Clean Development Mechanism and Nuclear Power

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The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) allows industrialized countries required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol (known as Annex I countries) to invest in projects that reduce emissions in developing countries, as partial fulfillment of their obligations. Nuclear power plants are disallowed as CDM projects. "Parties included in Annex I are to refrain from using certified emission reductions generated from nuclear facilities to meet their commitments," ruled the seventh Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2001. [1]

UNFCCC's consideration of nuclear

In early 2008, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (AWG-KP) sought ideas on how to enhance and improve the CDM and other emissions reduction mechanisms. Among the ideas proposed by UNFCCC Parties was allowing nuclear power projects under the CDM. [2]

To inform later decisions, the UNFCCC secretariat prepared a technical analysis of the proposals generated at the AWG-KP meeting. The analysis describes the nuclear proposal as allowing "activities relating to new nuclear facilities [to] be registered under the CDM," thus permitting industrialized countries to gain Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) by funding nuclear projects in developing countries. The analysis notes that "specific criteria or requirements" have not been discussed, but could include specific time frames, environmental sustainability criteria and/or minimal transfers of technical knowledge for nuclear projects. [3]

The UNFCCC analysis identifies two "potential challenges" facing the nuclear / CDM proposal. The first is an "uncertain but potentially large increase in CER supply," if many new nuclear plants are built. This may decrease the value of carbon credits on the market and may reduce the incentive to transfer other emissions-reductions technologies via the CDM. The second challenge is the "assessment of additionality in the context of other support provided to the technology." [3] The concept of "additionality" is key to the CDM. To be approved under the CDM, a project must provide additional benefit by reducing emissions more than would have occurred in the absence of that project.

On the positive side, the analysis notes that allowing nuclear projects under the CDM may help improve air quality by reducing reliance on fossil fuels for electricity, and may result in increased technology transfer from industrialized to developing countries. On the negative side, the analysis notes that allowing nuclear projects under the CDM may result in industrialized countries accumulating enough CER credits that they increase their own greenhouse gas emissions. The analysis also lists "radioactive waste and other environmental impacts" as a cost of the proposal. [3]

The August 2008 UNFCC climate change talks in Accra, Ghana further examined "whether to allow credits for nuclear power as part of a shift from fossil fuels." [4] In Ghana, an AWG-KP contact group announced that a proposal "on the use of nuclear activities under JI" or Joint Implementation was also being added. [5] JI is another Kyoto mechanism that allows industrialized Annex I countries to receive credit for funding emissions-reductions projects in other Annex I countries.

Lobbying for nuclear

The lobbying to use the CDM as a vehicle to promote nuclear power in developing countries reflects the hopes of pro-nuclear politicians and think tanks. In a pro-nuclear background paper commissioned by the office of Tony Blair and The Climate Group and published in 2008, Stefan Bakker from the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands, recommended that supporters of nuclear power "initiate discussions on eligibility of nuclear energy under the Clean Development Mechanism in the Ad Hoc Working Group on further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG KP)."

Despite enthusiastically endorsing nuclear power, Bakker soberly noted that there is widespread hostility to the construction of new nuclear power stations. "Public perception of nuclear energy is not very positive in many countries. A recent study found that on average in the EU, 61 percent of people think that the share of nuclear energy should be decreased (as it poses safety problems) compared with 30 percent who think it should be increased (as it does not contribute to climate change). On the global level, 59 percent of citizens in 18 countries were not in favour of building new nuclear power plants," he wrote.[6]

At the COP6 negotiations in Bonn, Germany in 2001, "the one major concession that Japan was unable to win was including nuclear energy under the clean development mechanism," argued one analysis. "The nuclear industry saw in Kyoto a vehicle to justify the building of more nuclear power plants," according to Japan's powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. [7] At COP6, "with United States representatives acting mainly as observers, the nuclear lobby was faced with a very difficult job" of making its case for inclusion in the CDM, reported Nuclear News. "The European Union delegation refused to back down on this issue, insisting that the exclusion of nuclear from the mechanisms was not negotiable," said a spokesperson for the European Atomic Forum (Foratom). [8]

In the United States, "members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ... criticized [the COP6 negotiators] ... for excluding credits for nuclear energy from the treaty's flexibility mechanisms." Critics included Republican Senators Frank Murkowski, Pete Domenici, Conrad Burns and Larry Craig, and Democratic Senators Tim Johnson, Mary Landrieu and Jeff Bingaman. "I had thought this meeting in Bonn would have been an excellent opportunity for the administration to lobby for inclusion of nuclear energy," said Bingaman. "I don't know if the result could have been different if we were at the table, but we certainly should have tried." [9]

The industry coalition International Nuclear Forum, which includes the U.S. Nuclear Energy Institute, submitted a statement to the UNFCCC in September 2000 in support of including nuclear power in the CDM. "The CDM will not effectively eliminate carbon emissions unless this incentive is available to all categories of technology and projects needed for sustainable development," it argues. In addition, "Technologically advanced baseload energy systems, such as nuclear electricity, that avoid or internalize potential environmental impacts require a higher initial investment than comparable combustion systems. ... Creating tradable emission credits under CDM is an effective way for these additional investments to be recovered." [10]

"In the lead-up to COP5 [in 1999], the [nuclear] industry urged supportive governments not to openly endorse [the inclusion of] nuclear [power in the CDM and JI] for fear of a backlash, especially just after the Tokaimura accident in Japan," according to the environmental group Greenpeace, which opposes nuclear power. Britain, France, India, China and Canada were among the countries supporting nuclear's inclusion at COP5. [11] [12]

"The nuclear industry had approximately 100 registered participants" at the COP5 meeting, according to the newsletter of the group North American Young Generation in Nuclear. "This is the first time that nuclear has been mentioned in the formal proceedings of the COPs," the article pointed out. [13]

At its September 1999 general conference, the International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution "which advocated including nuclear power in the CDM. Some nuclear industry officials at COP5 likewise related that because they had hoped the nuclear issue would have a low profile at COP5, they were 'angry' that IAEA members had raised it in Vienna, so close to the Bonn negotiation," reported Nucleonics Week. [14]

Other governmental supporters include Australia, while "organizations promoting nuclear energy are collaborating closely to ensure that the case for nuclear energy is properly presented at the ongoing series of Conference of the Parties meetings to negotiate the Kyoto regime," according to a 2003 article. These groups include "Foratom, representing the interests of the European nuclear industry, the WNA, with a world-wide membership engaged in all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, the Nuclear Energy Institute, for the US nuclear industry, and the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, which co-hosted a symposium on non-fossil energies during the initial Kyoto conference." [15] Other organizational supporters include the Canadian Nuclear Association, European Nuclear Society, Japan Atomic Industrial Forum and Korea Atomic Industrial Forum. [8]

Including nuclear power in the CDM "would allow the sale or exchange of nuclear technology to transition countries in exchange for emissions credits, opening up a new market for western Europe's nuclear industry to expand into, albeit in competition with US and Canadian companies," observed a European trade publication. [16]

While nuclear power was excluded from the CDM in 2000, the industry has been persistent. With the prospect of the issue being revisited in 2008, the nuclear lobby has been active once more. At the COP14 meeting in December 2008, Edouard Hourcade from the European Nuclear Society hosted a side event at the conference titled "Debating nuclear and climate change". The outline stated that it aimed at "demonstrating stereotypical points of view of nuclear energy in the context of the climate change debate." Other pro-nuclear side events were also organised by the World Nuclear Association[17] and the International Atomic Energy Agency.[18] There were no side events organised by those opposing the inclusion of nuclear power in the CDM.

Lobbying against nuclear

In a comment submitted at the COP13 meeting in 2007, Christina Suprapti, on behalf of the women for climate justice and gender, opposed including nuclear in the CDM. "Nuclear power carries inherent injustice to the land of indigenous peoples and local communities on whose territories the uranium is mined," the comment states. [19]

Prior to COP6, Pacific island states and territories were lobbying against including nuclear power projects in the CDM. Their argument, according to one negotiator, was that "if CO2 levels cause the oceans to rise, they would be on the front line." These same countries "most loudly object to sea shipments of nuclear waste and plutonium from Europe to Japan" and "object most to nuclear power in the CDM." [14]

In a 2000 interview, European Union environment commissioner Margot Wallstrom said, "I share the Council's view that nuclear energy should not be part of the clean development mechanism under the Kyoto protocol." [16]

At the COP5 meeting in 1999, Danish environment minister Svend Auken remarked: "The CDM is about clean development and nuclear energy has no place here." The Association of Small Island States, "a majority of European Union (EU) members, and key developing countries such as Indonesia" also opposed the inclusion of nuclear power in the CDM at COP5. [11] The Independent characterized the exclusion of nuclear power as "a victory for the EU and its anti-nuclear member countries such as Germany and Denmark." [20] Indonesia's objection was explained as "a reaction to Suharto's iron rule," as the former Indonesian dictator supported nuclear power, in addition to "the influence of Indonesia's military, which has opposed nuclear investments which would subtract from the country's military budget." [14]

Negotiations at COP15

While nuclear power had been excluded from the Clean Development Mechanism from the outset, the nuclear lobby have been a persistent but low-profile presence at climate change negotiations. At the start of the second week of the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen, the chair of Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol opened the door for nuclear power in draft text on a possible new agreement.[21]

In the draft text, the chair presented three options on nuclear power which could be adopted. The first was to retain the current position that "nuclear facilities shall not be eligible under the clean development mechanism in the second commitment period."[21]

The second option stated that Annex I parties to the Convention that are also Parties to the Kyoto Protocol "are to refrain from using certified emission reductions generated from nuclear facilities to meet their quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments".[21] This would have the effect of allowing nuclear power credits to be claimed for nuclear power stations in all non-Annex 1 countries.

The third option, stated that "activities relating to nuclear facilities that commenced operation on or after 1 January 2008 shall be eligible under the clean development mechanism in the second and subsequent commitment periods" and that the conference "requests the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice to recommend modalities and procedures for inclusion under the clean development mechanism of the activities referred to in paragraph 6 above, with a view to forwarding a draft decision on this matter to the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol for adoption at its seventh session."[21] This option would not only allow new nuclear power stations to earn credits under the CDM but also bacdate the start time two years.

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  1. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, "Report on the Conference of the Parties on Its Seventh Session, Held at Marrakesh from 29 October to 10 November 2001: Addendum - Part Two: Action Taken by the Conference of the Parties (pdf)," United Nations, January 21, 2002. See Decision 17 / CP.7, page 20.
  2. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, "Agenda item 3 (a): Analysis of means to reach emission reduction targets and identification of ways to enhance their effectiveness and contribution to sustainable development = Emissions trading and the project-based mechanisms (pdf)," Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex 1 Parties Under the Kyoto Protocol, Fifth session Bangkok, 31 March to 4 April 2008, and Bonn, 2 - 12 June 2008. See page 3.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, "Analysis of possible means to reach emission reduction targets and of relevant methodological issues: Technical paper (pdf)," United Nations, August 6, 2008.
  4. Alister Doyle, "Rich urged to set deep climate cuts, without U.S.," Reuters, August 18, 2008.
  5. "Flexible Mechanisms," Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Volume 12 Number 382, August 27, 2008.
  6. Stefan Bakker, Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), Breaking the Climate Deadlock: Briefing Paper: Nuclear Power, The Climate Group, 2008.
  7. Yves Tiberghien and Miranda A. Schreurs, "High Noon in Japan: Embedded Symbolism and Post-2001 Kyoto Protocol Politics," Global Environmental Politics, November 2007.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Late News in Brief," Nuclear News, August 2001.
  9. J. L. Laws, "Climate Change: Senators Criticize Deal for Excluding Nuke Credits," Greenwire, July 25, 2001.
  10. International Nuclear Forum, "Nuclear Energy Projects: An Integral Tool in the Clean Development Mechanism (pdf)," policy statement submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in September 2000.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "The Clean Development Mechanism: An instrument for sustainable development or a new nuclear subsidy?," Greenpeace via Nuclear Information and Resource Service, 2000.
  12. Duane Bratt, "Implementing Kyoto In Canada: The Role Of Nuclear Power," Energy Journal, January 1, 2005.
  13. Dorothy Seed, "NA-YGN Makes Appearance at UN Sponsored COP5," Go Nuke! Fall 1999 newsletter of the North American Young Generation in Nuclear.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Mark Hibbs, "Global Division Surrounds Role of Nuclear in Climate Convention," Nucleonics Week, November 11, 1999.
  15. Peter Stoett, "Toward Renewed Legitimacy? Nuclear Power, Global Warming, and Security," Global Environmental Politics, February, 2003.
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Nuclear Industry Looks to Kyoto's CDM," EC Energy Monthly, June 1, 2000.
  17. "Side events schedule", UNFCCC website, accessed December 2008.
  18. "Nuclear Energy, Climate Change and IAEA Assistance to Interested Member States", UNFCCC website, accessed December 2008.
  19. "COP 13 - Statement by Ms. Christina Suprapti, LIFE e.V., on behalf of the women for climate justice and gender present at COP 13, at the joint high level segment of the Thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties and the third session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," December 14, 2007.
  20. Michael Mccarthy, "Climate Deal Reached by Offering 'Flexibility': Bonn Summit after Four Years and Countless Hours of Talks, the Leading Industrial Nations -- Bar America -- Have a Deal to Make Kyoto Work," The Independent (UK), July 24, 2001.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 "AWG-KP draft texts", Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP), UNFCCC, December 11, 2009, page .

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