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December 08, 2011

The Sierra Club in Durban: Kicking Coal

This is a guest post from Dr. Payal Parekh, a climate and energy expert. This article originally appeared on her blog, climate-consulting.org.

Unlike other UN Climate Conferences there have been very few creative actions; in large part due to the fact that actions are permitted in two small areas and UN police are harassing observers for handing out flyers!

Nevertheless there have been two great actions against dirty Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project types, incineration, and coal. Yesterday, wastepickers that belong to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) staged a vibrant action. They demonstrated the important work they do of separating trash at its source while singing songs of resistance to dirty incinerator projects that destroy their livelihoods. They also called for a Green Climate Fund that has direct community access.

Incinerators and landfill with gas capture projects are eligible for funding under the CDM because they are purported to reduce methane emissions. But how can waste management be cleaner than recycling and composting by separating waste at the source, which is what wastepickers do?  The reason is because the CDM does not compare the emissions of incinerators and gas capture landfills with the efforts of wasteickers, but with unmanaged landfills. On behalf of GAIA I have prepared commentsthat have been submitted to the CDM Executive Board.

Not only are such CDM waste projects bad for the environment, but they also take away livelihoods from marginalized communities. Other socio-environmental impacts include pollution from incinerators and pushing poor communities off of land to build a landfill or incinerator.

The Sierra Club and CDM Watch "kicked" big bad dirty coal out of the CDM. As I reported a couple of weeks ago, the CDM Exeuctive Board has suspended the coal methodology because the methodological panel found that there is significant over-crediting of coal projects. While this gives coal the first "kick", it is limited to improving the baseline against which "saved" emissions from coal is calculated. In reality, there is no way that any coal-fired power plant can be considered additional; therefore all of the credits are "over-credited" and requires that coal plants should not be eligible for the CDM. Otherwise we are locking in decades of dirty energy.

Factsheets, articles and lobbying are important tools that we have in informing the public and policy makers about the absurdities of the CDM, but mobilization and direct action are equally as important. Frontline communities send a much stronger message than those of us who are willing to negotiate and compromise with officials. Since they live with the impacts more directly than we do, they stand their ground and don't flinch from demanding what is right for local communities and the climate.

-- Payal Parekh

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