9 October 2013 | At the UNFCCC negotiations in Bali in 2007, developing countries agreed to develop nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs). NAMAs aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also achieving sustainable development and poverty reduction objectives. NAMAs have been loosely defined and can include individual mitigation projects and actions or comprehensive sector-wide mitigation programs.
Both NAMAs and the CDM aim to deliver sustainable development benefits. However, an important difference is that the CDM focuses mainly on the mitigation potential of projects because carbon credits are only issued for emissions reductions achieved and do not depend on the contribution to sustainable development. The understanding for NAMAs on the other hand is a primary focus on sustainable development with greenhouse gas reduction rather a secondary goal.
Given that the NAMA implementation is still at early stages, NAMAs provide an opportunity to better implements requirements for sustainable development than has been the case in the CDM.
Numerous studies and anecdotal evidence show that many CDM projects fail to deliver sustainability benefits. The reasons for this are manifold. Sustainability benefits have no financial value in the current system, as only greenhouse gas benefits result in monetary compensation through the generation of offset credits. Another reason is that host countries define their own sustainability criteria. Developing countries rejected attempts to establish an international sustainability assessment process, arguing that it would violate their national sovereignty. It is in the interests of the host country to secure as many CDM projects as possible because of the investment they bring. This means that host countries have little incentive to require strong sustainability criteria that could dampen investment. The sustainability criteria therefore usually lack specificity, transparency and stringency.
Also, the assessment process that is performed by the host country Designated National Authorities (DNAs) is usually perfunctory. Even in the few countries that have well developed sustainability requirements, the requirements are undermined by the lack of monitoring, reporting, and verification of claimed sustainability benefits. Experience shows that for these reasons, the majority of offsets are coming from projects with arguably little or no sustainable benefits, such as industrial gases and large hydro projects and sometimes even negative impacts of registered projects.
Missing: Where is the voluntary sustainable development reporting tool?
Over the last two years, developing countries have started to develop NAMAs. Numerous developing countries have started to develop proposals and a number of developed countries, including Germany, Denmark, Canada and Norway, are providing funding to support the development of NAMAs.
The NAMA Partnership was established to share information and knowledge and to deliver know-how in support of developing countries. It includes multilateral organizations, bilateral cooperation agencies and think tanks.
The NAMA Partnership has set up a working group on sustainable development that focuses on identifying and developing clear links between mitigation actions and sustainable development. It works on developing tools and approaches to assess the contribution of the NAMAs to sustainable development, the link of sustainable development with national development objectives and the contribution of NAMAs to achieve national emission targets.
Carbon Market Watch welcomes the focus on sustainable development of this working group. If done well, the tools that will be developed may help overcome some of the shortcomings and challenges faced by the CDM. Issues that need to be addressed by the working group include setting criteria and indicators for sustainable development, how to monitor and report on these indicators and how to involve stakeholders, especially local communities in the process.
Waste management is a key area for NAMA development. In many parts of the developing world, collecting and sorting waste informally provides a livelihood for large numbers of the urban poor, especially women and children. People working in the informal recycling sector often suffer from harsh working conditions and are exposed to many health hazards. There is evidence that where waste collectors are organized, and operate within a more favorable policy climate, they are able to achieve a decent standard of living and improve their health and social standing. In sectors where local communities are typically active, it is therefore essential to involve them in the development and implementation phases of the NAMA.
Experience from the CDM shows that the absence of social safeguards and weak rules, such as the current CDM rules for local stakeholder consultation can lead to the registration of harmful projects. Given the priority objectives of NAMAs to achieve sustainable development and to reduce poverty, it is therefore crucial to take into account the lessons learnt from the CDM and to establish a set of guidelines to ensure thorough public participation process. This must include consultation with indigenous and tribal peoples and local communities before adopting measures that may affect them. A public participation process is essential for individual mitigation project NAMAs as well as for sector-wide mitigation NAMA initiatives.
NAMAs provide unique opportunities to achieve emissions reductions, sustainable development and poverty alleviation at the same time. It is therefore essential to look at the lessons learnt from the CDM. Many challenges the CDM is facing are relevant for NAMAs. These include first and foremost a designing and implementing effective public participation processes and rules and guidelines on how to quantify, verify and monitor sustainable development benefits. If NAMAs achieve to address these issues, they may help to deliver the triple benefit of climate mitigation, sustainable development and poverty alleviation.