Clean Development Mechanism and Big Hydropower Schemes

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International Rivers, a group which has long raised concerns about the social and environmental impacts of proposed hydro-power projects, describes the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as a "flawed scheme" which is "undermining the goals of the Kyoto Protocol by generating hundreds of millions of carbon offsets from projects that are doing nothing to actually reduce emissions. More than a quarter of projects applying for the CDM are hydropower plants, including, at the latest count, 364 large hydros in China."[1]

An Associated Press review of CDM projects, reported in January 2009, found that "hydroelectric projects, whose climate impact is most widely questioned, have quickly become the No. 1 technology in the CDM, and China in particular is rushing in to capitalize. The Chinese now have at least 763 hydro projects in the CDM approval pipeline and are adding an average of 25 a month. By 2012, those projects alone are expected to generate more than 300 million "certified emission reductions," each supposedly representing reduction of one ton of carbon dioxide. Even at recent depressed market prices, those credits would be worth $4 billion." In addition to these projects' questionable impact on global GHG emissions, the AP noted "the awkward fit between China's authoritarian system, in which complaints of official abuse abound, and Western environmental ideals." [2]


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  1. "Treading Hot Water: Climate Negotiations in Poznan The UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, December 1-12, 2008", International Rivers website, accessed December 2008.
  2. Joe McDonald and Charles J. Hanley, "China dams reveal flaws in climate-change weapon," Associated Press, January 25, 2009.

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