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Biomass CDM Projects – A Call to Action

Cooking stove projects in the CDM are under threat from a ruling preventing them from accessing carbon funding, although a recent decision allows for the possibility of their return, pending development and acceptance of a methodology.
Last year, the Executive Board (EB) of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the body that regulates international project-based emissions trading under the Kyoto Protocol, ruled to remove the right of small-scale projects to claim carbon credits from reducing fuel-wood consumption. The EB furthermore decided that "net increases of carbon pools compared to what would occur in the absence of the project activity" should not be taken into account in the calculation of emission reductions.

This decision was a severe blow to cook-stove projects which reduce reliance on unsustainably harvested biomass. Essentially, by deleting the words "non-renewable biomass" from the simplified baseline and monitoring methodologies for selected small-scale CDM project categories, many projects previously eligible were no longer entitled to claim the emissions reductions generated. Indeed, several such proposed CDM projects are now at threat, including a project to provide solar cooking stoves in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and the World Bank's Nepal Biogas Programme.

These and other projects would have brought tremendous poverty alleviation benefits to some of the poorest and most marginalised areas of the world, as attested to by a recent review by Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the UN Millennium Project and Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals, who highlighted the direct relationship between the benefits of improved cooking stoves and the Millennium Development Goals (Sachs, 2005). Additional benefits at risk include improved health for the more than 2 billion people who continue to rely on traditional stoves globally, especially for women and children; traditional stoves vent smoke directly into the home, killing an estimated one million children every year, according to the World Health Organization. As well, given that millions spend hours each day collecting wood-fuel, leaving little time for other activities such as education, and the fact the this wood collection contributes to severe localised deforestation in many cases, failure to make improved cookstoves eligible for the CDM misses a widespread and cross-cutting opportunity to improve the poverty, health, and the environment, the latter being especially noteworthy given the explicit aims of the CDM.

Inefficient stoves generate substantial emissions of greenhouse gases. Research at UCA Berkeley has shown that switching to an improved, efficient stove can save up to 2 tonnes of CO2 per stove per year. Across Africa around 100 million tonnes of emissions could be saved if all households were to switch to improved stoves, roughly equivalent to the UK’s entire Kyoto commitment. At current CDM market prices, this could theoretically be worth €500 million per year and this situation is unlikely to change without significant new sources of funding – such as carbon credits.

There may yet be hope, though. The Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP) held this past December in Montreal re-opened the possibility for improved cook-stoves to once again be eligible. Encouraged at the meeting to rethink the issue, the Executive Board decided to consider in the future methodologies for non renewable biomass projects; it is now up to interested parties to develop such methodologies and submit them for review and acceptance by the EB. However, it must be stressed that improved cookstoves are not once again eligible; rather, only that methodologies will be considered in the future, with acceptance in no way guaranteed. Thus, action is urgently needed. Interested parties are encouraged both to support the development of acceptable methodologies and to lobby their national delegations to the COP to ensure such be considered and approved as quickly as possible; such will ensure that the problems of millions who lack access to modern energy provision will be brought to the forefront of the international climate change arena and that delays are kept to a minimum.

Additional information:
News date: 12/02/2006

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Comments and remarks to Wim Jonker Klunne

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