International Environmental Law

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IEL 2011 Research Essay

University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law

International Environmental Law 2011-2012

Research Essay

16th December 2011

The Environmental Aspect of Sustainable Development for CDM Projects in China

1|P a g e

16th De ce mbe r 2011

IEL 2011 Research Essay

The Environmental Aspect of Sustainable Development for CDM Projects in China

This paper seeks to review the Clean Development Mechanism (“CDM”) projects in China on the environmental aspect of sustainable development. The author provides an overview of the definition of sustainable development and suggests the standard, criteria and approaches in deciding whether a CDM project contributes to sustainable development. In the meanwhile, observations are made on why the CDM projects in China could be said to have come a long way and yet not actually contributing to environmental sustainability. In particular, the HFC-23 projects and the lack of an international definition of sustainable development have much to do with China’s CDM project not being environmentally sustainable. This paper then provides suggestions in making China’s CDM projects sustainable in the environmental sense.

Introduction This paper seeks to review the Clean Development Mechanism (“CDM”) projects in China on whether they are contributing to sustainable development in its environmental aspect. It is worth having a look of some of the definitions of sustainable development which includes a standard, criteria and approaches in deciding whether a CD M project contributes to sustainable development. It should be noted that this is neither an exhaustive list of criteria, nor an inflexible definition, especially when this area of law has yet to be agreed among various parties. In the meanwhile, observations are made on why the CDM projects in China could be said to have come a long way and yet not actually contributing to environmental sustainability. In particular, the HFC -23 projects and the lack of an international definition of sustainable development have much to do with China’s CDM project not being environmentally sustainable. This paper then provides suggestions in making China’s CDM projects sustainable in the environmental sense.

Definition of Sustainable Development Art. 16 of the Kyoto Protocol states that the Clean Development Mechanism (“CDM”) is intended to promote sustainable development. Yet the Kyoto Protocol has yet to adopt a legal definition for sustainable development to cover such legal lacuna. In light of 2|P a g e 16th De ce mbe r 2011

IEL 2011 Research Essay

such lacuna, we should consider the Brundtland Commission’s widely accepted definition of sustainable development: “development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs”. It is therefore commonly understood that sustainable development is meant to encompass social, economic and environmental aspects. The last of these three would be our focus on determining the meaning of sustainable development. In the context of CDM, it has been suggested that the test for sustainable development should be for the applicant to “show that the CDM project promotes the stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gases concentrations at a safe level”. Whether this test has been satisfied would depend on the consideration of several criteria 1. These criteria could be categorized into those based on emission and those that foster the goals of sustainable development. It should be noted that these lists of criteria are non-exhaustive. The criteria based on emission include additionality and verification. The additionality of a CDM project ensures the Certified Emission Reductions (“CERs”) produced are real and thereby ensures the environmental integrity2 of the CDM. Such additionality should neither slow down climate mitigation effort elsewhere, nor create an adverse policy incentive to avoid...
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