Does the CDM promote energy justice?

While not listed explicitly among the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), access to clean and affordable energy for cooking, lighting, heating, transport, refrigeration, and communication is increasingly recognized as an essential pre-requisite for many of the MDGs to be achieved in developing countries. The notion of promoting energy access as a development tool has been termed ‘Energy Justice’ and championed by the Center for Energy and Environmental Security at the University of Colorado Law School. The IPCC Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is an international carbon credit trading scheme designed to allow Annex I countries meet their emissions reduction targets by investing in GHG mitigation projects in developing countries, a potentially win-win scenario by which developed countries can cost-effectively meet their emissions reduction mandates and developing countries benefit from the investments and associated health and development co-benefits. A significant fraction of CDM-supported projects are in the realm of renewable energy; enthusiasts thus highlight the possibility of using CDM carbon finance to facilitate the dissemination of modern bioenergy technologies in the countries that could most benefit from them.
I was curious as to the extent that CDM projects are actually occurring in developing countries with low energy access rates. One metric for quantifying energy access is the IEA’s Energy Development Index (EDI) , a score from 0-1 based on a composite of commercial energy consumption rates, domestic electrification and usage rates, and the fraction of the population using modern fuels for cooking. I paired the IEA’s EDI numbers with a database of CDM projects worldwide, as well as the World Bank’s 2008 per capita GDP data (more recent GDP data is distorted by the financial crisis). For a first cut I limited the analysis to currently-registered CDM projects rather than including those still in the process of being validated.
A couple of the resulting plots are shown below. Note that the total registered CDM annual emission reduction capacity per country data is presented on a log scale; China and to a lesser extent India and Brazil account for a large majority of all CDM projects. These data show a statistically-significant moderate positive correlation between EDI and GDP; as one might expect, wealthier countries have better energy access than poorer ones. Additionally, a small non-significant positive correlation between CDM capacity and EDI was observed. This result is not at all what I was expecting and I find it disappointing, as it suggests that the countries most lacking in energy access are no more likely to benefit from CDM investment– if anything, the countries with better energy development are receiving more CDM projects. Not quite sure why this is, though CDM certification is reputedly very slow and costly and this could be a barrier to wider participation by the least developed countries.


You can download the associated spreadsheet here if you’re curious about the details. It would be interesting to compare this dataset to other more traditional development indices, or perhaps to limit the analysis to bioenergy projects only… however, I’m throwing in the towel on Excel for the day 🙂

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2 Responses to Does the CDM promote energy justice?

  1. Pingback: Perverting the CDM | Energy and the Future

  2. Pingback: Energy access as a life-or-death issue | Energy and the Future

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