Extract taken from IPS - www.ipsnews.net/
By Kristin Palitza

"CDM (the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism) was never meant to be a cash cow, but meant for developed countries to reduce their emissions.

"But this is now being abused. They changed the original intention of CDM. Now it’s business against environment," lamented Margaret Mukahanana, permanent secretary of national resources management of the Zimbabwean Department of Environment.

Mukahanana was addressing delegates at the Carbon Markets Africa Conference, held Nov. 10 and 11 in Cape Town.

Largely non-industrialised countries in Africa have little opportunity to develop greenhouse gas reduction projects that can earn them carbon credits, she says: "There are no big CDM projects in Africa, because, apart from in South Africa, countries' emissions are so low. So what are you going to reduce? The only thing you can do is avoid future emissions."

Kyoto Protocol signatories have agreed to cap - and later reduce - their greenhouse gas emissions at specific levels, but carbon trading schemes allow polluters to exceed these quotas by buying carbon credits. The credits are generated by projects that reduce emissions, mainly in developing countries.

Critics like Mukahanana believe that the scheme is not actually reducing emissions, but rather providing a smokescreen for industry to continue polluting - but with a cleaner conscience.

According to World Bank, about 140 million carbon credits - each credit should represent a tonne of CO2 - have been issued by the United Nations since 2005, with only about 1.6 million credits issued for projects in Africa.

Unlike China, Brazil or India, few African countries have large-scale industrial projects that can introduce carbon reduction projects. As a result, many nations in Africa can only obtain carbon credits through preventing deforestation and similar initiatives, which are rewarded with temporary instead of permanent credits.

"But no developed nation is interested in buying temporary credits," complained Mukahanana. The only way for African countries to benefit more from CDM schemes, she said, is for the CDM Executive Board to make agricultural and land-use projects - of which there are plenty on the continent - eligible for carbon credits.

But the response of the CDM Executive Board, which manages the global carbon trade and reports to the countries who signed the Kyoto Protocol, strongly indicated that complaints like Mukahanana's will not be taken into consideration.

"(Countries) have to stop playing the victims here in Africa," said CDM Executive Board chair Lex de Jonge. "CDM is not easy. It's complex, and I acknowledge that there are quite some challenges. Most proposed projects never come to life. But that’s just a reality of the business."

He explained that the rules that stipulate which type of projects qualify for carbon trading were strict to protect environmental integrity but conceded that "we try to make the regulatory environment as easy to navigate as possible".

To make it easier for Africa to enter the global carbon trading market, de Jonge recommended African countries should not try to reinvent the wheel by asking for agricultural carbon trading projects but rather duplicate profitable initiatives elsewhere.

"Don't start from scratch. Learn from well-working, existing projects," he said.

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