The Clean Development Mechanism and Biodiversity

The main official vehicle for the establishment of forests for carbon sequestration in developing countries is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) within the Kyoto Protocol. Under the CDM, forestry projects in a non-Annex I country can be counted as offsets against emissions by the initiating Annex I country.12

An examination of the titles of the methodologies for A/R approved by the CDM Executive Board (UNFCCC, 2008a) suggests that most of the ten approved have an identifiable biodiversity component. The aims of the projects vary from combating desertification and soil erosion, to reforestation on degraded land and corridor establishment, to woodchip production. To attract investment, A/R projects must show a positive financial return from the carbon credits generated plus any supplementary returns from timber or non-wood products sales. To achieve financial viability, projects must often rely on only a limited number of fast-growing species, which in some cases may be exotics. As discussed above, the biodiversity benefits that can be claimed for monocultures or plantations of a narrow list of species are limited, particularly if they are exotics and particularly if regrowth of natural vegetation under the planted trees is controlled. Nevertheless, A/R projects may provide indirect biodiversity benefits such as relieving pressure on fuelwood extraction from protected areas by local populations or providing plantation buffers around wildlife reserves.

Two case studies follow to demonstrate the kind of biodiversity benefits that can be generated by A/R projects under the CDM; the first is in China, being the only project to achieve CDM registration at the time of writing, and the second in Tanzania, which is in the validation stage.

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