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UNFCCC negotiations (pre-Kyoto to COP-9): what the process says about the politics of CDM-sinks

Literature: Journal Articles

Boyd, E., Corbera, E. & Estrada, M. 2008, "UNFCCC negotiations (pre-Kyoto to COP-9): what the process says about the politics of CDM-sinks", International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 95-112.

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Corresponding Author:


  • Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University, Oxford, UK


International Environmental Agreements

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  • In this article, the authors provide a history of the afforestation/reforestation components of UNFCCC negotiations.
  • A contentious part of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) program has been the treatment of carbon sinks, often including tree regeneration, protection, or plantation projects.
  • Critics claim that allowing countries to purchase credits to pay for sink establishment delays the action needed by developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. In 2000, a report was commissioned by the Parties to the UNFCCC to discuss the uncertainties around sinks. Many countries in Latin America and Africa supported the use of CDM-sinks, welcoming funding opportunities for reforestation.
  • Other countries such as India, Brazil, the EU, Switzerland, and AOSIS opposed CDM because of problems with leakage of deforestation activities and the non-permanence in case of fires, pests, degradation, and illegal harvesting (ie the carbon uptake value is only good as long as the trees are growing).
  • However, by the 2001 Marrakech accords, the parties agreed that afforestation and reforestation was an activity eligible under the CDM.
  • Compromises included a cap on the amount of carbon credits that could be used for CDM-sinks and avoided deforestation was not included as a sink. Next were debates on how long the land had to be without forest to receive CDM funds for reforestation.
  • The final decisions kept the Marrakech base year of 1989.
  • After 2003, other debates included the use of sustainable development criteria for CDM projects.
  • The final decision requires that the Project Design Document (PDD) highlight that the project is in accord with their national laws and evaluates the risk associated with potentially invasive species and genetically modified organisms. Another consensus was for small-scale projects to be allowed simplified procedures and lower registration fees for projects.
  • The authors suggest that the United States was very effective in influencing the debate on CDM sinks and promoting a market-based approach to the Kyoto Protocol (rather than the EU's governmental control approach).
  • Currently, negotiations between the UNFCCC and policy-makers have addressed a program to Reduce greenhouse gas Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD).
  • Dissatisfied with the CDM framework's exclusion of forest conservation as an eligible emission reducing activity, these policy makers have been pushing for a way to financially back developing countries that are actively reducing forest destruction (and therefore emissions) in their counties.
  • The authors suggest that after 2012, the UNFCCC negotiations are going to have to find agreements on CDM and the future connection between forests and emissions reductions as part of a global climate regime.

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