The Heat is on the CDM in Cancun

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico
November 29 - December 10, 2010 

"Human Hurricane" by in Mexico City
Photographer: Ricardo Villarreal T./Artist: Pablo Caballero.

For the next two weeks, 192 nations are meeting in Cancun to discuss how best to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. Unfortunately, not much progress is expected.

The big polluters, in particular the developed countries that have historically emitted the bulk of greenhouse gases, are not willing to reduce emissions by anything like the levels that the science demands. An article published by leading climate scientists in Nature's Geoscience journal shows that if emissions continue to rise at the present rate, average global temperature is likely to increase by 4°C (7.2°F) by 2100, far surpassing the 1.5°C (2.2°F) threshold that civil society, as well as many scientists and policy makers, consider “acceptable.” (If average temperatures rise by 4°C, for instance, Europe could suffer serious droughts at least every other year by the end of the century.)

Countries also want to be take advantage of loopholes, especially the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The CDM is intended to lower industrialized countries’ costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by allowing them to purchase “carbon credits” that subsidize supposedly low–carbon “sustainable development” projects in developing countries, while continuing to pollute at home. Unfortunately, the CDM has actually increased emissions, as our analyses, as well as others (such as at the Öko Institute and Stanford) have clearly shown.

Thousands took to the streets during the last UNFCCC meeting in Copenhagen
Thousands took to the streets during the last UNFCCC meeting in Copenhagen

There a number of topics pertaining to CDM that will be on the table in Cancun including:

  • Stakeholder participation in the CDM process;
  • Policing of project auditors;
  • Addition of project types such as Carbon Capture and Storage and Nuclear; and
  • Expansion of carbon markets to include sectoral trading in the next phase of the CDM.

International Rivers, along with our partners, will be pushing negotiators to limit the scope of the CDM and minimize its generation of fake offsets. Payal Parekh, International Rivers Climate Program Director, will be reporting regularly on the state of play of the CDM at Cancun on her blog . Stay tuned for everything CDM and dam related!