Tropical hydropower in the clean development mechanism: Brazil’s Santo Antônio Dam as an example of the need for change
When carbon credit is granted for projects that would occur irrespective of any subsidy based on mitigation of global warming, the projects generate “hot air,” or credit without a real climate benefit. This is the case for tropical hydroelectric dams, which are now a major destination for funds under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The countries that purchase the credit generated by dams can emit more greenhouse gases without their being offset by genuine mitigation. The limited funds available for mitigation are also wasted on subsidizing dams that would be built anyway. Tropical dams also emit substantially more greenhouse gases than are recognized in CDM accounting procedures. Tropical hydroelectric emissions are also undercounted in national inventories of greenhouse gases under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, giving them a role in undermining the effectiveness of as-yet undecided emission limits. Brazil’s Santo Antônio Dam, now under construction on the Madeira River, provides a concrete example indicating the need for reform of CDM regulations by eliminating credit for hydroelectric dams.