Lobby Work Pays Off in Cancun

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At the international climate negotiations it is easy to get discouraged and wonder if the efforts of civil society can really influence the process. A success on the penultimate evening of the negotiations made all of the days of despair worth it. Two decisions agreed to by all countries improve the terms of reference for the Clean Development Mechanism Executive Board members and expand the criteria against which standardized baselines would be evaluated. We, along with our friends in the Climate Action Network , a coalition of over 500 international environmental groups, had been lobbying for these improvements the past two years.

Specifically, under a decision taken to guide the governance of the CDM, a paragraph has been approved that states board members can not have "pecuniary or financial interest in any aspect of a CDM project activity or any designated operational entity." This seems obvious, but there have been board members with interests in projects, yet they hadn't excused themselves from decision-making related to these projects. It is good that the Board Members are reminded again about this!

Standardized baselines have been proposed to streamline the CDM process, but improving environmental integrity (which the CDM could use a lot of!) wasn't mentioned anywhere. Our lobby efforts resulted in Parties agreeing that the Executive Board has to lay out a work program to evaluate the environmental integrity of standardized baselines, as well as all other baseline and monitoring methodologies. They cannot only be evaluated against their ability to streamline the process.

The strength of the carbon trading industry was apparent. The vast majority of "improvements" to the CDM are aimed at making it easier for projects to get registered and receive credits, not at reforming the CDM so that non-additional credits disappear. While it is true that additionality is such a flawed concept that could only be fool-proof if fortune tellers actually existed, there are still ways to reduce the number of non-additional credits, reduce conflict of interest and reduce transparency. These include having the UN Secretariat hire the consultants that recommend projects for registration and verify the emissions reductions, make publicly available all documents related to a project, and revise additionality testing.

While we didn't get everything we wanted, we did have two small victories worthy of a toast with champagne on the penultimate day of the negotiations!