The purpose of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is defined in Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The CDM has a two-fold purpose: (a) to assist developing country parties in achieving sustainable development, thereby contributing to the ultimate objectives of the convention, and (b) to assist developed country parties in achieving compliance with part of their quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments under Article 3. (Ministry of Environment and Forest India 2010).
Brief Definition of Sustainable Development
A definition of sustainable development was first given by the World Commission on Environment and Development (popularly known as Brundtland Commission) in 1987 as a development process that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs”. (Brundtland Commission 1987)
Sustainable development is a vision of development that encompasses populations, animal and plant species, ecosystems, natural resources and that integrates concerns such as the fight against poverty, gender equality, human rights, education for all, health, human security, intercultural dialogue, etc.(UNESCO 2010)
The above statement is described in detail in the context of the CDM initiative of the Kyoto Protocol. (Ministry of Environment and Forest India 2010):
1. Social well being: The CDM project activity should lead to the alleviation of poverty through the generation of additional employment, the removal of social disparities and contributions to the provision of basic amenities to people , thus leading to improvements to the quality of life of people.
2. Economic well being: The CDM project activity should bring in additional investment consistent with the needs of the people.
3. Environmental well being: This should include a discussion of the impact of the project activity on resource sustainability and resource degradation, if any, due to proposed activity; bio-diversity friendliness; impact on human health; reduction of levels of pollution in general;
4. Technological well being: The CDM project activity should lead to the transfer of environmentally safe and sound technologies that are comparable to best practices in order to assist in upgrades to the technological base. The transfer of technology can be within the country or from other developing countries.
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is part of the global carbon market developing rapidly as part of the Kyoto response to the mitigation of global warming. One of the aims of the CDM is to achieve sustainable development in developing countries, however uncertainty prevails as to whether the CDM is doing what it promises to do. Close to 200 studies on the CDM have been carried out since its inception in 1997 including peer-reviewed articles and reports stemming from grey literature. This review of the literature serves to assess the state of knowledge on how the CDM contributes to sustainable development (SD) including in the sphere of poverty alleviation. The main finding of the review is that, left to market forces, the CDM does not significantly contribute to sustainable development. (Olsen 2007)
Statistics of CDM Project in India (UNFCCC, 2010)
Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) of CDM projects: 42,226,516
Number of CDM Projects: 499
Paid amount for CERs to the CDM projects until now in Euros: 939 Million (Prices of CERs from Poitcarbon, 1 CERs = 12 Euros)
No CDM project activities (from the case studies) with high ratings in terms of sustainable development were registered. This means that projects registered by August 2005 might contribute to one of the two CDM objectives, but neither contributes strongly to both objectives. In addition, around 25% of all projects have neither a relevant contribution to sustainable development nor are they likely to generate real emission reductions. This means that they serve neither of the two CDM objectives as stated in the Kyoto Protocol.
From the observed case studies and their issued CERs, the purpose is clear that CDM projects are mostly meant to produce real emission reductions and for not contributing the host country’s sustainable development. There are some large projects which , while reducing high levels of emissions , do not meet the sustainable development criteria of the CDM in the Host country.
(Sutter, Parreño 2007)
Conclusion and Questions for further analysis
Current studies as well as the analysis laid out here indicate the failure of current projects in acheiving poverty alleviation of citizens in developing countries under the sustainable development criteria of host countries such as India, Kenya and Brazil.
The question thus remains whether the Kyoto Protocol is satisfying its purposes or whether it concentrates only on satisfying the goal of cost-effective emission reductions?
Are the citizens of developing countries really benefiting from the sustainable development iniatives of the CDM?