Hydro CDM Hall of Shame
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is meant to catalyze climate-friendly and sustainable projects in low-income countries. Instead, it's provided massive subsidies to hydropower developers while increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Through deception and abuse of the system, at least two-thirds of all CDM projects are likely not additional, and more are slipping in each year.
Despite attempts at reform, the CDM continues to approve egregious hydropower projects while delaying any improvements. In December 2011, an EU-commissioned report recommended the European Union consider banning credits from large hydro projects. However, the EU has decided to delay any action, essentially ignoring the urgency for reform raised by this study.
Below are some of the worst hydropower projects that we've seen in the CDM pipeline since 2008. Last updated: 17 May 2012.
Registered by the Executive Board
- In Panama, the Barro Blanco Dam is currently undergoing construction despite investigations into the developer's human rights abuses and failure to consult the local indigenous Ngobe communities living along the Tabasara River. Despite ongoing protests by indigenous communities against dam building and mining in the region, the CDM Executive Board approved the project for 67,000 CERs or about €300,000 per year.
- In Uganda, the World Bank-funded Bujagali Dam, which drowned a treasured waterfall and forced hundreds from their lands, was registered by the CDM Board to the tune of 858,000 CERs for the Netherlands or €3.5 million per year for the developer, even though it is near completion.
- In India, the Rampur run-of-river project was registered despite being nearly complete and the recipient of a World Bank loan back in 2007. India will sell these credits to Sweden at 1.4 million CERs, or about €5.8 million per year.
Approved by a validator
- In China, the 513MW Hubei Duhe Pankou Hydropower Project is seeking carbon credits despite relocating 23,000 people in a process fraught with conflict and inadequate compensation claims. Another 10,000 or more will have to be relocated. If registered, it would generate 803,000 CERs for Switzerland or €3.3 million per year for the developer.
- In India, the 1,000 MW Karcham Wangtoo HEP is currently seeking registration with the CDM Executive Board, despite having already started generating electricity. If registered, the project would sell for 3.5 million CERs, or about €14.6 million per year. [Updated March 7]
Seeking validation approval
- In Cambodia, the Kamchay Dam, already operational and built by the world's largest dam builder, China's Sinohydro Corporation, is currently seeking validation for the second time. The project has been plagued by controversy, safety concerns, and a lack of transparency ever since it was awarded a development contract in 2005. If registered, it would generate 281,000 CERs for the UK or €1.2 million per year for Sinohydro. In addition, Cambodia is also pushing other large hydropower projects for CDM credits, including Lower Stung Russei Chrum, Stung Tatay, and Stung Atay. Local communities and authorities have opposed many of these projects due to their lack of transparency and the flooding of huge swathes of protected forests, but these voices are often ignored in high-level discussions between Cambodian and Chinese government officials.
- In Brazil, the 1,820MW Teles Pires Dam is being planned for the Teles Pires River, a tributary of the Tapajós River, which in turn is one of the principal tributaries of the Amazon. Civil society in Brazil considers it a dismal example of violations of indigenous rights and environmental legislation. It will likely flood 123 square kilometers of land and be a carbon source rather than carbon neutral. It is estimated to sell 2.5 millions CERs or €10 million per year. The 3,150 MW Santo Antônio Dam project on the Madeira River is seeking carbon credits despite being already operational. It is estimate to sell 5.2 million CERs or €21.2 million per year. Finally, the 3,750 MW Jirau Dam on the Madeira River (part of the same complex as Santo Antônio), is also seeking credits, despite serious concerns over worker's rights and and slave-like labor conditions.