U.N. panel eyes ways to expand and speed carbon offsets

LONDON Mon Feb 14, 2011 8:56am EST

A boy stands near a wind turbine that produces energy in a village at Hub about 25 km (15 miles) northwest of Karachi June 18, 2010. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

A boy stands near a wind turbine that produces energy in a village at Hub about 25 km (15 miles) northwest of Karachi June 18, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Akhtar Soomro

LONDON (Reuters) - A United Nations panel will discuss this week ways to give poor countries better access to clean energy projects and clear a backlog of applications for carbon offsets, members said in a webcast on Monday.

The 10-member executive board oversees the U.N.'s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and is holding its 59th meeting this week in Bonn, Germany.

Martin Hession, head of global carbon markets at the UK's department of energy and climate change, was appointed the board's new chair on Monday.

The CDM is part of the Kyoto Protocol, whose first phase ends in 2012. It allows rich countries to meet caps on carbon emissions by paying for carbon cuts in the developing world.

Rich countries buy carbon offsets, called carbon emissions reductions (CERs), which are each equivalent to 1 tonne of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The board has set a two-year business plan to improve the CDM through greater efficiency, integrity, transparency and geographic expansion and by opening it up to investors.

FOCUS

Several board members said a high priority was to expand the involvement in the CDM of small countries and islands, which currently have a low emissions output.

"The issue is (getting) bodies on the ground who know about the CDM. At the end of the day, it is (about) accessing the resources and benefits of the CDM," said panel member Asterio Takesy.

Former panel chair Clifford Mahlung agreed there was scope to get small island nations more involved in the CDM.

"The focus on small island states is still lacking somewhat. It needs to go further, there is scope for doing more," he said.

Clearing the backlog of approved projects requesting CERs and new projects seeking approval is also a priority.

In the first two weeks of February, 1.97 million CERs have been issued, compared with 15.4 million issued in the first half of January, U.N. data shows.

Requests for issuance this month show that only around 3.2 million credits are expected to be awarded.

The board aims to eliminate the backlog by its 62nd meeting in July and consider new procedures, called methodologies, for issuing CERs.

"This plan is ambitious and I wonder whether it is realistic," said Lex de Jonge, who said the CDM's methodology panel had been working on simplifying procedures and removing those that were too complex.

"It means all the time and resources of the methodology panel would have to focus on this -- trying to eliminate (the backlog) in a couple of months," he said, suggesting a later deadline of the 64th meeting in November.

However, some panel members disagreed.

"We must look at the backlog of issuances this year. I think it is better to maintain the more ambitious target of the 62nd meeting," said Akihiro Kuroki.

(Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Jane Baird)

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