U.N. climate talks to speed CO2 offset approval

POZNAN, Poland (Reuters) - Climate negotiators meeting in Poznan, Poland on Thursday drafted measures to speed up U.N. approval of carbon offset projects, drawing support from carbon traders.

Under Kyoto Protocol rules rich countries can lay off their greenhouse gas emissions and meet their climate targets by funding cuts in developing nations.

But developers of emissions-cutting projects under that scheme, called the clean development mechanism (CDM), complain that it is creaking because of excessive red tape.

The complete process of approval of offsets takes over 2 years now compared to 12-18 months in 2007, say project developers. One bottleneck is project registration by a vetting panel called the executive board (EB).

“(We request) the EB to establish timelines for each of its procedures, (and) to continue to streamline the registration and issuance processes ... by assessing existing timelines,” a statement read, drafted by delegates at the U.N. climate talks in Poland.

The statement still has to be signed off by some 100 environment ministers attending the December 1-12 talks, which are pushing for a new climate treaty meant to be agreed next year and to replace Kyoto after 2012.

The statement also required “the executive board as early as possible in 2009 ... to further substantiate decisions and ... summarize systemically the major issues that trigger a request for review.”

Requests for review refer to cases where the EB demands that project developers give more detail on a project application.

“We’ve consistently had more than 50 percent requests for review,” said Marc Stuart, co-founder of project developers EcoSecurities, adding that could add three to four months per review.

Each month of delay cost a project about 2 percent of its total expected offsets, called certified emission reductions (CERs), through 2012, he added.

“We’re seeing the development of a bit of a culture of accountability. Overall this is reasonably good guidance,” he said.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said in Poznan earlier on Thursday that it expected over 8,000 CDM projects either to be up and running or in the pipeline by 2012, generating financial flows of between $25 billion to $30 billion to developing countries.

That calculation was based on the CDM generating an estimated 1.6 billion of CERs worth $20 each.

-- Additional reporting by Anna Mudeva in Poznan and Michael Szabo in London