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The CDM Cannot Deliver the Money to Africa. Why the carbon trading gamble won’t save the planet from climate change, and how African civil society is resisting

Ejolt report 2: The CDM Cannot Deliver the Money to Africa. Why the carbon trading gamble won’t save the planet from climate change, and how African civil society is resisting.

The low resolution report can be downloaded here

The high resolution report can be downloaded here

At a time the carbon markets face a profound crisis, this report provides critical policy analysis and case documentation about the role of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in Africa. Instead of providing an appropriate flow of climate finance for projects related to greenhouse gas mitigation, the CDM has benefited large corporations (both South and North) and the governments they influence and often control. South Africa is a case in point, as both a victim and villain in relation to catastrophic climate change.

Many sites of emissions in Africa – e.g., methane from rotting rubbish in landfills, flaring of gas from oil extraction, coal-burning electricity generation, coal-to-liquid and gas-to-liquid petroleum refining, deforestation, decomposed vegetation in tropical dams – require urgent attention, as do the proliferation of ‘false solutions’ to the climate crisis such as mega-hydro power, tree plantations and biofuels. Across Africa, the CDM subsidises all these dangerous for-profit activities, making them yet more advantageous to multinational corporations which are mostly based in Europe, the US or South Africa. In turn, these same corporations – and others just as ecologically irresponsible – can continue to pollute beyond the bounds set by politicians especially in Europe, because the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) forgives increasing pollution in the North if it is offset by dubious projects in the South. But because communities, workers and local environments have been harmed in the process, various kinds of social resistances have emerged, and in some cases met with repression or cooptation through ‘divide-and-rule’ strategies.

The first chapters in this report set the context for the carbon markets and the CDM mechanism, revealing its gloomy future prospects, and map the players in CDM markets and voluntary schemes. The next chapters dissect six case studies from eight African countries: the DRC, Ehiopia, Kenya; Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa. They consider the fraud of a landfill methaneelectricity project; CDM corruption of local governance from gas-flaring-related subsidies; the emergence of trees, plantations and forests within CDM financing debates; failed CDM proposals involving the exploitation of gas reserves; megadams searching the CDM status; and the rise of Jatropha biofuel industries.

All these cases suggest the need for an urgent policy review of the entire CDM mechanism’s operation, with the logical conclusion that the system should be decommissioned and at minimum, a moratorium be placed on further crediting until the profound structural and implementation flaws are confronted. The damage done by CDMs to date should be included in calculations of the ‘climate debt’ that the North owes the South, with the aim of having victims of CDMs compensated appropriately.

Keywords: Carbon Trading, CDM, Clean Development Mechanism, Climate Finance, Kyoto Protocol, UNFCCC

Authors: Patrick Bond, Khadija Sharife, Ruth Castel-Branco (Coord.)

With contributions by Fidelis Allen, Baruti Amisi, Keith Brunner, Michael Dorsey, Gerardo Gambirazzio, Terri Hathaway, Adrian Nel, Will Nham


  1. On Gebremedhin Birega said:

    Greetings and happy New year.

    Congratulations. It seems good observation generally. However, regarding the piece on Ethiopia, I believe some body from Ethiopia and working with local people should have been contacted. I will come back with some comments after going through the document.

    Best regards
    Gebremedhin Birega
    Ethiopian Consumer Society

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