What do we think of the Clean Development Mechanism?

November 21, 2009, by Michael Gillenwater

The GHG Management Institute is a founding member of the Offset Quality Initiative. OQI is a consensus-based effort that brings together the collective expertise of its six nonprofit member organizations: The Climate Trust, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Climate Action Reserve (formerly CCAR), Environmental Resources Trust/Winrock International, Greenhouse Gas Management Institute, and The Climate Group.

We spent much of this year looking in detail at the history and operations of the Clean Development Mechanism and are releasing a new paper on it as I write titled: Assessing Offset Quality in the Clean Development Mechanism. The CDM, created under the Kyoto Protocol, generates emission offsets through investments in GHG reduction, avoidance and sequestration projects in developing countries. These offsets can be used by developed countries to cost-effectively achieve their Kyoto Protocol GHG reduction targets.

The CDM has been subject to a number of critiques, many of which call into question the program’s ability to generate high quality offsets. In this paper OQI provides an impartial description of the CDM and analyzes its ability to ensure offset quality in the future, based on the eight core criteria for offset quality outlined in OQI’s White Paper: Ensuring Offset Quality: Integrating High Quality Greenhouse Gas Offsets into North American Cap-and-Trade Policy.

Overall, OQI found that the CDM’s processes perform sufficiently against most of our core offset quality criteria, and with further refinement should be capable of performing sufficiently against all criteria. The biggest quality issues in the CDM have historically had to do with additionality and the reliability of independent third party verification. These issues are common across all offset programs and, in the case of CDM, can be addressed through streamlining and standardization of the additionality tools and significant restructuring of the third party verification system. On all other criteria, OQI finds that the CDM, with some modification, can sufficiently ensure offset quality.

Give it a read and let us know what you think.

Michael Gillenwater
Dean, Executive Director, Co-founder

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