Date: 04 Jan 2009

A review of the CDM literature: from fine-tuning to critical scrutiny?

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As negotiations on the post-2012 climate regime are now taking off, it is time to look back and assess the experiences of the clean development mechanism (CDM) to this date. The CDM has been subject to extensive discussion in academic literature during the last few years, and this article reviews that literature in order to sum up its main themes. A common assessment is that the current structure of the CDM leads to a focus on cheap emissions reductions at the expense of sustainable development benefits for the host countries. Recently, the questionable additionality of many CDM projects has become a central issue. The article further argues that whereas a substantial body of work exists on the CDM, this work is mainly preoccupied with a ‘fine-tuning’ of the mechanism. As the CDM now becomes increasingly institutionalized, scholars should also take a step back and study the CDM in a more theoretically oriented way.