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Second All-Africa Carbon Forum–Next March

11/12/09

Jay Wellik—Dallas, TX, USA

One crucial part of the Kyoto Protocol is the implementation of Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs).  The theory sounds brilliant: developed countries reduce their emissions while helping developing nations build infrastructure.  There are currently 1,985 registered CDMs, but they are not necessarily going to the places that could benefit the most.

According to a UN press conference yesterday (November 11), only 2% of these CDMs are in Africa.  For this reason, the UN has scheduled its second All-Africa Carbon Forum next March in Nairobi, Kenya.  Hopefully, this next meeting will prove more successful than the first All-Africa Carbon Forum, which was held in Dakar during September of ’08.  The percentage of CDMs in Africa was about the same before that meeting as it is now.  There are several reasons why the CDM may or may not work in Africa.

The goals of the Nairobi conference will be to increase interest from the private market and to create a carbon market in Africa, but this is not necessarily always a welcome concept.  One negative opinion is that the CDM simply opens up Africa’s future development as another ‘exploitable resource’ for foreign investors.  These criticisms do hold some weight—especially if the CDM project isn’t actually reducing carbon emissions—but, so far, the CDM has not been an example of African exploitation.  It has been an example of the continent falling farther and farther behind because it is hardly being implemented.

Another possible reason that the CDM has not been successful in Africa is because it does not pertain to many people’s first priority.  The CDMs are primarily mitigation based projects—new hydo-plant, new wind farm, carbon capture technology, reforestation, etc.  This makes sense to investors in developed nations because they are trying their hardest (well, at least the ones who are investing) to mitigate the contribution to climate change.  Africa, however, is trying its hardest to adapt to it.

I believe that this gap in needs and desires represents a major shortcoming in cooperation between developed and developing countries.  Either way, the CDM presents an opportunity to spur development and reduce poverty levels.  That in itself becomes an adaption measure because it makes adapting easier.  The fact that it all takes place under the auspices of mitigating climate change is just a side note.

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