Jamaica's Clifford Mahlung to chair Clean Development Mechanism
MAHLUNG... the work of the board is always challenging

JAMAICA'S Clifford Mahlung is to chair the executive board of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which oversees projects designed to meet the sustainable development needs of developing countries while helping developed countries offset their carbon dioxide emissions.

Such projects, including the construction of wind farms, are undertaken in developing countries. Under the project, greenhouse gas emission savings are calculated and then traded and/or sold to developed countries to offset their own greenhouse gas emissions in line with their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

Mahlung -- a meteorologist and Jamaica's lead climate negotiator -- was re-elected as the representative for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) on the board at the 15th annual global climate talks recently concluded in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Having served as vice-chair of the 20-member board in the last year, Mahlung is now in line to assume the chair for 2010, and he is looking forward to future challenges.

"The work of the board is always challenging. This board will be no less; it may even be more challenging... the board will have a full year of work ahead of it. The number of projects expected this year (2010) could be anywhere above 1,000," he told Environment Watch in Copenhagen earlier this month.

The CDM's operation is deemed especially critical as the world braces for the projected impacts of a changing climate -- fuelled by the presence of increasing quantities of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, in the atmosphere.

But Mahlung is undaunted as he looks to help steer the course of the executive board. He knows that the board has a critical role to play in ensuring that developing countries have the appropriate technologies for adaptation to climate change, which threatens rising sea levels, frequent and/or more intense storms, and increased incidents of diseases such as dengue and malaria due to rising global temperatures.

"The board has had very good chairs, and they have put in place many innovative ways and means of dealing with the workload, including the establishment of a permanent review and issuance team in the secretariat for issuing CERs (certified emissions reduction credits)," he said.

Despite the challenges ahead, Mahlung has resolved to give his best, in partnership with the other members of the board.

"The board continues to play an important role in terms of transferring clean technologies, allowing developing countries to produce a lot of their energy in a more sustainable way as well as helping the developed countries to meet their emission reduction targets and certainly we expect that to continue," said the meteorologist.

"(Also), several new initiatives will be introduced, based on the outcome of this COP/MOP, that should assist those countries with very few CDM projects to implement projects," he added.

Mahlung noted that included among those initiatives is the deferral of payment for registration and issuance until the carbon credits are issued. Currently, he said, that figure -- depending on the size of the project -- can run countries anywhere between US$2,000 and US$10,000.

There is, too, an initiative to establish a revolving fund that will assist countries to pay for the transaction cost, such as that of having designated national entities that validate and verify project activities.

"LDCs (least developed countries) are already exempted from paying such fees and the special initiatives that are taking place in Africa should see several new projects from that region," Mahlung noted. "We hope that this year we will be able to have similar types of assistance given to the African countries given to SIDS (small island developing states)."

For himself, he said he had specific targets he wanted to meet during his tenure. They include greater transparency in the operations of the board.

"Having served a year as vice-chair, I know quite well what to expect as the chair. In my term, I hope (to facilitate) greater transparency, where the board spends less time behind closed doors. If possible, we (also) want to have greater participation from the designated national operating entities in the actual meetings of the board where many of the decisions are taken," he said.

"I also hope to provide more information and clarification on some of the decisions that the board makes, by having a full-time communication specialist recording and reporting certain aspects of the board meetings, with the aim that we can have more people understanding clearly just how the board operates and makes its decisions," Mahlung added.

He was, however, quick to note that care would have to be taken in making such a move.

"The degree to which the workings of the board can become more exposed will be determined by issues of confidentiality and immunity of board members from legal action," he said.

BY PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR Environment editor williamsp@jamaicaobserver.com

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