fighting for its existence as richer governments set weak emission targets that have little need for more carbon credits or favour more costly domestic investments.

Researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) said in a report that the CDM could boost its survival chances by driving emission reductions rather than merely allowing richer nations to offset their output of heat-trapping gases.

To achieve a net emissions decrease, projects would need to cut more emissions than they receive carbon credits for or lead to reductions below levels pledged by all countries except the world's poorest.

“If such a net benefit were attainable, offsets could become a more attractive option to policy-makers and others arguing for greater mitigation ambition,” the report said.

“In a sense, a goal of net benefit could breathe new life into a concept that has come under significant criticism in recent years due to doubts about its environmental benefit.”

The CDM has been slammed for its lack of sustainable benefits other than curbing emissions and its dominance in emerging economies such as Brazil and China that developed nations say should be doing more to pay for their own emission reductions.

The CDM has issued developers with more than 1.3 billion carbon offset credits, but prices for the units have collapsed to 60 cents from above 20 euros four years ago, below what developers say is needed for them to make a profit.

The CDM was devised under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to help industrialised nations meet the pact’s legally-binding emission targets more cheaply.

The SEI report said that shifting to emission reductions would align it with a new global climate treaty due to be signed in 2015 that will require all but the very poorest nations to take on targets.

The researchers said the CDM project types best equipped to provide such “net decreases” were industrial gas projects that they predicted could cut emissions by around 100 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020.

U.N. climate talks resume in November in Poland, where negotiators are tasked with launching new market mechanisms to “achieve a net decrease and/or avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions”.

The U.N. has said that current emission pledges are 8-13 billion tonnes short of what is needed to limit the worst effects of climate change, such as severe droughts, floods and storms.

The full SEI report can be viewed here:

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