Sustainable Development within the Climate Context: SouthSouthNorth and the Clean Development Mechanism

By Kantor, Barry | UN Chronicle, June 2007 | Go to article overview

Sustainable Development within the Climate Context: SouthSouthNorth and the Clean Development Mechanism


Kantor, Barry, UN Chronicle


Sustainable development is an important requirement of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) set up under the Kyoto Protocol. It helps to maintain environmental integrity and should be assessed rigorously prior to any investment in a CDM project. The benefits include certainty in CDM application, reduction of risk to investors, developers and owners, and the provision of cost-free assistance to developing countries, which could reduce the enormous divide between the North and the South.

The Kyoto Protocol leaves the assessment of sustainable development as a sovereign matter to its State parties, which unfortunately has led to a "race to the bottom" among developing countries keen for investment at any cost.

SouthSouthNorth (SSN) came into existence to help identify criteria for appraising sustainable development, precisely because the Protocol offered no definition and before any designated national authorities (DNAs) had been constituted. SSN efforts have been directed at maximizing southern interests, to build capacity and attract contributions for sustainable development in the South. SSN is a uniquely southern network of organizations and applied-research institutions operating in Brazil, South Africa, Mozambique, the United Republic of Tanzania, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Through the processes of sharing, peer review, self-monitoring and iteration, these countries seek to find workable solutions and new ways to benefit within the climate context.

SSN has always aimed at the transparent and open sharing of its learnings for the benefit of the global community. At the 10th Conference of Parties (COP) in 2004 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the SSN Practitioners' Practical Toolkit was launched. At COP 5 in 1999 in Bonn, Germany, the Matrix Tool for the Appraisement of the Sustainable Development Contribution of CDM Projects was presented and the SSN network was formed to test the Matrix Tool through the design and facilitation of CDM projects. As a non-profit non-governmental organization, SSN aims to experiment through learning by actions, to build capacity and help ensure best practices in managing all aspects of the CDM.

The SSN Matrix Tool was accepted by the Gold Standard Board in Geneva for its sustainable development screening of projects. Instead of taking on the responsibility to push for sustainable development--since the CDM is a market-based tool and host country DNAs compete for international investment--it is doubtful that the CDM in itself can do much to reduce poverty or help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Where special efforts are made in the development of, or in the demand for, sustainable development projects, it is possible that these projects could make a difference in transforming business as usual. For example, developers could seek Gold Standard certification to attract a premium on sales of emissions reduction or purchasers could insist on emissions reduction from sustainable development projects as part of their social responsibility.

In seeking to develop approaches and tools, and also to build capacity to maximize sustainable development, SSN applied its Matrix Tool to a variety of projects that were ranked in terms of viability and contribution to sustainable development. In Bangladesh and Indonesia, 4 projects for each were rated and ranked, 5 in South Africa and 18 in Brazil; out of these 31 identified as potential CDM projects, the best two in each country were selected for development.

Kuyasa Low-income Urban Housing Energy Upgrade Project. This first SSN CDM project in Khayelitsha near Cape Town, South Africa, was registered on 29 October 2005. It was not only the first registered in Africa, but also the world's first Gold Standard certified CDM project. In seeking special CDM benefit to the South, the project seeks to apply the Kyoto Protocol to situations of suppressed demand. It entails retrofitting some 4,709 extremely modest houses built for disadvantaged citizens, with solar water heaters, insulated ceilings and compact fluorescent light bulbs. …

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