Safeguarding the Environmental Integrity of the CDM (completed)

Christina Voigt's post doc. project: Keeping it Green - Safeguarding the Environmental Integrity of the CDM

Environmental Integrity of the CDM

The CDM is unique among the flexibility mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol in that it allows Annex I Parties to increase their accumulated caps by obtaining emission credits generated by investments in a CDM project in an developing (non-Annex I) Party without any emission reduction obligation. Each CER (Certified Emissions Reduction) is an additional ‘carbon tonne’ which will entitle an Annex I (‘investor’) Party to an equivalent increase in emissions from its territory, while remaining in compliance with its emission limitation and reduction commitment under the Kyoto Protocol.

However, the lack of quantitative mitigation commitments in CDM host countries and an interest in a maximal number of CERs resulting from a CDM project creates incentives for those involved on both sides of a CDM project to inflate the amount of CERs claimed. Therefore, it is important that each CER corresponds to real, additional, long-term, measurable emission reductions. Apparently, with increasing volumes of CERs, the environmental performance of the entire FN climate regime depends upon the environmental performance of the CDM. Environmental performance of the CDM depends on the demonstrated ability of the CDM system to support the objective of the UNFCCC: to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at safe levels. This ability needs to be safeguarded by legal means. 

Legal Challenges

This project analysed the extent to which existing legal instruments support the environmental integrity of the CDM and whether and which adjustments need to be made. The following requirements were examined by this project:

Additionality and prevention of leakage

This was based on an approved baseline and monitoring methodology. A special role in this respect plays the definition of ‘project boundaries’ and of ‘emissions under the control of the project participant’.

Contribution to Sustainable Development

Here project eligibility requirements and indicators of sustainable development will be assessed. One important legal issue in this regard is the relationship between the sovereignty of potential host States and sustainable development requirements.

Another contentious issue is the kind of project and its relationship to sustainable development. Three contentious issues in this respect relate to projects that aim at carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), HFC23 projects and forest conservation.


Some procedural safeguards exist which are still rudimentary in the CDM. In particular the role of a sustainable impact assessment, of public consultation and participation and benefit sharing have to be analysed, which have yet to be included in the CDM regime and substantially reflected in the project development.

Non-Compliance Procedures/ Arbitration

Finally the role of non-compliance procedures under the Kyoto Protocol as well as other dispute settlement means was analysed as it can play an important role in ensuring the environmental integrity of the CDM.

Published June 25, 2012 3:36 PM