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A case for pro-poor carbon projects (Watch This! #6)

LAYA Projekt mit Adivasi
By Siddarth d’Souza, Coordinator Climate Change Desk, Laya
Laya is a resource center for Adivasis (Indigenous Communities). Our work focuses on enabling Adivasi communities to access their rights over their natural resources in Adivasi region of north coastal region, Andhra Pradesh, India. More information at:


Since early 2000 almost 7000 projects have sprouted on the UNFCCC registry, claiming reduction of more than 1.3 billion tonnes C02. All these projects except for a handful are corporately initiated, owned and controlled.  The carbon being traded is an icing on the profit cake of companies, thus subsidizing initiatives that should otherwise be penalized. If there is further profit to be derived from carbon trading it should make way for the poor.

The Clean Development Mechanism is designed to reduce global emissions by offsetting industries’ emissions in the north with clean technology deployment in the South. But experience shows that these claimed reductions of CO2 emissions are eyewash without stringent sustainable development indicators at the expense of poor communities. The CDM is a marriage between the incorporations of northern developed countries and companies of southern countries. It is fairly safe to be suspicious that companies (no matter where they originate or are based) have this innate tendency to seek out all possible and impossible corners to subsidize their due to care for communities or/and the environment in order to maximise profit.

WatchThis 6 - A case for pro-poor carbon projects1

CDM host countries define their sustainable development indicators along the introduction of cleaner technology. I cannot comment about other countries but in India the four indicators social, environmental, economic and technological wellbeing are extremely loosely spelled. Very little is promised to the local communities living near CDM projects, and when they do, even less is actually delivered. Shockingly, several dirty industries that continue to spew pollutants, have somehow still managed to clear all the check posts and environmental norms, come out clean and claim CER credits. This obviously doesn’t make sense. How does the CDM claim to clean up the environment without actual gross emission reduction? Instead, as highlighted in our study Money for Nothing the CDM is in fact having negative impacts on the environment and poor communities.

When we cried foul with the Indian Government, we were categorically told “CDM is the business of industry and the average man can do little to contribute, change or benefit from it.” This is where we beg to differ!

The CDM or any carbon trading regime for that matter is not honestly earned money environmentally. It is in fact compensation, reparation for indiscriminate damage being done to the planet and its resources. Sadly it is compensation for continued albeit slower damages. In which case, the contention is that surplus resources that result should work for the underprivileged and ensure a clean environment.

At LAYA, we have initiated a Micro Scale Gold Standard Voluntary Emission Reduction Project, to reduce approximately 5000 tonnes of CO2, with the construction of 4000 energy efficient woodstoves. This project will enable 4000 families to have a cleaner kitchen environment, faster cooking, less usage of firewood and generally healthier living for women. Likewise another project in the pipe line of similar nature will include 10,000 families benefiting from clean drinking water and energy efficient woodstoves. The 2/3rds of the surplus resources accrued from these initiatives will be shared with the community for development initiatives. Similarly the Fair Climate Network (FCN) ( aims to facilitate 50 such projects in the next 3 to 5 years.

Sadly we find ourselves competing with corporate industry to ratify such projects with the government and the UN’s stringent procedures that can be bypassed by clever, expensive consultants while we still grapple to even understand how it all works!

See the Study “Development through a low carbon pathway” for case studies of several pro-poor CDM projects.


Read more from Watch This! NGO Voices on Carbon Markets # 6


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