Why so few carbon projects in Africa?

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In Ethiopia, Humbo mountain is thriving after early regeneration efforts. Photo © World Vision

What are the obstacles to implementing carbon projects in Africa?

This was the question underlying many of the discussions at the Africa Carbon Forum, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya on March 3-5, 2010.

Over 1,000 participants attended the conference to discuss obstacles such as lack of financing, lack of experience and technical skill, land titling and monitoring challenges, and the complexity of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) rules. These hurdles have to date resulted in low numbers of African carbon projects: only 2% of CDM projects registered by the UNFCCC are in Africa.

The continent’s relatively low greenhouse gas emissions are part of the reason. Project developers have focused on other regions with “low hanging fruit” before coming to Africa. The late start has resulted in low exposure to discussions regarding greenhouse gas emission reductions and lack of project experience. Lack of involvement from the private sector, coupled with weak initiative-taking on behalf of most African governments, and a general reluctance by local banks to provide financing because they are not familiar with evaluating the risk of carbon projects, have also hampered the development of CDM projects.

Participants also lamented the impact of “brain-drain” on the sustainability of efforts to develop carbon projects. Because of limited resources, technical assistance provided to government officials is often concentrated on one or two individuals per country who tend to leave for greater opportunities in the private sector once they have become experts in the field of carbon finance.

Many in the audience said they hoped to have overcome some of these challenges by the time the third Africa Carbon Forum is convened in Marrakesh, Morocco next year, and looked forward to presenting a new batch of projects registered with the UNFCCC. Their optimism was buoyed by the success stories that were also shared at the conference. World Vision and the World Bank, for example, presented the recently approved Ethiopian Humbo Regeneration Project, Africa’s first large-scale forestry project registered under the UNFCCC. It is expected to sequester over 880,000 metric tonnes of CO2e over 30 years, with the World Bank purchasing 165,000 metric tonnes worth of carbon credits via the BioCarbon Fund.



Isabel Hagbrink

Senior Communications Officer, Carbon Finance Unit

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