COP17: The not-so-clean development mechanism

December 8th, 201110:54 pm @


In Canada, we are often not privy to the talk around the many offset schemes hidden within the Kyoto Protocol because our country’s inability to take even the most basic steps to lower our carbon footprint often overshadows other things being discussed. One of these things was a decision made on Wednesday (December 7) at the United Nations Climate Change Conference to include carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

So, what is the Clean Development Mechanism anyways?

The Clean Development Mechanism is part of the Kyoto Protocol. It is essentially an offset scheme so polluters can get “credits” by funding “clean development” in the global south. Sounds okay, but rich polluters being able to buy their way out of reducing emissions does sound a little sketchy. Then, when you look closer at the projects included in the CDM, things get even sketchier.

On Wednesday, it came out that CCS will officially count as a project that can be funded through the CDM. CCS is a technology used to capture some of the emissions released in the processing of fossil fuels. It is often used for coal, but is starting to be used for tar sands projects as well. However, this technology is unproven and expensive! During a recent meeting with the Alberta minister of environment, I learned that the province spent $2 billion on four CCS projects (meanwhile, they give no money to the wind industry). Not only that, CCS is essentially another subsidy to fossil fuels. It allows them to get government funds (or in the case of the CDM, funds that someone else is getting an “offset” for) to keep polluting plants open because emissions may be slightly reduced.

Today (December 8), I spoke to a wastepicker from Puna, India, who lost her livelihood due to a CDM project. Wastepickers are workers in the informal economy who recover recyclables from waste, reducing demand for natural resources and reducing emissions. Yet, in many communities the CDM has funded private companies to come in and build big waste-to-energy projects, taking away these wastepickers’ livelihoods, as well as the resource savings they create. However, despite the fact that these giant waste-to-energy projects were rarely an actual carbon reduction and, at least in the case of the woman I talked to, were met with immense community opposition, they continued anyways. Not only that, someone elsewhere, potentially in Canada’s tar sands, got “offset” credits because the project was built.

With this CDM offset scheme in mind, watching my colleagues walk around with “I

Tasha Peters, a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation, is blogging from COP17, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. She also attended COP16 in Cancun, Mexico, last year.

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