Fun and Games with the Executive Board of the CDM

Payal Parekh

Every year at the Climate Conference, the Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) holds a meeting with the public. This year was no different. After giving a brief presentation on the issues they had been working on this past year, the Chair of the Board opened up the floor to questions from the audience.

Given that civil society (unlike carbon traders and project developers) have few chances to interact with the Board, our partners and I took advantage of this forum to raise questions.

Last year at the climate conference in Copenhagen, the CDM Board was given the mandate to  provide more avenues for greater stakeholder participation. Yet one year later we haven't seen much movement on this issue.

Naturally, I pushed them on this, since changes in this area will improve our ability to influence the decision-making process. Unfortunately the answers that they gave were not very promising. I asked them how they were going to actually improve civil society's ability to provide input and how civil society could submit methodologies for determining the number of credits created by a project.

The Board said it didn't know what it could do to improve input by civil society. I suggested that they could easily set up an email system to let us know when a project is open for comments and lengthen the comment period, but the chair didn't acknowledge my proposal.

With regards to methodologies, the Chair punted the question to the Secretariat, stating that he didn't know if a non-project participant could legally submit a methodology and would have the Secretariat check on this. 

While methodologies are boring, technical issues, they are extremely important. Loopholes in methodologies can allow projects to artificially inflate the amount of emissions reductions achieved. Our friends at CDM Watch tried to submit a revision to a flawed methodology on accounting for credits from a coal project (yes, I know what you are thinking, "how is a coal-fired power plant considered clean?") and were denied this right. This prompted the Secretariat to look into the issue and ultimately decide that only project participants can submit methodologies and revisions, but civil society could comment on these submissions at any time.

Allowing project developers to prepare new methodologies is akin to letting criminals police themselves. Naturally a project developer is going to do its best to build in as many loopholes as possible so that it can create rip-offsets to get something for nothing. Similar to project developers paying consultants to evaluate their projects, this is another conflict of interest.  To ensure objectivity, methodologies should be developed by an independent body, not the project developers themselves (or consultants that they pay).

There is unfortunately still lots to do to reform the CDM. You can bet that International Rivers will be on the front lines.