China and India Ineligible for Carbon Capture Funding?

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It looks like China, India, Ghana, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and South Africa may be eliminated as eligible countries for Clean Mechanism Development (CDM) funding for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CSS) projects, in negotiations at the Durban climate talks.

Unfortunately, these are among the very countries that need it most. These countries are now considered too developed to qualify as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and CDM funds are going to only be allowed for projects in the most undeveloped countries.

The EU, which is currently the largest funder of CDM projects that offset emissions at home, has said that beginning in 2013, they will only allow CDM-funded projects in LDCs.  (Egypt and Morocco have been recipients of generous CDM funding from Europe, which has jump-started huge solar and wind projects that will ultimately make Morocco 42% solar powered, for example.)

Until the Cancun climate negotiations, only clean energy or efficiency was included in CDM projects. CCS was not even considered an eligible form of climate mitigation, and so thus was reliant on unreliable government funding that comes and goes.

But under the Kyoto Protocol, which was just extended till 2017 (or 2020) at Durban, CCS projects are included for the first time. (In 8 years, every nation will be bound in the same legal arrangement, so this rule will essentially just continue and expand after 2020, creating funding for CCS.)

The reasoning behind allowing CCS to qualify is that any new coal would then be cleaner (from a climate point of view) than what is on the grid now. Of course mining coal is still a filthy and dangerous endeavor for its many immediate health risks, but it is the combustion of coal that presents the real climate danger over the coming centuries, which is what the climate legislation deals with.

But after years of failed negotiations resulting in international inaction, the danger to the climate from a smothering blanket of CO2 has become more pressing as time goes on. Beggars can’t be choosers. Along with more sensible forms of clean energy, mitigating the climate impact of the inevitable burning of coal is now also essential.

The Saudis fought for including CCS as CDM-eligible, and finally got it at Cancun.Then this year, at Durban, the policy was refined to cover the risks associated with CCS; with an agreement to define rules on how to cover long term liability, the permanence of sequestration, and the risk of leakage.

But now, with CCS finally included, like any other CDM, it will only be allowed in true LDCs.

The irony? It has taken so long to include CCS under the Kyoto Protocol, that China and India, that would have been among the former least developed countries; now no longer qualify.

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