Genesis of the CDM: the original policymaking goals of the 1997 Brazilian proposal and their evolution in the Kyoto protocol negotiations into the CDM

  • John C. ColeEmail author
Original Paper


A body of literature is emerging applying critical consideration to the Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism’s (‘CDM’) achievement of policy goals regarding sustainable development, geographical distribution of projects and related matters. This article places this literature in the context of the policymaking goals of the CDM’s Brazilian architects. The CDM arose from the Brazilian Proposal’s Clean Development Fund, and was negotiated between Brazil and the United States in the weeks preceding the Kyoto Conference of Parties. The CDM’s Brazilian architects continued to pursue their underlying policy goals by taking a leadership position in the Marrakesh Accords negotiations. During this period Brazil’s primary policy objectives comprised achieving meaningful mitigation of GHG emissions to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, derailing a perceived US/IPCC initiative to allocate emissions cap obligations in the Kyoto Protocol on the basis of current emissions, and taking a leadership position both among the G-77 and China and in the multilateral climate negotiations as a whole. The CDM arose in this context from the G-77 and China’s desire to coerce the North’s compliance with the North’s emissions cap obligations through an alternative means of compliance. As a result, there was no focus on broad conceptions of sustainable development, or on broad distribution of CDM projects throughout the South. Instead, the CDM’s Brazilian architects envisioned that CDM-related sustainable development would arise exclusively from the presence of the CDM projects. Similarly, the Brazilian Proposal advocated allocation of the Clean Development Fund on a basis proportionate to each non-Annex I countries projected 1990–2010 greenhouse gas emissions. These views persisted through the evolution of the Clean Development Fund into the CDM and through Marrakesh Accords negotiations. This article argues that the CDM has largely met the policy goals of its Brazilian architects and that the pursuit of different, additional, refined or more nuanced policy goals necessitates corresponding refinements to the CDM, or any successor mechanism, specifically targeting those different, additional, refined or more nuanced policy objectives, lending support to the emerging literature proposing changes to the CDM to pursue corresponding policy objectives.


Brazilian proposal CDM Clean development fund Clean development mechanism Climate change Kyoto protocol Sustainable development 



I would like to acknowledge the helpful comments on earlier drafts and incarnations of this paper received from Diana Liverman, Dave Frame, Timmons Roberts, Nate Hultman, Katharine Wilkinson, Joel Scriven, Carlos Sayao, Harro van Asselt, Otavio Sayao, Eduardo Ferreira, Elizabeth Cole and two anonymous reviewers. All mistakes remain my responsibility.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Change InstituteUniversity of Oxford, School of Geography and the EnvironmentOxfordUK
  2. 2.Smith School of Enterprise and EnvironmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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