Controversy over Kyoto wind credits -- Clean development or not

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Wind farms in Jamaica, India, and China with a combined capacity of 115 MW are in the frame for support in the first round of the Dutch government's carbon emissions trading program, CERUPT, established under the Kyoto protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The projects will contribute 2.1 megatonnes of the 16 megatonnes in carbon credits the Dutch aim to secure from a total of 18 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The Netherlands is seeking credits to meet its target, agreed under the Kyoto climate change protocol, for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6% on 1990 levels by 2012.

Critics, however, are lambasting the Netherlands for a "cynical and dishonest" choice of projects. According to Climate Action Network Europe, a non governmental organisation based in Brussels, most of the projects selected will proceed irrespective of CERUPT support. Consequently, it argues, the projects do not meet the condition of "additionality" which underpins the flexible mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol.

"Instead of generating real and additional reductions in greenhouse gases, they will instead generate paper credits that allow the Netherlands to continue polluting, endangering the global climate," says the group. "The spurious carbon credits will not only undermine the integrity of the Dutch climate strategy, it will establish precedents that could turn the CDM into a massive loophole in the emission targets of wealthy countries."

under attack

The six wind projects -- four in India and one each in Jamaica and China -- are among those under attack. The Jamaican project, of 23 NEG Micon 900 kW turbines made in the Netherlands, has been waiting to hear if it is to be accepted as a CDM project (Windpower Monthly, February 2003). At Huitengxile, in Inner Mongolia, a 34.5 MW development is spread across three sites, two of which are already home to 5.4 MW and 6 MW of wind plant, respectively. In India, two 15 MW wind plant, each comprising 25 Enercon 40, 600 kW turbines, are planned for Karnataka, while a 15 MW project by Suzlon Energy and a 14.45 MW by Vestas RRB of 17, 850 kW turbines will be in Tamil Nadu. "The Dutch decision to rely on non-additional CDM projects to help meet its Kyoto target is cynical and dishonest. It effectively means that the Dutch are going to reduce their Kyoto target without actually reducing carbon emissions," says Jason Anderson of the climate action group.

Not true

The Dutch government adamantly refutes the accusation, noting that financial additionality -- whether or not the project would have been built without CDM funding -- is not one of the criteria set out in the Marrakech accord which establishes the rules for CDM eligibility. "The issue is whether the project provides environmental additionality, that is, whether it results in a reduction of carbon emissions by offsetting energy produced from carbon," says Babette Greber of the Dutch ministry of environment. "All of these projects meet that criteria and indeed we rejected some such as the Bujagali hydro project in Uganda because there was no environmental additionality. It is not up to the Dutch government to invent new criteria and I feel that the environmental groups are just using the CERUPT program to reopen the argument they lost in Marrakech."

The projects still need to be approved and registered for official CDM status by the CDM Executive Board of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) -- a process which could last up to nine months. Once approved, the Dutch government will pay EUR 3-5 a credit. "Wind is regarded as a high quality credit, so it will be bought at around five euros a tonne," says Greber. With the wind projects expected to yield some 2.1 million tonnes of CO2, this means the Dutch will pay around EUR 11 million for the them alone. On a project by project basis, however, the additional revenue is negligible. Corin Millais of the European Wind Energy Association notes the CDM is a "very insignificant policy instrument for wind development."

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