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How will the Clean Development Mechanism ensure transparency, public engagement and accountability

Pinpoints the areas within the CDM's regulations where public access and participation should be introduced. Highlights the importance and the benefits of including such measures in the already complex Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Executive Summary

Among the most important items of the Kyoto Protocol requiring elaboration is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the Protocol's instrument for financing lower-emission sustainable development in the countries of the South.

The controversial mechanism's success depends in great part on public support for the projects envisioned, as is the case in all development projects. It is then crucial to institute measures for public participation and transparency into the mechanism's regulations, and to do so while the CDM's final structure is still being defined.

The authors pinpoint the areas within the CDM's regulations where public access and participation should be introduced. Just as importantly, it details the relevance of including such measures in the already complex agreement.

Institutions that govern global markets are increasingly vulnerable. The CDM market for greenhouse gas offsets will be no exception, and will be subject to intense public scrutiny. Thus, the CDM rules should actively engage its stakeholders--the public and private sectors; local communities; and local, national, and international NGOs -- in its operation and governance structure. This will help the CDM avoid some of the pitfalls of other international institutions, such as the World Trade Organization and the failed Multilateral Agreement on Investment.

Public participation (described as access to information and judicial remedy, as well as participation in decision making) in development projects not only has legal precedent in international accords but also has been incorporated into the procedures of international lending organizations. Public participation in the CDM would improve project success rate by avoiding negative publicity, protracted disputes, and mismanagement. In addition, access to information and participation in decision-making is essential to deliver the stated CDM objective of sustainable development.

Based on a set of principles designed to streamline implementation of public participation measures, the authors make the following recommendations:

  • CDM project documents should include descriptions of actions taken to inform and engage the community;
  • official reports and documents should be accessible to the public in a timely manner;
  • specific policies, such as environmental and social impact assessments, should be designed for high-impact projects;
  • policy development should be informed by the lessons learned from the experiences of other international institutions, such as the World Bank;
  • an independent review panel should be created for interested parties to make comments and dispute projects that violate CDM rules; and
  • the Executive Board, established by the Kyoto Protocol, should include members of the business and NGO communities.

Although inclusion of public-participation policies is common practice among multilateral investment bodies, their conspicuous absence within the CDM has not been addressed until now. This Climate Note offers a clear outline of the procedures for policy development that should be undertaken to ensure the CDM's responsiveness to civil society. In short, it offers a blue-print for both decision makers at the delegation level and all parties interested in creating a successful, democratic CDM.

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