Clean Development Mechanisms: Is Africa Beneficiary?

Titilope Fadipe, ELP 2013, Nigeria

Africa has been facing a lot of challenges on how to earn certified emission reduction (CER) credit on Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects, which is equivalent to one tonne of CO2. The UN's Kyoto Protocol established binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community. To help achieve these targets, the protocol introduced three "flexible mechanisms" – international emissions trading (IET), joint implementation (JI), and the clean development Mechanism (CDM).

To date, the CDM has been arguably the most successful of the three flexible mechanisms. It has two main goals: one, to assist countries with no emissions targets (ie developing countries) in achieving sustainable development; two, help those countries with emission reduction targets under Kyoto (ie developed countries) in achieving compliance by allowing them to purchase offsets created by CDM projects.

Project developers have focused on other regions with “low hanging fruit” before coming to Africa. The slow start has resulted in low exposure to discussions regarding greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions and lack of project experience. Lack of involvement from the private sector, coupled with weak initiative-taking on behalf of most African governments, and a general reluctance by local banks to provide financing because they are not familiar with evaluating the risk of carbon projects, have also hampered the development of CDM projects. It is interesting to know that these hurdles have resulted in low numbers of African carbon projects: only 2% of CDM projects registered by the UNFCCC are in Africa while  over 80% originate in China and India, which calls into question the ability of the CDM to drive broad engagement with sustainable development across developing countries.

If CDM is said to make considerable contribution to the development and transfer of knowledge and technology in developing countries, and positively impacted on local communities through the creation of jobs and infrastructure, while UN estimates that around 44% of all projects currently in the pipeline involve some form of technology transfer; why then, is a continent that is a relatively low generator of greenhouse gas emissions not beneficiary of this great incentive?