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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sustainability assessment in the clean development mechanism (CDM) : current state and opportunities for improvement Ghatala, Frederick Jamal

Abstract

The Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that sets legally binding emission reduction amounts for a group of industrialized countries, was signed in 1997 and came into force in 2005. To provide flexibility in meeting their reduction requirements, industrialized nations are allowed the use of three flexible mechanisms, one of which is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The CDM is a system that allows for Annex 1 nations to use emission reductions occurring in developing countries for their own compliance with the Kyoto emission reduction requirements. During subsequent Kyoto negotiations (the Marrakech Accords, November 2001), it was established that CDM projects must contribute to sustainable development in the countries in which the projects occur. It was decided that the criteria for sustainable development contributions, as well as how these contributions are to be measured, would be the prerogative of the developing countries in which the project occurs. The perceived lack of sustainable development contributions from CDM projects to host countries has become a source of major criticism of the mechanism (Peterson 2005). In this thesis it is proposed that there is a link between this perceived lack of sustainability benefits and the failure of the CDM governing board to institute required sustainability assessments of projects. The focus of this thesis is to evaluate how sustainability concerns have been taken into account in the newly created CDM. An evaluation of a representative set of CDM projects to ascertain the types of sustainability assessment methodologies utilized revealed that there is a gap between the sustainable development benefits envisioned from the CDM and the implementation of any evaluation method for verifying those contributions on the ground. The available CDM-specific methods to assess sustainability are evaluated and compared against an assessment criterion that takes into account a set of CDM-related host country equity concerns proposed in this thesis. Based on this analysis, it is recommended that the role of the CDM Executive Board be expanded to include a focus on sustainability concerns, including a mandated sustainability assessment, thereby ensuring measurable contributions to sustainable development and increased transparency in the CDM.

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