Copenhagen - What sneaked through the UN Climate Change Conference 2009

North America: Although Copenhagen's final-hour push for a climate pact fell short of the tough targets and commitments that many in the wind energy industry were looking for, Steve Sawyer, the secretary-general of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) believes there are "small positive bits" in an agreement to tackle some much-needed reforms to the UN's carbon offset scheme, Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

"I was pleasantly surprised by what managed to sneak through," he says. "During the closing phase in Copenhagen I expected that to get held hostage along with everything else. But it sailed through the final plenary, so it's there and we'll start working on that almost immediately," says Sawyer.

The changes, contained in a nine-page technical document, titled Further Guidance Relating to the Clean Development Mechanism, should make it easier for emissions reduction projects in developing countries to qualify for the CDM.

The agreement asks a technical working group, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), to draft a plan for the use of standardised baselines against which reductions can be measured. Their adoption, says Sawyer, would mean that individual projects would not have to go through the "laborious, arbitrary, time-consuming and expensive process" to prove that they would not have been built without carbon finance - a criterion known as additionality.

"The project developer wouldn't have to wait around for months and months wondering whether or not the CDM executive board was going to approve their project, with millions of dollars in investment hanging in the balance," explains Sawyer. "It would also make it easier for the banks to deal with if there was more certainty associated with the CDM income stream for a project."

Carbon clarity

Another significant change, given the CDM executive board's recent controversial decision to reject applications from ten Chinese wind projects, is that negotiators agreed the executive board should establish an appeals process and to publish the rationale for its decisions, says Sawyer.

SBSTA is to continue to work on the possible inclusion of carbon capture and storage technology in the CDM, something that Sawyer questions.

"It strikes me as a very strange diversion," he says, as he believes there is no way carbon capture and storage technology will be advanced enough to benefit from CDM credits during the current Kyoto Protocol commitment period, which expires after 2012 - and likely not for any commitment period that may come after.

"Unless the price of carbon goes up by a factor of ten, it's not going to generate enough funds to make any appreciable difference to what we guess at this point would be the massive cost associated with developing commercial-scale coal-fired power plants with full sequestration," he adds.

Another hopeful sign for Sawyer was the strong interest among African nations in pursuing wind energy development. A GWEC side event attracted finance and energy ministers from Namibia, Uganda and Kenya.

"That was the biggest surprise I encountered and the most positive one," he says. "They were serious, they'd looked at the issue. They knew what they were talking about."

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