Talks at Poznan about a re-engineering of the Clean Development Mechanism, Kyoto Protocol’s righteous son, have been Bonn-ed. This does not come as a surprise for some observers, but disappointment is understandable. As a flagship of the Kyoto Protocol’s market-based approach to climate change, one could have hoped that delegates fixed at least the most visible holes perforating its surface.

What holes?

UNFCCC recently removed DNV’s CERs verification licence. The unease about project managers hiring the verification team then found, rightly or wrongly, an a posteriori justification. (DNV said it would win back its licence within a month).

Speaking of discomfort, the demonstration of additionality by the project promoters themselves also raised concerns throughout the short history of CDM. With acute information asymmetry between promoters and the Secretariat, the demonstration of additionality can potentially suffer credibility deficit.

Finally, the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of CDM projects is regarded as insufficient. A good EIA would make sure, for instance, that we don’t remove CO2 from the atmosphere ruining an entire ecosystem in the process of doing so.

What can be done? Some suggestions from delegates, bloggers and specialists.

  • UNFCCC, not promoters, should hire and pay verification firms directly.
  • UNFCCC, not promoters, should assess additionnality.
  • Promoters should be required to conduct sound EIAs for CDM projects.


CDM being a rather complicated tool, its short history has given much weight to the procedural status quo. Project promoters, countries and Designated National Authorities (DNAs) have climbed up the learning curve of the actual CDM: they probably don’t want to start over again with new procedures.

In order to gather wide interest, an agenda for CDM should try to mix discussions on potential simplifications of project methodologies with discussions on the procedural modifications listed above.

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