The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), introduced under the Kyoto Protocol, provided an opportunity for the waste sector to generate revenue from the sale of carbon credits, thereby creating significant incentives for greenhouse-gas (GHG) emission reductions. However, the early development of CDM has faced a number of challenges. To solidify and expand the post-Kyoto efforts, the following steps should be considered:
Although significant progress has been made on the CDM since its inception, a more streamlined approval process could lead to a greater number and better geographic distribution of implemented emission-reduction projects.
The ways national governments and the private sector can benefit from CDM have not been well articulated. However, national governments in developing countries can reap significant rewards. Those that have sound proposals for the enhancement of their waste management practices set out within a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action plan, either as a stand-alone proposal or incorporated within a suite of GHG emission-reduction targets, qualify for funding through the Global Climate Fund.
Expand energy from waste
Nearly 90 percent of the more than 200 registered CDM solid waste projects involve landfill gas flaring and recovery. However, most of these employ controlled flaring of trapped gases and do not convert those gases to energy. An example of an ambitious initiative is the landfill gas-to-energy scheme in Bogota, Colombia. The landfill site accepts 6,000 tonnes of waste per day. By trapping the methane, the site produces electricity and gas for up to 70 neighboring brick kilns, replacing the fossil fuels currently used.
Encourage use of technologies
Similarly, only a limited number of large-scale projects involve advanced solid waste treatment technologies, such as large-scale composting, gasification, anaerobic digestion, and processing refuse-derived fuel. These technologies are significant not only for tackling GHG emissions but also for providing secondary resources and renewable energy sources.
Evenly distribute benefits
CDM projects have been unevenly geographically distributed and have therefore not resulted in significant benefits for developing countries. However, there is notable unrealized potential for additional CDM projects, including the advanced technological solutions outlined above. This potential includes host-country coverage that includes the least developed countries (which currently have a very limited uptake of CDM projects).
The relationship between waste management and climate change is now recognized widely. This should help secure greater funding for international agencies and allow access to improved financial mechanisms for waste management improvement in developing countries of the post-Kyoto world. In addition to the traditional and widely recognized health and environmental benefits of enhanced waste management, we can now add GHG mitigation and the production of secondary resources and renewable energy.