From Clean Development to Strategic Sustainable Development Mechanism

From Clean Development to Strategic Sustainable Development Mechanism
From Clean Development to Strategic Sustainable
Development: A strategic approach to the Clean
Development Mechanism
Georges H. G. Dyer
Michelle D. H. McKay
Mauricio Mira
School of Engineering
Blekinge Institute of Technology
Karlskrona, Sweden
Thesis submitted for completion of Master of Strategic Leadership towards
Sustainability, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has
the dual objectives of facilitating a cost-effective way of meeting
greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and contributing to global
sustainable development. Due in part to a lack of consensus on definitions
of sustainability and sustainable development and a lack of capacity to
address these concepts, there is a risk that CDM projects may fail to move
the host country towards sustainability. We suggest the use of a scientific,
principle-based definition of sustainability to guide project participants in
their decision-making process. We propose a user-friendly project planning
tool – CDM Select – that can build capacity for project developers to
employ a strategic, whole-system approach to sustainable development and
increase the likelihood that CDM projects move society towards
sustainability. Early review of CDM Select by experts and practitioners in
the CDM arena indicate that it has strong potential to assist in these efforts.
Keywords: Clean Development Mechanism, sustainable development,
strategic planning.
This thesis was written in a truly collaborative fashion with each of the
three team members bringing their respective strengths and perspectives to
the process.
The evolution of the original topic idea was influenced by each of our
backgrounds – Georges’ in finance, Michelle’s in management consulting
and Mauricio’s in consulting and international development. Our common
enthusiasm for market-based mechanisms and their potential to contribute
to sustainable development led us to our thesis topic on strategic sustainable
development and the CDM.
During the literature review, we divided the work evenly, with each of us
sourcing reference material, reading, and taking notes to share with the
others. Key documents were read by all group members.
Each group member sought out and established contact with key experts for
our interviews.
Mauricio took the lead on developing CDM Select and providing the basis
for the user-friendly interface, while Georges and Michelle focused on
capturing the results of the team’s work in the written thesis document.
However, throughout the process, the core ideas emerged through dialogue
in regular group meetings. All members reviewed and revised each other’s
work and contributed to all aspects of the thesis.
While not without challenges, we are unanimous in our conclusion that the
experience of writing a group thesis yielded far stronger results than any
attempt to do so individually might have.
Karlskrona, June 2006
Georges Dyer
Michelle McKay
Mauricio Mira
This work was carried out at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at
Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlskrona, Sweden, under the
supervision of David Waldron and Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt.
We wish to thank all of our expert collaborators: Christian Azar, Thomas
Black, Alan Brent, Ole Emmik, Anne Ferqvist, Christiana Figueres, Oliver
Kreiss, Shannon Gordon, Kelly Hawke Baxter, Renat Heuberger, Harmke
Immink, Sami Kamel, Tim Lesiuk, Anne Arquit Niederberger, Joseph
Pallant, Oliver Percl, John Robinson, Bruce Sampson and Michael Schlup.
We would also like to thank our supervisors and classmates in the Strategic
Leadership towards Sustainability Programme for their input and
encouragement throughout the project.
Finally, we are very grateful to all of those who have supported and
inspired us, particularly our families.
Karlksrona, June 2006
Georges Dyer
Michelle McKay
Mauricio Mira
Executive Summary
Climate change constitutes one of the greatest threats to global society.
Most of the world’s national governments have committed to taking action,
with 189 nations signing on to the United National Framework Convention
on Climate Change, and 163 nations ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, signatories have committed to reducing
combined greenhouse gas (GHG) annual emissions rates to 5% below 1990
levels by 2012. In order to facilitate the achievement of this goal in a costeffective way, negotiators agreed on ‘flexibility mechanisms,’ including the
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), to ease the financial burden of
emissions cuts. The CDM allows projects that reduce or avoid emissions in
developing countries (where emissions are negligible relative to the
industrialised world), to generate ‘credits’ that industrialised signatories can
buy and use to help meet their emissions reduction targets (UNFCCC,
The CDM represents terra incognita in the realm of international
agreements, and the instrument is still evolving. In early negotiations, it
was decided that CDM projects, in addition to avoiding or reducing GHG
emissions, must also assist ‘host’ countries (in which the projects take
place) in achieving sustainable development. However, none of the
agreements explicitly define or offer criteria for what constitutes
‘sustainable development.’
The lack of specific requirements around the sustainable development
aspect of the CDM is not an oversight. Due to the diversity of participants
in the CDM, specific requirements at the international level would not only
be politically infeasible, but could also run a strong risk of being highly
inappropriate in some cases. Still, by not having clear principles or
guidelines for sustainable development through the CDM at the
international level (irrespective of whether or not they would be
prescriptive regulations) leads to much confusion and debate.
This confusion and debate runs the risk of discouraging investment, as
investors and project developers may shy away from uncertainty and the
potential for over-regulation that stems from the vague concept of
sustainable development and its many interpretations. Host countries could
find themselves in a ‘race to the bottom’ of loosening sustainability criteria
in a counter-productive competition for investment. On the other hand, if
the CDM fails in delivering the ‘development dividend’ – i.e. host countries
do not see true benefits for their people from CDM projects – the
mechanism itself could fall apart as host country negotiators would not
have the incentive to return to the table to determine the fate of the CDM
and the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012. Therefore, there is a need to clarify
the confusion around the sustainable development aspect of the CDM for
investors and project developers in a way that enhances each project’s
contribution to sustainable development, while maintaining an attractive
climate for investors.
This study proposes the use of a practical tool that can better ensure that
CDM projects contribute to achieving sustainable development by taking a
strategic approach. We aim to inform and facilitate the CDM process by
offering a more manageable way to address the complexity surrounding
sustainable development. Specifically, we ask:
1. What are the key attributes of a globally-applicable ‘guidance
system’ for strategic sustainable development for the CDM?
2. Is the ‘guidance system’ a practical tool to increase the likelihood
that CDM projects move society towards sustainability?
To develop such a guidance system, a framework for Strategic Sustainable
Development (SSD) – based largely on The Natural Step (TNS)
framework1 – is employed. The framework for SSD includes a scientific,
consensus-based definition of sustainability, comprised of four
Sustainability Principles. The framework also enables a strategic approach
to sustainable development that starts with ‘the end in mind,’ imagining a
future sustainable society in which these four Sustainability Principles are
not violated. Decision-makers can then plan and evaluate the actions of
today to ensure they move their organisation or community towards
The Natural Step is an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) committed to
accelerating global sustainability by guiding companies, communities and governments
onto an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable path
sustainability in a way that keeps options open for future actions, and
provides sufficient return on investment to continue the process.
Our research consists of an in-depth literature review on the CDM and on
SSD. Then, through logical deduction, and drawing from existing research
in the area of sustainable product development, we synthesize these two
topics, by building CDM Select – an interactive tool developed in Microsoft
Excel. This tool is designed to act as a ‘guidance system’ for CDM
projects, encouraging project developers to evaluate potential projects
through the ‘lens of SSD’ – starting with ‘the end in mind’ and imagining
how each project will contribute to moving society towards a sustainable
CDM Select takes the approach of asking ‘trigger questions’ of project
developers during the planning process, before a specific project activity
has been established. These questions are designed to spark creativity and
encourage decision-makers to take a ‘whole-system’ perspective. In this
way, a full range of sustainability aspects can be considered, and each
potential project understood in the context of the ‘big picture’ of human
society going about its business on planet Earth.
These ‘trigger questions’ guide decision-makers through a comprehensive
evaluation of each potential project’s ability to contribute to sustainable
development throughout its entire lifecycle, as well as how it can facilitate
(or at least not impede) other moves towards sustainability now or in the
One aim of CDM Select is that it be comprehensive with regards to SSD, so
that within the project development process:
the perspective is large enough in space and time – humanity and
ecosystems on Earth, now and in the future;
CDM projects are assessed through the full life cycle, with the
perspective of sustainability, rather than a random selection of
downstream impacts;
the strategic perspective exists, i.e. looking at innovations as
economically feasible platforms for further progress towards
sustainability, so that trade-offs can be evaluated as to their
respective feasibility to serve as ‘stepping stones’ towards full
sustainability rather than as ‘choices between evils;’
complexity is dealt with in a feasible and simple enough way to be
practical, yet not so simplistic that essential aspects of
sustainability are lost in the process; and
the working climate is innovative so that problems as well as
solutions can be dealt with ‘outside the box’ (Ny et al. n.d., 7).
To achieve this, we determine that it is necessary to focus on the
preliminary stages of a project before it is decided what type of activities
should be undertaken. At these early stages, we contend that it is vitally
important to engage with stakeholders and identify what fundamental needs
are not being met within a given community or organisation. Then, through
open and honest dialogue, we suggest that ideas for potential projects can
be generated. These potential project ideas can then be prioritized by
evaluating their relative contributions to sustainable development, their
ability to compliment future activities, and their short- and long-term
financial viability.
Another objective of CDM Select is that it be a practical tool, capable of
making a positive, ‘real-world’ contribution to the CDM. As such, we
determine that the tool should:
be non-prescriptive to avoid adding unnecessary burden to the
process and allow for creativity and flexibility;
avoid providing quantitative results, because the relative weight,
or importance of various aspects of sustainable development can
vary greatly depending on the circumstances (socio-economic,
ecological, cultural, geographic, etc);
use clear, simple language and terminology in order to be
understood by users from a wide variety of international
backgrounds, and with a wide range of levels of capacity around
the CDM and SSD;
have a user-friendly interface in order to be effective for users
with a wide variety of levels of experience with computers;
flow logically so as not to create confusion;
include access to additional resources (CDM process guidelines,
frameworks, criteria and indicators, and decision-making tools) to
allow users to easily access necessary items and to continue to
learn independently; and
represent an added-value for project developers by offering a way
to 1) identify and mitigate risk in potential projects and 2) identify
and take advantage of innovative and synergistic opportunities of
potential projects that might otherwise go undetected.
CDM Select and the process of building and testing it are described in this
document. The tool is tested through evaluations by experts in the fields of
the CDM and SSD, with results that indicate that it is comprehensive with
regards to SSD. For the most part, results also show that it is a practical
tool, and where shortcomings are identified, improvements are incorporated
in a revised version of CDM Select. The results also indicate that the tool
may have some inherent limitations, due to its front-loaded approach, its
reliance on open dialogue and thorough stakeholder engagement, and the
need for at least a basic understanding of the complex concepts around
socio-ecological sustainability. We discuss our belief that in some cases
these aspects represent true limitations, but in other cases, they are merely
formidable challenges that can be overcome when taken on by capable
entities. Finally, many experts suggest that CDM Select, with some basic
modifications could be effective, and may actually be better suited, for
applications beyond the CDM, such as planning national sustainable
development strategies and strategic planning for business.
We discuss the importance of identifying CDM Select’s target audience, as
different stakeholders in the CDM process have unique concerns and
approaches. In its current form, CDM Select will likely be more useful to
non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or multilateral funding agencies
that have the resources to conduct in-depth stakeholder engagement and
mandates to ensure that CDM projects make real, positive and strong
contributions to sustainable development, as well as some foresighted
private entities. We also discuss the potential for the tool to be geared
towards Designated National Authorities (DNAs) – the governing bodies
responsible for the CDM in host countries, and in charge of granting
approval that projects align with the host countries’ sustainable
development objectives. Because CDM Select offers a way to prioritise
potential projects by comparing their relative contributions to sustainable
development, it could be an effective tool for DNAs to evaluate project
proposals brought to them for approval.
We conclude by identifying areas for further research, including testing
CDM Select in a real-world case study, creating different versions of CDM
Select tailored to each of the major project-type sectors in which the CDM
operates, translating CDM Select into the languages of host countries where
it will be used, and aligning CDM Select with context-specific sustainable
development criteria, so it can generate quantitative scoring. Finally, we
conclude that CDM Select has the potential to add clarity to the sustainable
development aspect of the CDM, and build a common understanding of the
goals for socio-economic sustainability we all share, as well as an effective
strategic approach for CDM projects to help in achieving those goals.
Analytical Hierarchy Process
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
Basel Agency for Sustainable Energy
Business As Usual
Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance
Capacity Development for the Clean
Development Mechanism
Clean Development Mechanism
Certified Emission Reduction
Conference of the Parties
Designated National Authority
Designated Operational Entity
Executive Board
Emissions Trading Scheme
Group of 77
Gross Domestic Product
Greenhouse Gas
Gross National Product
Gold Standard
Global Warming Potential
Human Development Index
Trifluoromethane (a potent greenhouse gas)
Human Immunodeficiency Virus
International Institute for Sustainable
International Emissions Trading Association
Joint Implementation
Kyoto Protocol
Life Cycle Assessment
Multi-attribute Assessment of the CDM
Multi-attributive Utility Theory
Millennium Development Goals
Meeting of the Parties
Non-governmental Organisation
Project Design Document
Project Idea Note
Swedish International Development Agency
Strategic Sustainable Development
The Natural Step
Template for Sustainable Product Development
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change
Table of Contents
Introduction.......................................................................................... 1
1.1 The Clean Development Mechanism ........................................... 1
1.2 The Millennium Development Goals........................................... 2
1.3 Societal need for study ................................................................. 3
Global Unsustainability and the ‘Funnel Metaphor’ .... 3
The CDM and Sustainable Development ..................... 4
1.4 A Strategic Approach to Sustainable Development ................... 12
A framework for Strategic Planning........................... 12
Principles of Sustainability ......................................... 14
Principles of Strategic Sustainable Development ....... 15
Strategic Sustainable Development and the CDM ..... 21
Methods .............................................................................................. 23
2.1 Objectives and Research Questions ........................................... 23
2.2 Phase One: Research and Analysis ............................................ 23
2.3 Phase Two: Hypothesize, Test and Observe, Inform, and
Refine ......................................................................................... 24
Tool Development: CDM Select................................. 24
2.4 Phase Three: Report ................................................................... 30
Results ................................................................................................. 31
3.1 Building CDM Select ................................................................. 31
Key Attributes............................................................. 31
CDM Select................................................................. 32
Introduction to CDM Select ........................................ 33
Step One – Engage and Analyse................................. 36
Step Two – Build the Vision....................................... 37
Step Three – Brainstorm Potential Projects................ 38
Step Four – Select Best Option................................... 40
Stakeholder Engagement Tool.................................... 42
Human Needs Tool ..................................................... 44
3.1.10 Millennium Development Goals Tool.........................47
3.1.11 Visioning Tool.............................................................47
3.1.12 Report Sheet ................................................................48
3.1.13 Rationale and Contact Information .............................49
3.1.14 CDM Resources ..........................................................50
Testing CDM Select....................................................................51
4.1 Key Findings: Areas of Strength ................................................55
Comprehensive With Regard to Strategic Sustainable
Development ...............................................................55
Capacity Building........................................................55
User-friendly Interface ................................................56
Language and Logical Flow........................................56
Beyond the CDM ........................................................57
4.2 Key Findings: Areas for Improvement .......................................58
Relationship to Other CDM Tools and Criteria ..........58
Benefits of Additional Teaching Resources................59
Revising and Refining the ‘Trigger Questions’ ..........59
Revising the Human Needs Tool ................................61
4.3 Key Findings: Inherent Limitations............................................61
Front-loaded approach.................................................61
Challenges of Open Dialogue .....................................64
Potential for Disingenuous Use...................................64
Challenges for Capacity Building ...............................65
5 Conclusion and Recommendations...................................................67
5.1 Future Research ..........................................................................67
5.2 Applications of CDM Select .......................................................68
References ..................................................................................................70
Appendix A: Sample of criteria, indicators and frameworks for
sustainable development and the CDM...................................................79
Appendix B: Trigger question matrices ..................................................81
Appendix C: Key informant interview participants.............................. 88
Appendix D: Key informant interview protocol .................................... 89
Appendix E: The five-level framework for Strategic Sustainable
Development .............................................................................................. 90
Appendix F: The CDM project planning cycle ...................................... 93
Appendix G: Suggestions for getting started with stakeholder
dialogue ...................................................................................................... 94
Appendix H: Screenshots from CDM Select........................................... 95
List of Figure and Tables
Figure 1.1: The funnel metaphor, describing society in its current
unsustainable state ……………………………………………………...…4
Figure 1.2: Backcasting from principles, as illustrated by A-B-C-D
Analysis …………………………………………………………………..18
Figure 3.1: Visual representation of the CDM Select modules,
following the backcasting methodology, included in the Introduction
section ……………………………………………………………………35
Figure 3.2: Re-conceptualisation of the three dimensions of sustainable
development ……………………………………………………………...50
Table 1.1: International regulations governing the Clean Development
Mechanism ………………………………………………………………...1
Table 3.1: Examples of ‘trigger questions’ in the engage section of
Step One – Engage and Analyse of CDM Select ………………………...36
Table 3.2: Examples of ‘trigger questions’ in the analyse section of
Step One – Engage and Analyse of CDM Select ………………………...37
Table 3.3: Examples of ‘trigger questions’ in Step Two – Build the
Vision of CDM Select ……………………………………………………38
Table 3.4: Examples of ‘trigger questions’ in Step Three – Brainstorm
Potential Project of CDM Select ……………………………………...…40
Table 3.5: Examples of ‘trigger questions’ in Step Four – Select Best
Option of CDM Select ………………………………………………...…41
The Clean Development Mechanism
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is an instrument created as
part of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to
help Annex I countries meet greenhouse gas (GHG) emission limitation and
reduction commitments, defined in the Kyoto Protocol (KP), in a cost
effective manner.2 It allows projects in developing countries (non-Annex
I)3 that reduce or avoid emissions to generate credits that Annex I countries
can buy to help meet their emissions reduction targets (UNFCCC, 1997).
Table 1.1. International regulations governing the Clean Development
Mechanism (Adapted from: Sutter 2003, 54; UNFCCC, 2006c).
United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change
Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC
Art 4.2.a) outlines the generic
concept of joint projects between
UNFCCC enters into force on 21
March 1994
Art.12 defines the Clean
Development Mechanism (CDM)
Annex I refers to the 36 countries listed in Annex I of the UNFCCC, which consists of
industrialised nations and economies in transition. The KP requires Annex I countries to
collectively reduce their GHG emissions to levels 5.2% below 1990 levels during the
period 2008-2012. To allow for cost-effective compliance with these targets, instruments
called flexible mechanisms, including the CDM, were developed. Other flexible
mechanisms are: international emissions trading, which allows Annex I countries to sell
emissions credits if they are under their emissions targets, or buy credits if they are unable
to meet their targets (article 17 of the KP); Joint Implementation, which allows Annex I
countries to earn emissions credits by investing in projects that lower emissions in other
Annex I countries (article 6 of the KP); and bubbling, which allows countries to pool their
commitments and achieve them jointly, such as the formation of the ‘EU Bubble’ (Article
4 of the KP).
Non-Annex I countries are mostly developing countries, that are part of the UNFCCC,
but have no emissions reductions targets.
The Marrakech Accords
Regulations and formats released by
the CDM EB
Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC
Decision 17/CP.7 and related draft
decision - /CMP.1 specify the
modalities and procedures for the
CDM including the formation of
the CDM Executive Board (CDM
Various documents including the
Project Design Document (PDD),
simplified modalities and
procedures for small-scale CDM
project activities, etc.
see www.unfccc/cdm
Kyoto Protocol is ratified by
Russia and enters into force on 16
February 2005
One objective of the CDM is to assist Annex I counties in meeting their
commitments by allowing them to purchase Certified Emissions Reduction
credits (CERs) generated from projects that result in the additional
reduction or avoidance of GHG emissions in non-Annex I countries.
Another objective of the CDM is to assist non-Annex I ‘host’ countries in
achieving sustainable development through financial investment and
technology transfer (UNFCC 1997, Art. 12.2). Part of the validation
process, outlined in the Marrakech Accords CDM Modalities & Procedures,
requires confirmation from the host country “that the project activity assists
in achieving sustainable development” (UNFCCC 2001, Sec. 40); however,
none of the agreements explicitly define or offer criteria for sustainable
The Millennium Development Goals
Recognizing that issues and imbalances resulting from anthropogenic
activities since the industrial revolution require global solutions by a
unified international community, the UN held a general assembly in
September 2000, during which all the member states, constituting most of
the nations of the world, created the Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs) by unanimous consensus (UN, 2000).
The MDGs are a global commitment to alleviate some of the most serious
symptoms of unsustainable development by the year 2015, and must be
honored under international law and incorporated into legislation at the
national level. Their purpose is to facilitate global sustainable development
through monitoring and control mechanisms such as the annual Human
Development Reports (UNDP, 2006).
The eight MDGs are to: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve
universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower
women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat
HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability;
and develop a global partnership for development (UN, 2006).
Societal need for study
Global Unsustainability and the ‘Funnel Metaphor’
A ‘whole-system’ view of current society reveals that not only are we
experiencing negative social and ecological impacts such as poverty and
pollution, but also that our society operates in such as way that these
impacts are bound to systematically increase (Cook 2004, 37). While social
and ecological impacts are increasing, so too are population demands,
regulation and global inequities.
At the same time, increasing
environmental destruction by pollution and physical means (such as overharvesting) is deteriorating the Earth’s capacity to produce the resources
upon which we depend (WWF, 2004). These reinforcing phenomena, when
considered together, reveal a vicious cycle that threatens our survival. “The
problem of unsustainability is not only a series of unlinked negative
impacts, but underlying systemic errors of societal design that will make
things worse and worse until, in the end, it will be impossible for society to
sustain itself” (Robèrt et al. 2005, 7). This unsustainable development can
be visualised as society moving into a funnel, in which room to manoeuvre
is becoming more and more narrow per capita (Cook 2004, 38).
The resultant strains on society can be described as ‘hitting the walls of the
funnel,’ which may manifest as ever stricter legislation, higher insurance
premiums, and declining resource productivity, biodiversity and social
stability (Cook 2004, 38-9). The global changes associated with the closing
walls of the funnel are inevitable. The choice thus presented is between
enacting deliberate change towards sustainability or adapting to externally-
inflicted changes from the consequences of unsustainable development
(Robèrt et al. 2005, 10).
resource availability
restorative capacity
fairness and equity
Sustainable Systems
and Organizations
global demand
market pressure
Figure 1.1. The funnel metaphor, describing society in its current
unsustainable state (Adapted from Robèrt et al. 2005, 8).
The CDM and Sustainable Development
Although CDM projects are meant to assist in achieving sustainable
development, according to the United Nations Development Program
(UNDP) Energy and Environment Group: “as of end 2005, 80 percent of
CERs from projects that have reached the registration stage are from 'end of
pipe' interventions that generate few or no sustainable development or
poverty reduction benefits” (UNDP 2006, 7). A recent report by the
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) states that “…a
large and growing element of the CDM roster is under-performing [in
delivering sustainable development benefits]: projects [are] using end-ofpipe fixes in industrial processes to capture/decompose gases with high
global warming potential.” (Cosbey et al. 2005, ii).
Though sustainable development is one of the two objectives of the CDM,
it appears that it may not be delivering the desired results. This study
focuses on how a framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (SSD)
can improve CDM projects so that they can better assist in achieving
sustainable development. It is our aim that the conceptual arguments
presented will also be applicable to development projects in general.
Defining sustainable development. A pivotal issue responsible for much of
the confusion and criticism regarding the CDM is the lack of an explicit
definition of sustainable development in the Marrakech Accords. Instead,
the task of determining whether or not CDM projects assist in achieving
sustainable development is left to the host countries through their
Designated National Authorities (DNAs), which are the bodies responsible
for CDM project approval at the national level. This means that CDM
project participants have little to work with in the way of standardized
international guidelines for sustainable development. Exacerbating this
situation is the fact that many DNAs still have not established clear
guidelines or criteria for judging sustainable development attributes, so
there is often not much more clarity at the national level (Pallant, 2006a).
In the CDM literature, there is widespread consensus around the
‘Brundtland definition’ of sustainable development, as that “which meets
the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future
generations to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987); however this is not
specific enough to offer useful guidance on the operational level.
There is also general agreement that sustainable development requires the
integration of economic, social and environmental dimensions. These
divisions may be helpful in conceptualizing sustainable development, but
they still do not offer a meaningful definition of ‘success’ in terms of
achieving sustainability. This approach only allows for incremental
improvements on the current unsustainable reality (e.g. decreasing
unemployment by 10%, increasing electrification by 50%, or reducing
emissions by 25%) and offers very little in terms of dealing with the tradeoffs that often arise when trying to solve problems in isolation from each
Sustainability criteria and indicators. In order to quantify incremental
improvements, the most common approach is to specify criteria under each
of the three dimensions for sustainable development (social, environmental,
and economic), and then develop indicators to measure and monitor
progress with regards to those criteria. While this compartmentalization
may make the more abstract Brundtland definition operational, it is also
reductionist when not explicitly framed in the broader context with a
whole-system perspective. This runs the risk of missing the connections
and inter-relationships between the various criteria and indicators and the
impacts that they measure. This can lead to many of the downstream
problems that we see with CDM projects (e.g. additionality, leakage, nonpermanence, uncertainty, and socio-economic impacts, described in detail
below), and to less effective projects, implemented because they can be
measured more easily against criteria and indicators.
For example, an HFC-234 destruction project may be undertaken because it
will create clear and measurable GHG emissions reductions despite the fact
that it may have very little sustainable development benefit. On the other
hand, a large-scale sustainable agriculture project, with greater overall lifecycle emissions reduction and avoidance and synergistic sustainability
aspects (such as reduced soil erosion, increased productivity and income,
etc.) may not be pursued because the GHGs are difficult to quantify.
Many parties (e.g. governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs),
academics, consultants) are actively developing criteria, indicators, and
weighting methodologies in order to ensure sustainable development
through the CDM. For example, work done by SouthSouthNorth in
collaboration with HELIO International has led to the establishment of a
comprehensive and widely-accepted set of criteria, along with a scoring
system for projects, in the form of the SouthSouthNorth Matrix Tool
(Thorne and La Rovere, 2003). The SouthSouthNorth tool has been
incorporated into the Gold Standard program,5 which certifies that projects
developed with this methodology have strong positive sustainable
development attributes. A similar approach to the Gold Standard has been
taken by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCB),
through their CCB Project Design Standards (CCB, 2006).
Quantifiable indicators are desirable in evaluating the contribution to
sustainable development of CDM projects to differentiate and prioritize
potential projects. However, given the nature of sustainable development,
all too often developers of criteria and indicators are forced to make
HFC-23, Triflouromethane, is a very potent GHG with a global warming potential of
approximately 11,700 times carbon dioxide equivalent (UNFCCC, 2006d).
The Gold Standard program was initiated by WWF and is hosted by the Basel Agency for
Sustainable Energy (BASE) (
assumptions in order to quantify aspects of sustainable development or else
rely on qualitative indicators (Anagnostopoulos et al., 2004; Brent,
Heuberger and Manzini, 2005; Heuberger, 2003; Labuschange, Brent and
van Erck, 2005; Olhoff et al., n.d.; Sutter, 2003; Thorne and La Rovere,
In an effort to address this, the Multi-Attributive Assessment of CDM
(MATA-CDM) was developed and tested at the Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology. This tool offers one way to evaluate the qualitative and
quantitative aspects of CDM projects by sticking to the basic principle to
“incorporate normative judgments, but to separate them from empiric facts
in as transparent a way as possible” (Sutter 2003, 73). The MATA-CDM
allows stakeholders to assign specific weightings to various sustainable
development criteria on a project-specific basis. This approach has been
shown to be effective in certain instances, particularly when used with a
small group of people and a manageable number of criteria (Sutter 2003,
Appendix A contains a non-comprehensive overview of these and other
frequently-cited examples of existing frameworks, sets of criteria, and
decision-making tools for CDM projects.
The purpose of this paper is not to critique these various sets of criteria and
indicators. They are, in our opinion, valuable efforts to ensure that projects
contribute to sustainable development. However, they often take a
downstream approach, which does not necessarily address the upstream,
underlying systemic issues of unsustainability. We agree with the IISD
recommendation that: “a more feasible option would be the elaboration of
principles and guidelines at the international level, to be further developed
into substantive criteria at the domestic level” (Cosbey et al. 2005, 44).
Existing international principles and guidelines. Work has been done to
align CDM projects with existing international principles and guidelines
such as the MDGs, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, and National
Development Plans (Olhoff et al., n.d.; Bradley and Baumert, 2005; MDG
Carbon Facility, 2006); however, these goals and strategies, while generally
valuable, do not represent a definition of success in terms of sustainability.
They are often ambitious and worthy strategic goals, which are potentially
important and useful ‘stepping stones’ on the way to success. If done
strategically, they can set the stage for future actions, which will then
continue the process of society’s movement towards sustainability. The
converse is also true: if they are not planned strategically, they can lead to
‘blind alleys,’ i.e. investments that lock in unsustainable behaviours and
activities, proving not to be ecologically and/or economically viable in the
long term. For example, in an attempt to address poverty, employment
could be created in a community by building a natural gas pipe-line. But
once the project is complete, the jobs suddenly disappear. Not only would
the employment and income generated by the project prove to be nonpermanent, but the project itself could lock the region into dependence on
fossil fuel for energy over the lifetime of the infrastructure. There is a need
to develop a whole-system perspective of sustainable development for
CDM projects, and not to confuse ‘stepping stones’ such as the MDGs with
a definition of success in terms of sustainability.
Common sustainable development concerns in the CDM literature.
Concerns regarding the sustainable development aspect of CDM projects
include: project and financial additionality, leakage, non-permanence,
uncertainty, and socio-economic & environmental impacts (Grubb, Vrolijk
and Brack 1999, 226-47).
The project additionality of a project refers to whether emissions abatement
is additional to what would have happened in absence of the CDM (Grubb,
Vrolijk and Brack 1999, 226-31). This is a tricky concept, as it requires
project developers to predict an unknowable ‘business as usual’ (BAU)
future to establish a baseline. The conceptual shortcomings of the BAU
approach are discussed in Section 1.4.3.
The financial additionality requirement dictates that if a project would be
financially viable without the generation of revenue from CERs then it
should not be eligible as a CDM project. Financial viability is a loose term,
as it includes the complex, multi-faceted concept of risk tolerance. Some
investors may demand a much larger return on investment for projects in a
high-risk developing world context, where economic and political stability
and access to information can be lower than in the industrialised world.
Therefore, while a proposed sustainable development project may
technically be financially viable (i.e. likely to turn a profit), it will not
necessarily be undertaken if the risk/reward ratio is not low enough to
attract investment. CER revenue stream is often a marginal consideration
when considering a project’s financial structure (Sutter 2003, 71), but it
could generate enough revenue to improve a project’s risk/reward ratio
enough to attract the required capital investments. Therefore, very
effective, truly sustainable projects might not be eligible under the CDM
because they do not meet financial additionality requirements, which could
encourage worse CDM projects than those that might otherwise be
Leakage refers to changes (usually increases) in emissions outside the
project boundary that are induced by the project, e.g. a project that replaces
diesel generators with photovoltaics has near zero emissions, but the
production of the solar cells may produce more emissions than the
production of diesel generators.
The issue of non-permanence stems from projects that might not complete
their expected lifespan, e.g. forest sinks that are later harvested, thereby not
achieving the expected reductions in atmospheric concentrations of carbon
dioxide (Grubb, Vrolijk and Brack 1999, 240-2).
Uncertainty exists in monitoring and measuring emissions reductions.
Emissions reductions and avoidances are often difficult to calculate and the
quantification methodologies are new and in development (Grubb, Vrolijk
and Brack 1999, 237-8).
Socio-economic & environmental impacts refer to indirect negative impacts
of CDM emissions-reduction projects, e.g. a community that depends on
harvesting trees for fuel wood that suffers from a lack of a cooking fuel
source because they are prevented from doing so by surrounding forests’
being protected as part of an afforestation/reforestation CDM project.
Limitations of impact-based thinking. It is our belief that of primary
concern is the misperception of these socio-economic and environmental
impacts as a series of disconnected negative effects, without understanding
and acknowledging the deeper systemic flaws of societal design from
which they result. These errors will continue, and the conditions for
survival and prosperity will systematically decline, until society switches
from a reactionary, impact-mitigation approach, to a whole-system
perspective and addresses the underlying causes of these effects (Robèrt et
al. 2005, 3-14). Much work has been done by academics and experts in the
CDM sector to address the impacts of additionality, etc. through the
development of useful tools and methodologies (see Appendix A). We
have decided not to replicate this work, but rather focus on a more
preventative approach, to assist project participants in understanding the
complex socio-economic and ecological sustainability aspects of CDM
projects, which are inherently connected and should not be examined
separately. It is our belief that this will result in CDM projects that avoid
these downstream impacts by design.
Foreign direct investment, the carbon market and the ‘race to the bottom.’
The World Bank estimates the global emissions shortfall against KP targets
to be 5 to 5.5 billion tons in 2008-12 (Rosenzweig and Youngman 2006, 9),
indicating there will be a strong demand for the supply of CERs generated
by CDM projects.
To date, developing countries have been participating meaningfully in the
carbon market, demonstrating a commitment to GHG reductions and
confidence in the CDM (Savino, 2006). CDM investment could easily
become the largest revenue source for least developed countries (LDCs)
(Kibwana, 2006). The sustainable development requirements of the CDM
can help direct foreign direct investment (FDI) towards the goals of
sustainable development, in its many forms and interpretations (Grubb,
Vrolijk and Brack 1999, 247). However, project developers have expressed
frustration with the cumbersome nature of the CDM process. On the one
hand, parties such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),
the UNDP, and NGOs like WWF, SouthSouthNorth and CDMWatch are
calling for more stringent sustainability requirements (Olhoff et al. n.d., 7;
Salter and Pearson 2003, 3; Cosbey et al. 2005; UNDP 2006, 7;
SouthSouthNorth, 2006). On the other hand, investors are finding the
already highly-regulated process cumbersome and a deterrent to investment
(Kreiss, 2006; Pallant, 2006a; Pallant, 2006b; Figueres, 2006; Interviews
CD03 and CD04 in Sutter 2003, 63-64). This debate is a common theme in
the CDM literature: “[i]nvestors have consistently voiced concerns about
lengthy and complex approval processes…” (Cosbey et al. 2005, iii).
Statistics on current CDM investments point to distribution issues. CDM
investment is following the same patterns as conventional FDI, with the
larger economies attracting most of the projects (Figueres, 2006; Grubb,
Vrolijk and Brack 1999, 238-9; UNFCCC, 2006a). For example, Africa is
in the margins of the market, with only 2.7% of registered projects
(Kibwana, 2006; UNFCCC, 2006a). Barriers to participation include high
transaction costs, the exclusion of deforestation emissions mitigation
projects and the low emissions production of the region (Grubb, Vrolijk and
Brack 1999, 231-2; Kibwana, 2006).
End-of-pipe emissions mitigations of high global warming potential (GWP)
GHGs such as HFC-23 are attractive to investors due to their relative
simplicity of implementation and high investment return ratio. From a
survey of the Project Design Documents (PDDs) it appears that the SSD
characteristics of these projects are somewhat weak (UNFCCC, 2006b;
Cosbey et al. 2005, ii), as compared with the possibilities of projects that
have the potential for more synergistic community benefits, such as
composting of organic waste and bagasse electricity co-generation. As the
‘low-hanging fruit’, i.e. projects dealing with fugitive emissions from high
GWP gases, gets picked, more attention will likely turn to these types of
projects, which are more beneficial to less developed regions such as SubSaharan Africa. Projects with more potential to contribute to the
sustainable development of communities will likely become relatively more
viable and attractive.
In the effort to attract CDM project investments, there is a risk that
competition between developing countries will result in their sustainability
requirements being undermined, leading to a ‘race to the bottom’ in
counter-productive rivalry (Sutter 2003, 68). Thus, capacity development
is much-needed, both terms of understanding how to participate in the
CDM (Kibwana, 2006), and in terms of the importance and meaning of
sustainable development.
Capacity building. We believe it is important to find means to build project
participants’ capacity to understand the complex interconnections between
sustainability aspects in order to increase the likelihood that CDM projects
are actually contributing to sustainable development. To this end, we
believe that a more upstream approach to project development, in which
each project is planned in the context of the global system of society in the
biosphere, and its aspects are considered in a synergistic and holistic way,
both in terms of time and space. If done properly upfront, the problems
discussed above (additionality, leakage, etc.) could be designed out of
projects from inception, while also helping to mitigate the risk that projects
will not be approved or succeed. To borrow William McDonough’s words,
we need to take "the filters out of the pipes and put them where they belong
- in the designers' heads" (Hawken, Lovins and Lovins 1999, 72). In
addition to serving its twin objectives of cost-effective GHG mitigation and
achieving sustainable development, CDM projects can also build capacity
around these sorts of sustainability issues throughout the process for all
project participants.
Trade-offs. Underlying all of these issues is the perception that there are
inherent tradeoffs between sustainable development and economic
profitability (i.e. the greater the contribution to sustainable development,
the more bureaucratic and expensive the project). While these tradeoffs
often exist (Sutter et al., 2001) we believe they are not necessarily inherent
to the CDM, but rather a part of planning in any complex system. A
strategic approach, evaluating possible actions by their capacity to serve as
stepping-stones towards success as opposed to choices between necessary
evils, is the only way to effectively deal with trade-offs (Robèrt et al. 2005,
35-42). Our aim is not to add any unnecessary burden to the CDM process,
or repeat the valuable work that has already been done on developing
indicators and criteria, but instead offer a way to understand the complexity
of the planning process and its relevance to national and global
sustainability strategies. To inform a strategic approach to CDM projects, a
framework for planning for sustainability is useful to order the issues
around the CDM and sustainable development in a way that shows their
interconnections and makes sense of the complexity, without losing sight of
the whole picture including the long-term objectives. In other words, what
is needed is a way to offer ‘simplicity without reduction’ (Broman,
Holmberg and Robèrt, 2000).
Rather than focusing on seeking out potential emissions reductions to the
detriment of attention to sustainable development issues, work can to be
done to find better ways to address all sustainability aspects, including
GHG emissions, in the early stages of the project planning process by
working upstream and taking a strategic approach, i.e. a broad view with
success in mind. However, without an agreed upon definition of
sustainability, there can be no shared vision of success on a principle level,
thus making a strategic approach impossible.
A Strategic Approach to Sustainable Development
A framework for Strategic Planning
A five-level framework for strategic planning (Robèrt et al. 2002, 198),
developed in a trans-disciplinary learning dialogue supported by the nongovernmental organisation The Natural Step (TNS), in cooperation with
scientists and practitioners from many nations, outlines a structured
approach to the complex system of the “individual within organisation
within society within the ecosphere” (Robèrt et al. 2005, xx). This
approach helps simplify the planning process by creating order in
complexity, without being reductionist6 (Broman, Holmberg and Robèrt,
2000). The five levels are:
1. System – understanding the characteristics of society existing
within the biosphere and the dynamic interrelationship within
and between ecological and social systems through ecological
principles, e.g. conservation laws, laws of thermodynamics,
biogeochemical cycles, interdependence, diversity and dynamic
equilibrium; and social principles, e.g. human needs, selforganisation, diversity, and interdependence) (Capra, 2002;
Robèrt et al. 2002);
2. Success – understanding the principles of success, within the
constraints of the system, i.e. sustainability in this case;
3. Strategy – logical principles and guidelines to arrive at a
successful outcome, i.e. a step-by-step approach, selecting
measures that can serve as flexible stepping-stones towards the
desired goal, while ensuring sufficient returns on investments to
support the process;
4. Actions – all concrete actions taken in the system, guided by the
strategic plan; and
5. Tools – means for executing actions (level 4), to be strategic
(level 3) to arrive at success (level 2) in the system (level 1).
Tools can be used to monitor progress, capacity-building, and
actual results (Cook 2004, 43-44; Ny, 2006).
Simplicity-without-reduction is a method for scientific dialogue that seeks an
understanding of the first order principles that define a given system in order to make it
easier to handle the complexity of the details within the system. Analysis begins at a level
where complexity is naturally low, rather than at a level of detail where links to the
principles of the system can be vague and difficult to discern (Broman, Holmberg and
Robèrt 2000, 14).
When one has a clear understanding of the difference between and
interrelation of the five levels, one increases the likelihood that actions will
lead to a successful outcome.
Principles of Sustainability
Sustainable development can be thought of as a game in which global
society is aiming to achieve sustainability. Defining sustainability
(success) in terms basic principles, rather than specific scenarios, guides the
game of sustainable development to a shared vision of a sustainable future
while not limiting the creative and dynamic means to arrive there. To be
useful, it is suggested that principles for sustainability should be:
based on a scientifically agreed-upon view of the world;
necessary to achieve sustainability;
sufficient to cover all aspects of sustainability;
concrete enough to guide actions and problem-solving; and
mutually-exclusive to facilitate comprehension and monitoring
(Ny et al., 2006).
Four basic Sustainability Principles (also known as TNS System
Conditions) were developed through a scientific consensus-building process
(Holmberg, Robèrt and Eriksson, 1996). They focus on key upstream
system violations that lead to the symptoms of unsustainability. In order to
promote creativity within basic constraints, the Sustainability Principles are
phrased in the negative, in terms of what can not occur in a sustainable
society. In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically
I …concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust,
II …concentrations of substances produced by society,
III …degradation by physical means,
and, in that society…
IV …people are not subject to conditions that systematically
undermine their capacity to meet their needs7.
Thus sustainability is a shared vision of success in which these four
principles are not violated, and SSD is the process of moving towards this
Principles of Strategic Sustainable Development
While there is broad consensus around the four Sustainability Principles
(success), development of principles for SSD (the strategic process) is an
emerging field of study. There appears to be general agreement around
certain principles regarding what one does (behavioural principles) and how
one does it (intentional principles) (Cook 2004, 60).
Backcasting. Backcasting is an approach to planning in complexity which
begins with placing ourselves in an envisioned desired future, then asking
the question: how did we achieve this (Cook 2004, 39)? It was first
developed as a scenario planning methodology in which a simplified future
outcome was the starting point (Robinson, 1990). Though backcasting
from scenarios is more strategic than a ‘fixing approach’ to current
problems, it is difficult to gain consensus around specific scenarios,
especially in large groups, and even more difficult to gain consensus around
a particular vision for a sustainable future, given the subjective nature of
cultural perspectives and the difficulty in predicting future technology shifts
(Holmberg and Robèrt, 2000).
Typically, forecasting is used to guide investment decisions. Forecasting is
based on the recognition of past and current trends, and their associated
problems. It employs predictive thinking, which implies that there is a predetermined and unavoidable future (Robinson, 2006). This logic is
somewhat flawed. Natural systems are complex, and human systems even
more so, because they have the additional characteristic of intentionality
(Capra 2003, 80-2; Robinson, 2006). This makes accurate prediction nearly
Over the peer-review and consensus-building process since 1996, the four Sustainability
Principles have been continually scrutinized and as a result, periodically (though
infrequently) modified. This wording of the Sustainability Principles represents the most
current refinement (Ny et al., 2006; Robèrt et al. 2005, xxviii).
impossible. Thus, the idea of BAU is a “meaningless and misleading
concept” (Robinson, 2006). Even if it was possible to predict the future,
there is no compelling reason to do so, as the ‘most likely’ scenario is not
necessarily the most desirable (Robinson, 2006). The logic behind
predictive thinking also implies that the underlying mechanisms of current
activities cannot be changed. Therefore, relying too heavily on forecasting
creates a risk that the problems of today will be carried into future
endeavours, particularly when the system is very complex and when trends
are part of the problem (Robèrt et al. 2005, 38-41).
Unlike forecasting, backcasting is limited only by the creativity brought to
the process; it does not impose any unnecessary constraints on choices of
action and does not require a constant or static situation (Robèrt et al. 2005,
40). Backcasting represents a shift from considering likelihood to
determining feasibility and can be effectively followed and complemented
by forecasting that informs the pace and scale of development, not the
direction (Holmberg and Robèrt 2000, 300; Robèrt 2000, 244-5; Robèrt et
al. 2005, 40).
Backcasting from principles is a systematic approach to planning that is
particularly useful in SSD. It is a normative view of strategic planning that
acknowledges and embraces the inclusion of values in the creation of
desirable future vision, within the basic constraints of the four
Sustainability Principles.
A formalised tool called ‘A-B-C-D Analysis’ has been developed for
applying backcasting from basic principles of success (Robèrt 2000, 247).
It consists of four simple steps:
A – building a shared mental model that conveys context and
meaning to participants in the planning process, so that everyone is
aware of and understands the ‘rules of the game,’ i.e.
characteristics of the system, principles of success (sustainability)
and strategy (SSD);
B – examining the current reality through the lens of the
Sustainability Principles (i.e. identifying violations of each) by
conducting a baseline assessment of the organisation’s or
community’s present activities;
C – creative visioning of a desired future outcome within the basic
constraints of the Sustainability Principles and brainstorming of
compelling measures; and
D – strategic prioritisation of measures identified during the
visioning process, based on a template of three criteria (Ny et al.,
The three criteria for prioritisation in the ‘D’ step are: (1) measures should
bring the community or organisation and society closer to sustainability,
(though it may be insufficient to implement actions that lead to compliance
with the Sustainability Principles in the short term without considering
long-term implications); (2) measures must also avoid blind alleys in the
future by providing technically feasible stepping-stones towards future
actions, and (3) measures should generate enough economic, socio-political
and ecological resources for the continuation of the process. Because
investments are often resource-intensive, it is important to have a
perspective that is large enough, in terms of time and space, to provide an
accurate perception of returns. Investing in measures that will cause fewer
impacts today, but which do not have the potential to adapt to contributing
to complete compliance with the Sustainability Principles in the future, may
not be a sound use of resources (Robèrt et al. 2005, xxx). Strategic
decision-makers will consider the risks associated with rising costs,
increasing public awareness and more restrictive legislation, as well as
declining resource availability (described by the funnel metaphor), and
work to eliminate their violations of the Sustainability Principles, regardless
of short-term incentives to do otherwise. (Robèrt et al., 2002; Ny et al.,
Figure 1.2. Backcasting from principles, as illustrated by A-B-C-D
Analysis (Ny et al., 2006).
Precaution. Exercising precaution is being wary of making unnecessary
mistakes in order to avoid costly consequences. It is a principle that should
be applied when there is uncertainty regarding the ecological consequences
or the financial viability of a specific activity, and requires rational and
strategic application so not to preclude untested, but inherently positive
steps towards sustainability. It is also important to be aware that a decision
to do nothing is still a decision. There is no reason to allow the burden of
proof for decisions of inaction to be lower than the burden of proof to
justify proactive decisions (Holmberg and Robèrt 2000, 295).
Communication. Effective communication is essential for teamwork
(Brown and Isaacs, 1997; Senge 2006, 10) and community-building,
particularly in the development context (Partridge et al., 2005). Sustainable
development is about building a world in which people’s needs are met
without compromising the needs of future generations (WCED, 1987). A
true understanding of people’s needs can only be gained through
communication. Empirical investigation will not yield a real depth of
understanding, and treating a community as the object of the objective gaze,
as opposed a subject in communication, is dehumanizing (Wilber 1996, 7695). If value is to be maximized for all interested parties in a development
project, the needs and wants of the organisation or community must be
identified through listening and respectful dialogue between self-aware,
empowered people (Capra 2002, 70-94; Kahane, 2004; Partridge et al.,
2005). In the development context, a key means of communication is
stakeholder engagement (Partridge et al., 2005).
Values and intentions. It is often said that sustainability is a human vision
laced with human values (see for instance Bell and Morse, 2000). As
previously discussed, the terminology around sustainability and sustainable
development, and the difference between them, is confusing and often
debated and misunderstood. The five-level framework for SSD (see
Section 1.4.1) clearly differentiates between sustainability (i.e. level 2 –
success) and sustainable development (i.e. level 3 – strategy).
At the success level, the Sustainability Principles are intrinsically value-free
and sustainability technically can be defined as a dynamic state in which
these Principles are not violated. However at the strategy level, the
implementation of sustainable development strategies, or indeed the
decision not to, is inherently full of values. The Sustainability Principles
are not systemic laws; they can be broken, resulting in an unsustainable
situation in which human beings will not be able to survive indefinitely,
much the same way as breathing is a principle of human survival – it can be
broken, but not without severe consequences (Robèrt, 2005). The degree to
which we are prepared to let the system break down, to let people suffer
from the results of unsustainable behaviour, etc. is a value judgement,
encompassing expectations around life style, ethical considerations of intraand inter-generational justice, etc. (Azar, 2006) Similarly, the manner in
which we choose to proceed with development is reflective of sets of
values, norms, etc.
“The TNS framework is designed to be a shared mental
model for cooperation around sustainable development that is
generic enough to be applied for any activity at any scale. To
make that possible, the people at TNS have utilized scientific
thinking, methodologies and very close scrutiny.
Applying the framework, on the other hand, is where the art
begins. It’s about community building, genuine creativity,
ethics, aesthetics, group dynamics, common sense and
psychology. It’s the musicians and chess-players mastering
the basics that can improvise” (Robèrt, 2006).
International development initiatives such as the CDM affect people on a
broad scale, and as such, should be guided by a set of principles that reflect
a high-level global consensus on values, including: transparency,
participation, responsibility, accountability, and honesty. Decision-makers
should ask themselves:
Are decisions planned in a way that has enabled people to gain
access to information and monitor the process throughout? Would
this degree of transparency be acceptable to me?
Have decisions been based on enough participation from, and
dialogue with, all affected parties? Would this degree of
participation, if I were subjected to it, be acceptable to me?
Has the responsibility for decisions been clearly communicated
between all people taking part in the planning process, including
those who are affected indirectly by it? Would this degree of
clarity in terms of responsibility and accountability be acceptable
to me?
Am I being honest about my intentions? Would I maintain my
dignity if all people suddenly gained access to my innermost
thoughts and thus discovered exactly what was driving decisions?
How would I react if I were subject to decisions driven by the
same motivations (Cook 2004, 59-60)?
These principles are informed by existing agreements such as the UN
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN, 1948), and cross-cultural
themes such as the Golden Rule8 (Cook 2004, 58). They are aspects that
facilitate good communication and are important for building trust. They
allow people to see, understand, and correct mistakes, and they open up
possibilities that would otherwise be difficult to identify and achieve
(Robèrt et al. 2002, 202).
The Golden Rule, ‘do not do unto to others that which you would not like done unto you,’
is a cross-cultural, all-embracing value statement that concisely conveys the spirit behind
the social principles. Manifestations of this idea can be found in most of the world’s
religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.
Experts are not the ethical arbiters of society, but they do bring important
capacity to the development process. In order to truly reflect important
values, it is vital to create an emergent understanding from a synthesis of
expert knowledge and participant engagement, allowing the relevant
normative information to be brought into projects (Robinson, 2006).
Social and Cultural Principles. Social institutions can be both enablers and
barriers to change. Political institutions (at the international, regional,
national, state and municipal levels) can protect the commons and
encourage movement towards sustainability through political means such as
incentives, taxation and subsidisation, legislations (Robèrt et al. 2002, 2024). Economic policies can create market-based mechanisms (such as
emissions trading) that encourage investment in sustainable development.
Educational and religious institutions can communicate the sustainability
message and organisations such as corporations can be incubators for
innovative ideas. Conversely, these institutions and organisations can also
represent barriers to change, particularly when their power structures may
threatened by that change. Where there are concentrations of authority and
control, be it social, political, economic or environmental (Capra 2003, 8890; Robèrt et al. 2005, 157-8) there is the potential for abuses of this power.
These social structures can both inform and be informed by our collective
worldviews, paradigms, norms and standards (Robèrt et al. 2002, 202-4,
Wilber, 1996). Awareness around how they interact can illuminate
powerful intervention points to affect change on a broad scale (Meadows,
1999; Wilber, 1996).
Strategic Sustainable Development and the CDM
Within the five-level framework, we believe the CDM is a potentially
powerful strategic and capacity-building tool (level 5) that is a means for
moving society towards sustainability and to create a shared mental model
of SSD. Understanding CDM projects within the greater strategic plan of
sustainable development with a clear, principled definition of success will
increase the likelihood that they are moving the affected region towards
If CDM project developers had a user-friendly, globally-applicable tool that
would guide them through the backcasting planning methodology in the
development context, they could build SSD thinking into the entire
planning process from early inception through to the CDM project planning
cycle9. This tool could ‘tell the story’ of CDM project pre-planning and
build capacity for investors, project developers and host communities to
contribute positively to effective sustainable development.
For details on the CDM project planning cycle, see Appendix F.
2 Methods
Objectives and Research Questions
Taking into account the societal need for this study (Section 1.3) and key
issues regarding the CDM and sustainable development (Section 1.3.2), the
objective of this thesis, is to:
create an understanding of the possibility for CDM projects to
better contribute to sustainable development,
apply a framework for SSD in such a way that can guide actions
undertaken through CDM projects; and
develop a user-friendly tool to help project participants increase
the likelihood that CDM projects will contribute to SSD.
These objectives are reflected in our research questions:
1. What are the key attributes of a globally-applicable ‘guidance
system’ for strategic sustainable development for the CDM?
2. Is the ‘guidance system’ a practical tool to increase the
likelihood that CDM projects move society towards
We attempted a synthesis of in-depth academic research and first-hand
knowledge of experts in the emerging CDM sector. The research project
took place in three major phases.
Phase One: Research and Analysis
Phase one consisted of a literature review and analysis using synthesis,
process evaluation and logical deduction. First we researched within the
conceptual framework of sustainability, international development and
economics. The literature review focused on the CDM, its history,
structure, process, and context in international economic cooperation and
global governance, and existing sustainable development tools such as
frameworks, criteria, indicators, indexes and templates. Sources for this
literature include UN documents, academic papers, peer-reviewed journals,
and books by established experts in the field. In this stage we also
interviewed subject experts to clarify our understanding of the literature and
to gather anecdotal information about enablers and barriers to CDM project
implementation and contribution to sustainable development.
Phase Two: Hypothesize, Test and Observe, Inform, and Refine
Phase two of the project was tool development, testing and observation.
We developed a tool for sustainable project planning for the CDM through
a logical synthesis of the framework for SSD and the CDM process.
Tool Development: CDM Select
Having identified the need to develop a tool that enabled a strategic
approach to sustainable development for the CDM, we set out to discover
what such a tool might look like, and what its key attributes would be.
Templates for Sustainable Product Development. We used existing
research in the area of sustainable product development as a launching
point for building the tool. An upcoming paper by Henrik Ny, Sophie
Byggeth, Jamie MacDonald, Karl-Henrik Robèrt, and Göran Broman
outlines an argument for developing generic templates for sustainable
product development (TSPD) based on the success of the template
approach when tested on designing TVs with Matsushita Electric Group in
Japan (Ny et al., n.d.).
The basic format of the templates provides product development teams with
a series of “trigger questions” that encourages them to take a whole-system
perspective (focusing on the ‘big picture’ of society in the biosphere),
promotes creative thinking, and helps make sense of complexity without
missing any critical sustainability aspects in their analysis (Ny et al., n.d.).
In developing a tool to apply SSD to the CDM, we used a set of criteria
similar to that employed by Ny et al. in developing the TSPD, to ensure
the perspective is large enough in space and time – humanity and
ecosystems on Earth, now and in the future;
CDM projects are assessed through the full life cycle, with the
perspective of sustainability, rather than a random selection of
downstream impacts;
the strategic perspective exists, i.e. looking at innovations as
economically feasible platforms for further progress towards
sustainability, so that trade-offs can be evaluated as to their
respective feasibility to serve as ‘stepping stones’ towards full
sustainability rather than as ‘choices between evils;’
complexity is dealt with in a feasible and simple enough way to be
practical, yet not so simplistic that essential aspects of
sustainability are lost in the process; and
the working climate is innovative so that problems as well as
solutions can be dealt with ‘outside the box’ (Ny et al. n.d., 7).
Generic project planning and the CDM project cycle. The first step in
adopting the TSPD approach to the CDM was to apply it to a generic
project planning framework. Relevant questions from the TSPD were taken
and asked in the context of project planning.
There is an old design adage that says ‘all the really important mistakes are
made on the first day.’ In fact, it is estimated that 80-90% of the total life
cycle costs (both environmental and economic) associated with most human
artefacts are committed by the design of the product before production and
construction begin (Fabrycky and Blanchard, 1991; Gattenby and Foo,
1990). Experience from the World Bank shows that this holds true in the
context of the CDM: “substantial front-end expenditures are necessary to
reduce investment risks, facilitate project development and replication,
streamline project procedures, and bring proposals to validation stage”
(World Bank Carbon Finance Unit, 2006).
Because CDM projects typically involve large upfront capital investments,
we determined that the tool would likely be most effective in helping
conceptualize the most appropriate and sustainable projects in the preplanning phase of the CDM project planning cycle (see Appendix F). By
taking a ‘front-loaded’ approach, individual project ideas could be placed
within the larger context of sustainable development and evaluated with
regard to the contribution that each could make.
In light of this front-loaded approach, we focused on the first four steps of a
traditional project planning cycle – Analyse Opportunities, Identify Aim,
Explore Options, Select Best Option (Manktelow, 2003). These were
modified slightly to better align with a backcasting approach through A-BC-D Analysis and the CDM context.
Alignment with A-B-C-D Analysis. Alignment with A-B-C-D Analysis was
important to ensure that the tool harnessed the advantages of using the
framework for SSD to plan in complex systems, and in particular the power
of backcasting from principles.
First, it was clear that the traditional project planning stages did not include
an ‘A’ step, where a shared understanding of the system, the participants’
role in the system, and ‘big picture’ understanding of success was
established. To remedy that, an ‘Introduction’ stage outlining these
concepts was added before the four steps.
Step One, ‘Analyse Opportunities’ was changed to ‘Engage and Analyse’ to
stress the importance of stakeholder engagement in developing projects
under the CDM, and analysing the current reality in the ‘B’ step.
The concept of backcasting was highlighted by renaming Step Two,
‘Identify Aim’ as ‘Build the Vision,’ which aligned more closely with the
purpose of the ‘C’ step. We believe the wording ‘Build the Vision’
emphasizes that people have the ability to create a desired future, as
opposed to ‘Identify Aim,’ which suggests a pre-determined, unavoidable
To make more explicit how Step Three, ‘Explore Options’ fit in with CDM
project development, and to stay inline with the creative nature of
identifying compelling measures in the “C” step, the title was changed to
‘Brainstorm Potential Projects.’
For Step Four, which covered the prioritisation of options in the ‘D’ step, it
was determined that the ‘Select Best Option’ language was straightforward
and clear.
International context. It was also necessary to give special consideration to
the aspects of the unique context of international project development,
including: language barriers, cultural differences, different levels of
industrialisation and access to technology among host countries, as well as
the politically contentious nature of the concept of “sustainable
In an effort to begin to address these considerations, we focused on the key
aspects of language, interface, and the principles (for sustainability and
SSD) upon which CDM Select is based. We recognise that due to the
complexity of these considerations and the short time frame for our
research, our results are preliminary.
Language. Due to the international context, language barriers and
communication difficulties are often implicit in the CDM process. As
Nelson Mandela said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands,
that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his
heart” (Mandela, n.d.).
Linguistic considerations. It was important that the language used in CDM
Select be as straight-forward and easy to understand as possible. CDM
Select was developed in English, both for the purposes of this thesis and
because the official UNFCCC documents are produced in English.
However, we intend to develop a Spanish version soon and, recognizing the
importance of language accessibility in the CDM context, ideally it would
be translated into the language of the host country prior to use.
International development context considerations. Because the CDM deals
with developing countries, it was also vital that a developing country
perspective – one often centred on urgent challenges in meeting people’s
basic needs – be central in selecting and developing CDM projects (Bradley
and Baumert, 2005). Therefore, it was important that the language in CDM
Select makes this point of view explicitly clear. The emphasis on
stakeholder engagement and the Human Needs Tool (discussed below) is
intended to do so.
Another important consideration in terms of language was to consider the
terminology used in the international development discourse and by guiding
institutions such as the UN and the World Bank. It was important to be
conscious of this context while developing CDM Select to ensure that the
intended meaning of the terminology used would be properly interpreted by
CDM participants. This was not an easy task given the complex nature of
the CDM and sustainable development, and the proliferation of jargon and
acronyms that accompany these concepts.
The term ‘sustainable
development,’ for example, can hold very different meanings and
interpretations for government officials, international aid organisations,
business people, real estate developers, and even for individuals within a
given sector. While acknowledging the diversity of potential users of CDM
Select, efforts were made to use language common in the international
development discourse around sustainable development and to avoid
confusing jargon.
For example, the framework for SSD includes a principled definition of
social and ecological sustainability. Economic considerations are a vital
means for achieving that principled vision of sustainability – this is intuitive
and explicitly addressed as a core consideration of backcasting in the ‘D’
step of A-B-C-D Analysis (see Section 1.4.3). However, in the common
discourse, the ‘three dimensions of sustainability’ – economic, social, and
environmental – are generally-accepted, and therefore that language was
preserved in CDM Select. Often the ‘three dimensions’ are presented and
discussed in a such a way that suggests the prevailing economic paradigm
that sustained economic growth (often expressed in Gross National
Product) is a goal in and of itself (Daly 1991, 98-127). Because this is
misleading and can be dangerously counterproductive in terms of
sustainable development (Daly 1991, 2-48), we felt it was important to reconceptualize the ‘three dimensions’ model so that economics was
explicitly identified as a means to move towards socio-ecological
sustainability and not an end in itself. We attempted to do this is a way that
preserves the valuable aspects of the shared understanding that the ‘three
dimensions’ model has promoted in the common discourse (see Section
3.1.11 for details).
Some terminology, such as ‘backcasting’, the ‘funnel metaphor’ and the
‘Sustainability Principles’, represent important SSD concepts that we felt
needed to be explained. Due to the importance of shared mental models
and a common understanding at the principle level, these concepts were
explicitly outlined on the Introduction page of CDM Select.
Cultural differences. As an international mechanism, the CDM deals with a
wide variety of cultures and cross-cultural interactions. In order to make a
globally-applicable tool, we decided to base the content on principles,
rather than specifics, and emphasize the importance of stakeholder
engagement and dialogue as the best way to create cross-cultural
understanding (see Section 1.4.3 for details).
Also, due to the wide variety of contexts in which CDM projects are
developed, we decided to make a non-prescriptive tool that did not assign
weightings to the ‘trigger questions.’ The rationale for this approach rests
in part on the belief that ‘not everything that counts can be counted’
(Einstein, n.d.), and that attempting to quantify the unquantifiable without
an integrated view of the ‘big picture’ can be counter-productive. In this
way, we avoided adding more criteria to the increasingly crowded fray of
existing valuable and necessary – and often confusing and overlapping –
tools, guidelines, and checklists (see Section 1.3.2 and Appendix A).
Interface. The importance of a user-friendly interface was also a central
consideration in the development of CDM Select, in order to make it
accessible to a diverse pool of participants with various backgrounds in
terms of language, culture, development experience, etc. as discussed
above. Additionally, a user-friendly interface can be helpful in conveying
complex ideas more simply without being reductionist. Therefore, by
making a holistic analysis more accessible, CDM Select aims to reduce the
burden – in terms of time and money – for project participants, and
particularly developers. At the same time, easy access to the concepts of
SSD will help build shared mental models and common understanding
around a principled definition of sustainability and effective strategies for
creating a sustainable future.
Principles of Sustainability and SSD. The questions from the TSPD were
assessed for their relevance and usefulness in the CDM context. Questions
specific to product development and not relevant to the CDM project
planning context were omitted. We developed a matrix to assess which of
the Sustainability Principles and Principles for SSD each question
addressed (see Appendix B). The two purposes of the matrix were to
eliminate unnecessary redundancies in addressing the principles and to
ensure that all of the principles were addressed by the questions. Next,
through logical deduction, the remaining questions were evaluated to see if
they were sufficient with regards to SSD from a CDM project development
perspective, and additional questions were added where they were deemed
necessary (see Section 4.2.3 for more details)10.
We expect that this process will continue and questions will be added or modified when
CDM Select is tested in field on actual projects.
Additional features. We developed four ‘tools’ pages where no suitable
existing tools could be sourced to support users when answering the ‘trigger
questions’: the Stakeholder Engagement Tool, the Visioning Tool, the
Human Needs Tool, and the Millennium Development Goals Tool (MDG
Test and observe. We conducted qualitative key informant interviews with
seventeen participants, who were identified through our literature review
and referrals from subject experts. We sent the prototype tool out to this
group of identified experts (see Appendix C) along with an interview
protocol (see Appendix D) consisting of five main questions and nine subquestions concerning the design and application potential of the tool.
Responses to these interview questions were collected in a matrix, and
compared with our expected responses. Based on the level of interest
demonstrated in their responses and their relative potential contribution to
improvement of the tool (expertise, experience, etc.), we identified some
interested parties with whom to discuss the tool further. The follow-up
interviews were loosely-structured, qualitative telephone, email and inperson dialogues with people selected for their first-hand knowledge of
international development, the CDM and/or SSD (USAID, 1996).
Inform and refine. As a result of the feedback gathered in the key
informant interviews, we made the following refinements: we added the
CDM Resources page, we simplified the Human Needs tool, and improved
the user interface by re-structuring the main menu, the navigation buttons
and the consistency of page layout. We also identified the most likely
target audience for CDM Select, as well as acknowledged its inherent
Phase Three: Report
In phase three, we reported our key findings, including our conclusions,
recommendations and areas for further research, in a presentation to the
Master’s in Strategic Leadership Towards Sustainability class and our
thesis advisors. Finally, the results of all three phases were captured in this
3 Results
Building CDM Select
Key Attributes
Our first research question asked: What are the key attributes of a globallyapplicable ‘guidance system’ for SSD for the Clean Development
Through the process of synthesizing the framework for SSD and the CDM,
we identified many of the key attributes for a globally-applicable ‘guidance
system’ for SSD for the CDM.
First, we determined that it needed to be comprehensive and intellectually
rigorous with regard to SSD – in terms of taking a whole-system
perspective (both temporal and spatial), communicating a shared
understanding of a scientific principled definition of sustainability, and
promoting backcasting as a strategic principle for moving society towards
sustainability (see Sections 1.4.2 and 1.4.3).
Second, it became clear that an essential attribute was that the guidance
system (CDM Select) must be accessible to a broad range of CDM project
participants and stakeholders, meaning it should:
be non-prescriptive to avoid adding unnecessary burden to the
process and allow for creativity and flexibility;
avoid providing quantitative results, because the relative weight,
or importance of various aspects of sustainable development vary
greatly depending on the circumstances (socio-economic,
ecological, cultural, geographic, etc);
use clear, simple language and terminology in order to be
understood by users from a wide variety of international
backgrounds, and with a wide range of levels of capacity around
the CDM and SSD;
have a user-friendly interface in order to be effective for users with
a wide variety of levels of experience with computers;
flow logically so as not to create confusion;
include access to additional resources (CDM process guidelines,
frameworks, criteria and indicators, and decision-making tools) to
allow users to easily access necessary items and to continue the
learning independently; and
represent an added-value for project developers by offering a way
to 1) identify and mitigate risk in potential projects and 2) identify
and take advantage of innovative and synergistic opportunities of
potential projects that might otherwise go undetected.
These were the key attributes upon which CDM Select was built.
3.1.2 CDM Select
CDM Select is a Microsoft Excel-based project planning tool that consists
of: an Introduction page, four modules (Step One – Engage and Analyse;
Step Two – Build the Vision; Step Three – Brainstorm Potential Projects;
and Step Four – Select Best Option), four tools (the Stakeholder
Engagement Tool, the Human Needs Tool, the MDG Tool and the Visioning
Tool), a Report Sheet, a Rationale and Contact Information page, and a
CDM Resources page.
The interface is easy to use and guides the user through the project planning
process in a logical manner. It provides structure to the pre-planning stage
of CDM project development through a systematic approach to organising
and understanding the complex issues of SSD. CDM Select prompts
project developers to ask the right questions to identify and address
sustainability aspects early in the process, sparking creativity and
cooperation to discover ways that projects can synergistically meet human
needs through SSD.
Each module contains a guidance section, which outlines the approach to
the particular step and reminds the user of relevant sustainability and
sustainable development principles. The modules also contain a series of
‘trigger questions’ and links to useful tools pages for considering and
answering them.
CDM Select is not a definitive checklist or set of criteria or indicators. It
does not offer a comprehensive definition of what a sustainable vision of
success would be in a particular context, but rather provides the means to
develop such a vision within the constraints of basic Sustainability
Principles. It is designed to be non-prescriptive in nature, so as to avoid
adding unnecessary burden to the project development process, while
mitigating some risks. CDM Select is not sufficient to address all CDM
project risks and as such, should not be the sole sustainability assessment
tool used when making an investment decision, but rather a tool for
designing sustainability into a project from inception and one of many
inputs to final decision-making.
Introduction to CDM Select
The Introduction page is a brief capacity-building step, outlining the basic
principles upon which the CDM Select is based. The sections are written to
convey complex ideas in clear and simple language.
Why do we need CDM Select? First, the purpose of the tool is explained:
“CDM projects must help non-Annex I countries in achieving sustainable
development, but the concept of sustainable development is not clearly
defined. Project developers need a process to develop and evaluate the
contribution of projects to sustainable development. CDM Select helps
project teams design sustainability into their projects from their inception,
identify synergistic solutions to greenhouse gas problems and mitigate risk
by creating projects more likely to be approved by the DNA, the DOE and
the CDM Executive Board” (CDM Select, 2006).
Global Unsustainability. In this section, the current global reality is briefly
outlined: “for CDM projects to contribute sustainable development, it is
necessary that participants have a clear understanding of how they fit into
the system. Every individual must realize that they are a part of the project,
which is a part of a greater community, which is part of human society,
which exists within the constraints of the biosphere (the Earth’s natural
systems)” (CDM Select, 2006).
The funnel metaphor (see Section 1.3.1) is used to describe the increasingly
narrow options available to deal with declining resources and increasing
demand as unsustainable behaviour continues: “The negative effects of
society’s unsustainable path can be described as ‘hitting the funnel walls.’
Organisations (communities, businesses, project teams, etc.) can feel the
impact of hitting the funnel walls in a variety of ways, including increased
costs for resources and waste management and lost investment in projects
that become obsolete (due to legislation, litigation, or safer, more effective
alternatives)” (CDM Select, 2006).
The complex and interrelated nature of the Earth system and the importance
of a whole-system perspective (see Section 1.3.1) are explained.
Defining Success: Sustainable development and sustainability. A primary
goal of CDM Select is to clarify the difference and relationship between the
vision of success (sustainability) and the means to get there (sustainable
In Defining Success: Sustainable development and
sustainability, these concepts are explained: “in order to enact SSD, a
shared vision of a sustainable future, i.e. success, is required, as it is
impossible to move strategically without a clear sense of what direction you
want to go…. Because sustainability can come in many forms and is
interpreted differently across cultures and perspectives around the world, it
can be more helpful to use a principled definition than specific criteria in
the global development context. From a principled understanding of
sustainability, one can 'backcast' to today and create sustainable
development strategies to eliminate contributions to the types of activities
that lead to unsustainability.” (CDM Select, 2006)
The Sustainability Principles. The four Sustainability Principles are
explained in accessible language and examples are given for further
explanation, for example, Sustainability Principle I: ‘In a sustainable
society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of
substances extracted from the Earth’s crust,’ is written:
“Sustainability Principle I: To reduce, and eventually
eliminate, contributions to a systematic increase in
concentrations in nature of substances taken from the earth's
Generally, this means using all mined materials efficiently,
systematically reducing dependence on fossil fuels, and
substituting certain metals and minerals that are scarce in
nature with others that are more abundant.
Some examples are: energy efficiency measures; power from
renewable sources; using metals and minerals that are
abundant in nature such as iron, silicon, etc.; using materials
that are natural and biodegradable (glass, wood, cotton, waterbased, etc.); materials that are managed in tight technical
cycles; re-usable, recyclable and recycled materials” (CDM
Select, 2006).
Strategic Sustainable Development. Principles of SSD are introduced in
this section: “When we have a principle-based shared vision of
sustainability, we can create a SSD plan to help us move towards that goal.
‘Walking the talk’ of sustainability is important when working on any
development project, and principles of SSD can guide behaviour (what you
do) and intentions (how you do it). Some important things to keep in mind
when planning a CDM project are: precaution, participation, transparency,
honesty, responsibility and accountability” (CDM Select, 2006).
The backcasting methodology is briefly outlined, and a diagram shows how
the process of working through the four modules follows the logic of this
strategic approach.
Figure 3.1. Visual representation of the CDM Select modules, following
the backcasting methodology, included in the Introduction section.
The Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs are listed and their role as
strategic goals in the greater strategy of global sustainable development
Step One – Engage and Analyse
The purpose of Step One – Engage and Analyse is to engage stakeholders
and assess the current reality of the organisation or community by
identifying strengths to build on, issues to address, etc. The guidance
section explains the rationale behind the two parts of the process.
Engage Stakeholders. Stakeholder engagement is the foundation for the
project planning process of CDM Select. This module requires project
developers to identify stakeholders and hold workshops to engage them in
an analysis the current reality in a transparent, participatory dialogue. More
detail is provided Section 3.1.6 and 3.1.7, which describe the Stakeholder
Engagement Tool and Human Needs Tool, developed to support users in
completing this module.
Table 3.1. Examples of ‘trigger questions’ in the engage section of Step
One – Engage and Analyse of CDM Select.
Question No.
Trigger Question
Who are the stakeholders in this organisation/community?
What key stakeholder issues need to be considered and/or addressed?
(e.g. energy poverty, unemployment, sanitation)
Analyse the Current Reality. The aim of this step is to identify existing
and/or potential 'hot spots' using the framework of the Sustainability
Principles so that no critical sustainability aspects are overlooked. The
current state of the organisation or community is analysed, including the
critical flows associated with its activities under each Sustainability
Principle (i.e. resource extraction, transportation, energy production, use of
resources, waste disposal, etc.). Through dialogue with stakeholders,
project developers can identify what major violations of the Sustainability
Principles, and areas of strength, where needs are met without violations,
Project developers are directed to keep the analysis at a high level,
identifying flows and management patterns qualitatively, noting areas
where more information is necessary, without getting bogged down in the
Table 3.2. Examples of ‘trigger questions’ in the analyse section of Step
One – Engage and Analyse CDM Select.
Question No.
Trigger Question
What are the Designated National Authority’s (or other governing
body’s) criteria for sustainable development (if any)?
What (if any) activities in the organisation/community are producing
greenhouse gases?
Step Two – Build the Vision
In Step Two – Build the Vision, project developers and stakeholders are
guided to co-create a compelling vision of a sustainable future where the
Sustainability Principles are not violated. At the heart of the visionbuilding step is creativity. The idea is to envision what a sustainable future
might look like without allowing creativity to be limited by the barriers of
the current reality, such as technological or economic feasibility. In that
way a ‘gap’ is created between the current reality and the envisioned future.
This gap provides the creative tension necessary for SSD, which can result
in unexpected, cost-effective, synergistic solutions and innovation.
In order to structure the vision, the concept of 'free creativity within
constraints' is used, with the four Sustainability Principles acting as the only
constraints in the envisioned sustainable future. To assist in generating
ideas for the vision, the ‘trigger questions’ identify the core purpose, or
reason for being, of the organisation or community and strategic goals
provide ambitious but achievable ‘stepping-stones’ to strive for on the path
to a sustainable future. In the context of the CDM the MDGs are suggested
as appropriate strategic goals.
The ‘trigger questions’ were deliberately created to be broad and open, and
perhaps even vague. They are meant to spark discussion, and not overguide the process, which could inhibit creativity.
Table 3.3. Examples of ‘trigger questions’ in Step Two – Build the Vision
of CDM Select.
Question No.
Trigger Question
What does this organisation/community look like in an imagined
sustainable future, in which it no longer contributes to violations of
the Sustainability Principles?
What benefits does the organisation/community want to realise
through this process, i.e. what are some strategic goals to work
A Visioning Tool (see Section 3.1.11) was created based on backcasting and
strategic management concepts to support users in completing this module,
and a link to it is provided.
Step Three – Brainstorm Potential Projects
In Step Three – Brainstorm Potential Projects, the project developers and
stakeholders are guided to conduct unconstrained creative brainstorming of
project ideas that can guide the organisation or community toward its vision
of success with synergistic solutions. When brainstorming project ideas,
participants are encouraged to think about how the violations of the
Sustainability Principles identified in Step One could ultimately be
eliminated, while effectively and synergistically meeting people’s needs.
They are advised not to hold any preconceptions about what the project will
be at this stage and to be open to any possibilities and focus on the creative
tension created in Step Two between the current reality and the desired
future for the community, to imagine projects that can help bridge the gap
between what is and what could be.
The idea is to focus on the abstract value that the community will receive
from potential projects and to think beyond current limitations. In this way,
creative thinking occurs at the project concept level before rigid physical
boundaries exist, so that the next module, Step Four – Select Best Option,
begins with a list of innovative potential project ideas to compare and
contrast on the basis of their contribution to the community's sustainable
An illustrative example of an innovative, synergistic project is the
Cyangugu Central Prison pilot biogas project in Kigali, Rwanda. The 1994
war and genocide resulted in a sharp increase in prison population, with
over 120 000 inmates throughout the country. As a result of this
overpopulation, in the areas surrounding prisons, deforestation for cooking
fuel increased dramatically, and toilet facilities were rendered inoperative,
creating health risks for both prisoners and the general public through air
pollution and soil and water contamination. In 2001, the Kigali Institute of
Science, Technology and Management began a test project, installing
anaerobic digesters at the Cyangugu Central Prison, which collected and
treated 275 m3 of toilet waste daily. These digesters captured methane for
cooking fuel and as a result, demand for the unsustainably harvested
firewood has dropped by 50%. The bio-effluent is used for farm fertilizers
and the new system, which relies on gravity rather than buckets for
collection, is much more sanitary. Anecdotal evidence also indicates an
improvement in the biodiversity of the local forests (Abumoghli, Donithorn
and Aboueldahab 2005, 94-5). By using a holistic approach to find key
intervention points to the problems of deforestation, unsanitary conditions
and lack of a sustainable fuel source for cooking, the project team found a
low-technology, sustainable solution to all of them; one which also had the
positive collateral effects of increased biodiversity and standard of living
within and beyond the prison.
The ‘trigger questions’ in this step are based largely on concepts of natural
capitalism11 (Hawken, Lovins and Lovins 1999, 1-21), dematerialization
and substitution12 (Robèrt et al. 2002, 199-200), and self-reliance (MaxNeef 1990, 55).
The concept of natural capitalism includes: radical resource productivity, biomimicry
(looking to natural systems for inspiration in design of human artifacts), service and flow
economies, and investing in natural capital.
Dematerialisation is the reduction of material flows by increasing resource productivity,
creating less waste and/or using waste from one process as raw material for another.
Substitution is exchanging the type or quality of flows and/or activities for more
sustainable options.
Table 3.4. Examples of ‘trigger questions’ in Step Three – Brainstorm
Potential Projects of CDM Select.
Question No.
Trigger Question
What are some project ideas that are designed to…
...integrate upstream, preventative measures so that there are no
downstream impacts to mitigate?
…be operated on an on-going basis by members of the community in
which it is located?
After a list of potential project ideas is compiled, a description of the top
three compelling ideas are entered into the tool, and these ideas are carried
forward into the next module for further consideration.
Step Four – Select Best Option
In Step Four – Select Best Option, potential project ideas are analysed by
evaluating their feasibility and probability of synergistically contributing to
the SSD of the organisation or community.
The ‘trigger questions’ are organized into four categories that help
determine if: potential projects will bring the organisation or community
closer to sustainability; avoid blind alleys (i.e. serve as a flexible platform
for future investments that move the organisation or community closer to
sustainability); generate enough resources (economic, social, ecological) for
the continuation of the process (i.e. provide a sufficient return on
investment in a broad sense); and help the organisation or community meet
the MDGs and its specific goals and aspirations in a way that is in line with
its values. With regard to the question of whether or not the potential
project will bring the organisation or community closer to sustainability, the
questions are aligned with the corresponding Sustainability Principles for
The top three potential project ideas identified in Step Three – Brainstorm
Potential Projects are evaluated in a matrix of the ‘trigger questions’ In
Step Four. There is no quantitative weighting associated with these
questions, because the relative importance of each aspect can vary greatly
from community to community, therefore there is no ‘scoring’ of the
projects at the end of the process. Project developers should have a better
understanding of which will be the most appropriate and effective after
working through the questions for each potential project and identifying
which projects have more positive attributes. Users are also reminded that
the ‘trigger questions’ are meant to ensure that all sustainability aspects are
considered when planning a project. They are not meant exclude projects
on the basis that they in someway violate Sustainability Principles, but
instead to help deal with trade-offs between positive effects and negative
side-effects in the smartest way.
Table 3.5. Examples of ‘trigger questions’ in Step Four – Select Best
Option of CDM Select.
Question No.
Trigger Question
Will this project move the organisation/community towards its sustainability
Sustainability Principle I
Will this potential project contribute to avoiding or reducing
greenhouse gas production? (e.g. using alternatives to fossil fuels)
Sustainability Principle II
Is this potential project designed in a way that any made-made
compounds required (that cannot be designed out of the process)
would be easy to disassemble and recycle?
Sustainability Principle III
Is it possible to avoid, minimize, compensate for and/or restore the
physical disruption of natural systems during the entire life cycle of
this potential project?
Sustainability Principle IV
Will this potential project help eliminate economic imbalances
between people in the organisation/community?
Will this project provide a good return on investment?
Will this potential project help drive the economic engine of the
organisation/community in direct or indirect ways? (i.e. does it have
the potential of sparking additional self-sustaining economic
Will this project serve as a flexible platform, or stepping stone, for further movement
towards the sustainability objectives of the organisation/community?
Is there a risk that this potential project will restrict or eliminate
additional steps (i.e. future projects) that could move the
organisation/community towards a sustainable future? (e.g. a project
that commits a community to long-term fossil-fuel dependence
through a large natural gas pipeline infrastructure project)
Will this project address any additional considerations?
Is this potential project aligned with the other strategic goals of the
organisation/community? (e.g. increasing employment or education)
Will this project contribute the host country's ability to meet the UN
Millennium Development Goals?
This prioritisation is meant to be a launching point for project developers to
carry out more quantitative, detailed analysis within the context of a broad
perspective necessary for SSD. Key areas of importance relevant to the
particular context will emerge through the stakeholder engagement process
and can be identified in the criteria put forward by the DNAs, and other key
tools, which are listed on the CDM Resources page.
Stakeholder Engagement Tool
The Stakeholder Engagement Tool is based on concepts of organisational
learning (Senge, 1990), dialogue (Brown and Isaacs, 1996-7; Capra, 2003;
Kahane, 2004; Schein, 1994; Wilber, 1996), and the UN approach to
stakeholder engagement (Partridge et al, 2005). It assists project
developers in identifying and managing communication with key
stakeholders in the organisation or community. In order to truly meet
people’s needs, it is vital to take into account a large enough spatial
boundary to include all of the people that will be affected by a CDM
project, then engage key stakeholder representatives in participatory
The stakeholder engagement process may appear costly both financially
and in terms of valuable time commitments on the part of the project
developer; however, developing relationships with key stakeholders is
about more than public relations, it is about being responsible to truly
sustainable development, effective planning, risk management and tapping
into the wealth of information that the members of the organisation or
community can provide (Adams 2001, 340). Both project developers and
key stakeholders need to be able to learn from each other and have a shared
understanding of success to have any degree of certainty that a project will
lead to sustainability. The Stakeholder Engagement Tool helps project
developers identify which interested parties are key to the process, thereby
streamlining the process, and focusing the majority of resources on the
most beneficial relationships.
Identify. To identify key stakeholders, project developers are instructed to
think of all the people that may be impacted by the project such as:
customers, owner/operators, competitors, public authorities, politicians,
universities, general public, interest groups, project and operational
suppliers, media, the CDM EB, DNAs, multilateral funding agencies, etc.
Demographics, lifestyles, values, knowledge, expectations, communication
needs, and more are considered and space is provided to enter and manage
relevant information. The tool can be an effective way to track the status of
important relationships on an on-going basis.
Engage. Once key stakeholders are identified, project developers are
instructed to conduct a workshop or series of workshops to open up honest
and transparent lines of communication. Through the workshops, all
participants should gain a clear understanding of the system and their roles
as individuals in organisations or communities involved with a CDM
project being developed in the context of society in the biosphere. Capacity
building is important so that everyone has an understanding of the broad
global issues around sustainable development, and so that project
developers have a clear understanding of the organisation or community,
including its unique cultural, social, and ecological characteristics. In this
way, the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities can be identified.
This tool was designed to include a workshop toolkit, to be developed later,
that will include a Microsoft Powerpoint-based presentation with an
accessible explanation of climate change and other SSD issues, the
importance of community involvement, etc. The delivery method will be
based on organisational learning and dialogue skills (see for instance Senge,
1990 and Kahane, 2004).
In absence of this workshop toolkit, the Stakeholder Engagement Tool
contains suggestions for getting started with stakeholder dialogue from
Adam Kahane's Solving Tough Problems (See Appendix G) (Kahane 2004,
In addition, two other communication tools for fostering cooperative
dialogue are outlined. The first is the ’yes, and technique,’ which is
particularly useful when ideas are challenged or in response to antagonistic
parties. It consists of simply beginning a statement or reply with “yes,”
which tends to have the effect of inviting people in to solve problems
together, as opposed to spending energy on counter-productive arguments.
By following “yes” with “and,” one expresses empathy with others and
their point of view. The second tool is the ‘asking advice attitude,’ which
entails asking for advice (in a pleasant way) about better options or ideas
when strong resistance is raised around a certain idea. This tends to defuse
aggression, converting opponents to allies, and foster the creation and
sharing of new ideas (Robèrt 2002, 51-2).
Human Needs Tool
The purpose of the Human Needs Tool is to identify ways in which
potential projects can contribute to the removal of existing barriers to
people in the organisation or community meeting their needs. It is an
adaptation of the Human Needs Matrix (Max-Neef 1991, 37-54), modified
to be more suited to the CDM context and more user-friendly.
Using the Human Needs Tool, project teams and stakeholders can jointly
explore what aspects (attributes, institutions, norms, mechanism, tools,
actions, locations, milieus, times and spaces) are inhibiting or enabling
people in the organisation or community to meet their needs. It was
designed in two parts, the Negative Human Needs Matrix, in which the
inhibiters are identified, and the Positive Human Needs Matrix, in which
the enablers are identified. It is best used in dialogue sessions, where
participants representing a wide spectrum of stakeholders can contribute
their knowledge of the human experience within the organisation or
Fundamental Human Needs. “Development is about people and not about
objects” (Max-Neef 1991, 16). Intuitively, we can say that the best
development projects are ones which contribute to the greatest
improvement in people's quality of life; but how can we determine whether
one development project is better than another when people are contextual,
subjective beings? Quality of life depends on the possibilities people have
to satisfy their fundamental human needs (Max-Neef 1991, 16).
It is traditionally believed that human needs are infinite and vary greatly by
culture, time period, etc. Recent studies suggest that this is not the case, but
rather, this confusion is created by common misconceptions regarding the
difference between fundamental human needs and satisfiers of those needs.
In Human Scale Development, Manfred Max-Neef proposes nine
fundamental human needs: Subsistence, Protection, Affection,
Understanding, Participation, Idleness, Creation, Identity and Freedom.
Satisfiers are the tangible and intangible things that fulfil those needs, for
example: food and shelter are not needs themselves, they are satisfiers of
the human need for Subsistence (Max-Neef 1991, 16-19, 23-26, 30-31).
It is also possible to distinguish between certain types of satisfiers.
‘Destroyer’ satisfiers are intended to satisfy one need (usually Protection),
but end up destroying people’s ability to meet many other needs (e.g.
censorship is intended to meet the need for Protection, and undermines the
need for Freedom, Participation, Understanding, etc.) ‘Pseudo’ satisfiers
create a false sense of satisfaction, and over time undermine the need they
were originally fulfilling (e.g. prostitution attempting to satisfy Affection,
and a sports car attempting to satisfy Identity, etc.) ‘Inhibiting’ satisfiers
tend to be customs and habits that over-satisfy one need while making it
difficult or impossible to meet other needs (e.g. an overprotective family
over satisfies the need for Protection, and inhibits Affection,
Understanding, Participation, Leisure, Identity and Freedom.) It is
important to avoid attempts to meet needs with these types of satisfiers so
that valuable time and resources are not wasted and social issues are not
reinforced unintentionally. ‘Singular’ satisfiers do not necessarily present
barriers to SSD, but they satisfy only one need while being largely neutral
to others (e.g. some social safety net programs, such as soup kitchens,
which satisfy Subsistence), and are therefore not necessarily the optimal
types of development activities. Promoting ‘synergistic’ satisfiers, which
fulfil many needs at once (e.g. preventative medicine satisfying Protection,
Understanding, and Participation, and breast feeding satisfying Subsistence,
Affection, Protection, and Identity), rather than singular satisfiers is more
likely to be an efficient use of resources (Max-Neef 1991, 31-37).
Human needs, like all sustainability aspects, must be understood from a
systems perspective, as they are all interrelated and interactive. With the
exception of Subsistence, no hierarchies exist within the system, and
deprivation of any of them can be considered a poverty and leads to
pathologies such as chronic unemployment, crushing external debt,
hyperinflation, fear, violence, marginalization, etc. (Max-Neef 1991, 1823). This is a much deeper understanding of poverty than its traditional
association with a lack of economic resources; employment is not a need,
it’s a means to satisfy the need for Subsistence, Participation, Identify,
Understanding, etc.
Using the Human Needs Tool with CDM Select. The Human Needs Tool is
useful in all four modules of CDM Select. In Module One – Engage and
Analyse, both the Negative Human Needs Matrix and the Positive Human
Needs Matrix can be used to clarify the underlying sources of weaknesses
and strengths in the organisation or community in terms of Sustainability
Principle IV. In Module Two – Build the Vision, the concept of
fundamental human needs and the information in the matrices can be used
to spark creative thinking on what a sustainable future, in which the
organisation or community no longer contributes to violations of
Sustainability Principle IV, would look like. In Module Three – Brainstorm
Potential Projects, both the Negative Human Needs Matrix and the Positive
Human Needs Matrix can be used to spark creative thinking around
compelling, ‘out-of-the-box’ and synergistic project ideas that can bring the
organisation or community closer to a sustainable future and the vision
identified in Module Two. Project developers are encouraged to think of
synergistic satisfiers and avoid the destroyers, pseudo-satisfiers and
inhibiters. In Module Four – Select Best Option, both the Negative Human
Needs Matrix and the Positive Human Needs Matrix can be used to
compare potential projects in terms of their contribution to synergistically
meeting needs in the organisation or community.
3.1.10 Millennium Development Goals Tool
The purpose of the Millennium Development Goals Tool (MDG Tool) is to
identify ways in which potential projects can contribute to the host
country's MDGs. The MDGs can be thought of as strategic goals that focus
on solving the most urgent problems facing humanity, and are on the path
of sustainable development towards a sustainable future. As such, they are
an important part of the conceptual framework of CDM Select. The MDG
Tool outlines each of the goals, and asks if and how the potential project
will contribute to meeting them.
3.1.11 Visioning Tool
Work has been done to incorporate A-B-C-D Analysis with strategic
business planning to make it more operational (Robèrt et al. 2005, 219-53).
This was included in the Visioning Tool as a way to assist project
developers conceptualize and build a ‘structured vision’ when completing
Step Two – Build the Vision. Concepts taken from business case studies in
Built to Last (Collins and Porras, 1994), were adapted to the international
sustainable development context. Elements of a structured vision – core
purpose, core values and strategic goals were placed within the basic
constraints of the four Sustainability Principles and evaluated in the context
of the CDM. This page includes a visual representation of the backcasting
methodology, with links to the corresponding modules (Step One through
Four), as well as brief explanations of some components of a structured
vision: vivid descriptions of an envisioned future and strategic goals,
aligned with core values and core purpose (Collins and Porras 1994, 220).
Core Purpose. A project’s core purpose is its reason for being and answers
the questions: What needs is this project satisfying and for whom, and who
would miss it if were not to come to fruition? Projects that do not have a
core purpose that is closely aligned with stakeholders’ specific cultural
values, aspirations, and context, are less likely to run smoothly, be
successful, or maximize generation of CERs at low cost. There are the
direct risks of having a project not approved by the DNA the DOE or the
CDM EB, and there are also the indirect risks of potential stakeholder
dissatisfaction with a project that could threaten the longer-term success of
the project lifecycle (Wilder 2004, 89). We think development should be
about meeting people’s needs effectively and fairly. As previously
discussed, fundamental needs can be identified that are constant over time
and across cultures, but the ways those needs are satisfied can differ greatly
in various contexts. In order to build a vision of a desired future that is
meaningful for a specific organisation or community, it is necessary to
engage in dialogue with stakeholders and co-create that vision. There are
no short cuts for understanding the values and aspirations of people. We
believe the best way to mitigate risk associated with stakeholders is to
invite them to engage in open, honest and transparent dialogue throughout
the project lifecycle. Engaging in this dialogue in the early stages of the
project is particularly vital.
Strategic Goals. Strategic goals are important mile-stones along the path to
an envisioned future. They are usually concrete and achievable but
ambitious. In the case of sustainable development, the MDGs were
suggested as appropriate strategic goals, because there is international
agreement around them and efforts underway to achieve them. It therefore
follows logically that developers should be mindful of how projects
contribute to meeting the MDGs or where they fit into a larger strategy to
do so, and careful that they do not interfere with such efforts.
3.1.12 Report Sheet
The Report Sheet collates all of the data entered by the user into one
summary sheet. The answers provided in Step Four – Select Best Option
are visually represented in a graphic to give a high-level, qualitative
assessment of the three potential projects being compared. This graphic
display of the results does not represent a quantification of the value of each
project because the questions are not weighted. It is intended only to give
a general idea, through visual representation, of which project has the most
positive answers to the non-weighted questions in Step Four – Select Best
Because the questions are not context-specific, and do not have any value
or weighting associated with them, these results cannot be used as
definitive criteria for project selection. CDM Select is not intended to be
used as the sole criteria or the only sustainability assessment tool when
making an investment decision. References to additional decision-making
tools are provided on the CDM Resources page.
3.1.13 Rationale and Contact Information
Important background and rationale information from this document is
summarized and contact information for the developers is given on the
Rationale and Contact Information page. The key message of this section
is that CDM projects present a great opportunity to enact the international
cooperation needed to meet the challenge of global unsustainability; and
that small incremental improvements that only make projects ‘less bad,’
while continuing to proceed on an unsustainable path will not be sufficient
(Ny et al. 2006) (see Section 1.3.1 and 1.4.1).
This page explains that in an effort to address this, CDM Select uses a
principled definition of success for sustainability so that CDM projects can
be designed to move society towards sustainability in a way that is
scientifically rigorous, while still being non-prescriptive to allow for
culturally, ecologically, and politically appropriate solutions and criteria for
sustainable development. While the ‘three dimensions’ of sustainability social, environmental and economic - are evaluated, they are
conceptualized in a different manner than in the common discourse.
Sustainability Principles I through III define success for ecological
sustainability and Principle IV for social sustainability. Meeting people's
needs in ways that do not violate these principles is the ultimate goal of
sustainable development, and economic considerations are vitally important
means for achieving that goal.
Figure 3.2. Re-conceptualisation of the three dimensions of sustainable
3.1.14 CDM Resources
The CDM Resources page was revised in response to expert feedback (see
Section 4.2.1). Links to resources and complementary tools such as host
country sustainability criteria, MATA-CDM (Sutter 2003, 73), the Gold
Standard (WWF, 2005), the UNDP MDG Carbon Facility (UNDP Energy
and Environment Group, 2006a), etc. (see Appendix A) were added to help
the user through the CDM project cycle.
CDM Select was developed keeping in mind the key attributes described in
Sections 3.1.1, and then sent out to a network of CDM and SSD experts.
The following sections discuss the considerations that were identified as
common themes in the feedback.
Testing CDM Select
Our second research question asked: Is the ‘guidance system’ a practical
tool to increase the likelihood that CDM projects move society towards
Overall, the expert responses to CDM Select (the ‘guidance system’) and
our interview protocol questions (see Appendix D) were very positive and
indicated that it has the potential to be a useful tool in assisting developers
create CDM projects with better sustainable development characteristics.
Some areas for improvement were also identified and feedback in those
areas was incorporated in refining CDM Select. Expert responses also
highlighted some inherent limitations of the CDM Select approach. Below,
the common themes from the testing are outlined, with one or two
representative quotations illustrating each theme.
Areas of strength. Expert feedback indicated the following areas of
strength of CDM Select:
1. It is comprehensive with regards to SSD:
“I think that the inherent structure, with brainstorming of a
solid science-based systems perspective on ‘out of the box
visions,’ and linking those to the current situation by
systematic and logical investment plans, is a very powerful
asset that makes this tool unique” (Robèrt, 2006).
“It makes it easier not to forget any components and
principles of [sustainable development]” (Percl, 2006).
2. It is a good tool for increasing understanding of sustainable
development, the ‘second pillar’ of the CDM, and has the
potential to be a good capacity-building tool for DNAs:
“It is a good way to introduce to a CDM project proposer
what is meant with [sustainable development]” (Brent, 2006).
“Because many DNAs do not have a definition for
[sustainable development], you have the opportunity to have
CDM Select or some version thereof, define their definition”
(Pallant, 2006b).
3. It has a user-friendly interface:
“You have done an excellent job of systematizing [sustainable
development] criteria/factors, and putting them into a userfriendly tool” (Figueres, 2006).
4. It is easy to understand with clear language and logical flow,
though there was some indication that there may be language
barriers or contain some jargon:
“…[I]t’s very clear – well written and
understand…the modules follow a very
sense/intuitive order” (Gordon, 2006).
easy to
“[The language is] easy enough for me, though local project
developers in LDC countries might have problems” (Percl,
5. It has the potential to be adapted to other areas of sustainable
development project planning:
“I think it’s EXCELLENT and has huge applicability for TNS
projects in general” (Baxter, 2006).
“I think this tool is a very good sustainability analyser. …its
extreme depth of analysis can be adapted to other point
purposes” (Pallant, 2006b).
Areas for improvement. The feedback also indicated that CDM Select:
1. is unclear as to how it relates to existing sustainable development
criteria for the CDM, particularly the Gold Standard, and could be
more explicit about how to align projects with country-specific
sustainable development strategies, including DNA criteria:
“Your tool is the first step, it helps [identify] the right
project. But after that, the project needs to be defined in
technical detail, financed, implemented and must operate
along the framework set in the selection process. This is
where the [Gold Standard] comes in, and if the tool can help
to deliver some [Gold Standard] specific info then the info
gathered through the tool can help in the development
process, making sure the principles are not lost along the
way” (Schlup, 2006).
“It would be interesting to map your [sustainable
development] requirements to those of various countries...”
(Immink, 2006).
2. would benefit from an introductory section on the background and
technical specifics of the CDM process and more developed
reporting capabilities:
“It would be good to either provide a link to the [UNFCCC’s
CDM web site] or to make a page/checklist for meeting the
Kyoto criteria” (Immink, 2006).
3. could be more effective with initial coaching for users:
“If an individual in an organisation, especially in a
developing country, was given the tool 'cold' they would easily
be lost. I would hesitate to provide the tool without some sort
of one-on-one introduction/instruction/training” (Brent,
4. contains some trigger questions that are too broad and unspecific,
and should contain some questions framed in the negative to
identify potential undesirable outcomes from project activities:
“Some of [the ‘trigger questions’], but not all, are far too
wide and unspecified, such as: ‘What does success look like
for all stakeholders’” (Robèrt, 2006).
5. and that the Human Needs Tool is confusing:
“The Human Needs tool is fairly complex and might be a bit
of a turn-off…” (Schlup, 2006).
Inherent Limitations. Some of the feedback pointed to inherent limitations
of the tool, including that it:
1. employs a front-loaded approach, which will require upfront capital
commitments, representing a risk that most private developers will
not be willing to take:
“The tool presumes a bottom-up consultation and planning
process which is laudable but not very realistic in most
developing countries. At best, a high-performing government
might undertake an exercise like this for public sector
projects, but private sector has a different logic for taking
decisions on projects” (Figueres, 2006).
“I suppose that the tool just fits some organisations better;
ones with a generous timeline and decent funding” (Pallant,
2. relies heavily on open dialogue with stakeholders, which may not be
feasible in certain situations (e.g. repressive political regimes,
polarized economic class structure):
“Criticizing or being criticized as a community, no matter
how constructive the process, can be a touchy process that
can generate ill will if not handled carefully” (Pallant,
3. it may be too complex for host countries’ theoretical and group
moderation capacities, as it relies on a certain level of awareness
and capacity to learn about sustainable development issues, which
may not be feasible in certain situations:
“My first impression was that the tool design was complex,
and I question whether the host countries would have the
theoretical/group moderation capacity to apply it”
(Niederberger, 2006b).
In general, we found all of our feedback to be excellent: informed, useful
and constructive. We also believe that the consistency of themes amongst
our expert collaborators speaks to the validity of our testing methods.
4 Discussion
Key Findings: Areas of Strength
Comprehensive With Regard to Strategic Sustainable
In general, the responses to CDM Select indicated that is comprehensive
with regards to SSD. A comprehensive approach to SSD was central to
building CDM Select, so it was gratifying that the feedback from experts
showed that we were successful. This was somewhat surprising, as our
research revealed much contention around definitions of sustainability and
sustainable development in the common discourse (Cosbey et al., 2005;
Grubb, Vrolijk and Brack, 1999; Sutter, 2003). We believe this is largely
due to the non-prescriptive approach and the use of the framework for SSD
as the basis for the tool.
Capacity Building
Through the feedback we received, it became clear that capacity building
was vitally important to the practicality of CDM Select. This is due to the
complexity surrounding both sustainable development and the CDM, and
because both are relatively new. Creating a common understanding around
the scientific and normative aspects of sustainable development, as well as
around the technocratic and procedural aspects of the CDM are important
for CDM Select to be practical.
CDM Select is pedagogical by design, and by using the ‘trigger question’
approach, it follows the spirit of ‘learning by doing’ that is entrenched in
the CDM as a whole (UNFCCC, 2006c). Therefore, the fact that expert
feedback was on balance positive with regards to its capacity-building
potential was seen as a strong point of CDM Select. It was noted, however,
that additional coaching could be beneficial before using CDM Select, and
that it might be absolutely necessary in some instances (see Section 4.2.2).
DNAs without set sustainable development criteria for evaluating proposed
CDM projects could benefit from the pedagogical approach of CDM Select
(Brent, 2006; Kamel, 2006; Pallant, 2006b; Percl, 2006). Because the tool
provides a holistic perspective and offers a way to evaluate projects in the
context of a broader strategic approach to sustainable development, it
logically followed that CDM Select could be useful for DNAs in deciding
whether to approve projects. It could also provide a transparent process for
approval decision-making so that project developers have a better sense as
to whether their project would be approved, and help mitigate the risk of
the competition between developing countries to attract CDM project
investment becoming a ‘race to the bottom’ of counter-productive rivalry
(see Section 1.3.2).
User-friendly Interface
More than half of the expert feedback we received indicated that the
interface design of CDM Select was user-friendly and accessible. In
response to constructive criticism on some design specifics (Heuberger,
2006; Pallant, 2006; Percl, 2006), we modified the Main Menu page to
make the module links more prominent (see Appendix H for screenshots).
We added a uniform menu box on each page, containing links to all
modules and tools, and also links to corresponding tools next to the relevant
‘trigger questions.’
Some experts suggested making CDM Select a web-based tool (Heuberger,
2006; Percl, 2006), which is an area for possible future research. We will,
however, maintain an Excel-based version so that users do not require
contiguous access to the internet to use the tool.
Language and Logical Flow
The majority of respondents said that the language and logical flow of
CDM Select was clear and easy to understand; however, some interviewees
expressed concerns with regard to the ability of some participants to
understand the language (Immink, 2006; Percl, 2006).
Despite the fact that most feedback indicated that the language was clear,
we believe it would be beneficial to translate CDM Select into other
languages commonly spoken in host countries, and to continue to simplify
the wording as areas of confusion are identified through use of the tool.
Beyond the CDM
Through many of the responses to our interview protocol questions, it
became clear that CDM Select, with a few small adjustments, could have a
wider applicability to other types of project planning, such as for NGO
projects or strategic planning for business organisations.
“I think that the tool would probably be even more useful for
normal development assistance projects. Its scope is clearly
not limited to CDM (in my opinion, the rigorous CDM
concept even limits the potential of the tool)… The tool could
for example be used for a strategy process of a multilateral
programme. I think it does in fact reach far beyond CDM...”
(Heuberger, 2006).
In response to this feedback, we are planning on adapting CDM Select for
use in other contexts as part of our further research.
This was a very positive result, as through our research and discussions, we
had identified the CDM project level as the best intervention point to
introduce a structured definition of SSD into the CDM process. The
motivation for this was primarily that the broad policy structure of the
CDM is largely in place, and revising the language around sustainability
requirements at the international policy level would likely require lengthy
negotiations. It is unlikely that international sustainable development
criteria will be agreed upon in the near future due to general negotiation
fatigue (Azar, 2006), the current focus on the post-2012 climate regime,
and resistance from non-Annex I countries to having a definition imposed
upon them (Niederberger, 2006a). We choose to focus on the project level,
which is still relatively new and undefined territory, as it seemed a more
feasible approach.
We suspected that a non-prescriptive and capacity-building tool used at the
project level might also have a ‘trickle-up’ effect, introducing a strong,
scientific definition of sustainability to the international development
community. Given the interest in CDM Select expressed by CDM project
participants and other experts, it seems there is potential for this to occur.
Key Findings: Areas for Improvement
Relationship to Other CDM Tools and Criteria
As previously mentioned, many other evaluation tools have been created
for the CDM (see Section 1.3.2 and Appendix A). Because CDM Select is
intended to encourage upstream thinking and identify synergistic solutions
to downstream problems, it is the inherent aim of the tool that it not replace
existing indicators and criteria. Instead, it can work in concert with them
by providing a manageable framework for designing projects that meet or
exceed them.
In an effort to build a generic tool, we did not include any specific
connection to any of these tools. However, our results indicate that it
would be helpful if we were more explicit about how CDM Select relates to
other CDM tools and criteria.
In response to this suggestion, we expanded the CDM Resources page.
This page originally was to contain some links to some useful tools that we
identified in our literature review. The revised page has a more
comprehensive list of tools and also briefly outlines the history and basic
components of the CDM. Some basic information about the UNFCCC is
provided, along with resources and links to additional, more detailed
information. The revised page includes a diagram outlining the CDM
project process cycle, and shows where in that cycle CDM Select is
designed to be used. It also highlights how CDM Select relates to other
components of the CDM, such as host country DNA criteria for sustainable
development, and validation requirements for stakeholder consultation. By
explicitly referencing the various criteria that CDM projects would be
evaluated against later in the process, developers could keep those criteria
in mind early in the process, when using CDM Select. Then while engaging
with stakeholders to conceptualize project ideas, and selecting the best
option, developers would have a clearer sense of what other outside
considerations will affect the project later on. This knowledge could then
carry through to the design and implementation stages, so that projects
would have a very good chance of meeting and exceeding DNA and/or
other criteria against which they would be evaluated at later stages.
The expanded list of additional resources includes web links to
organisations such as Gold Standard, SouthSouthNorth, and CCB (see
Appendix A). Also, links to web-pages, and online documents, such as
CDM guidelines are provided.
Benefits of Additional Teaching Resources
Several respondents suggested that some preliminary capacity building, or
coaching may be necessary (Brent, 2006; Schlup 2006), or would at least
beneficial for anyone using CDM Select (Baxter, 2006):
“At TNS, we have a lot of experience that underpins [the need for
initial coaching.] No matter how clever a tool you produce, it needs
to be introduced by somebody who knows (i) the tool, (ii) the area
the tool is operative in and (iii) the context of the audience, so that
the interface between the people and the tool can be addressed in a
personal meeting between expert/teacher/advisor on the one hand,
and the target group on the other” (Robèrt, 2006).
The concepts of whole-system thinking and SSD, as well as the technical
aspects of the CDM, are very complex. The more training one has in these
areas, the better-prepared and effective they are likely to be when using
CDM Select. However, the tool is meant to serve as a self-guided capacitybuilding workshop of sorts, and there was also feedback that it has the
potential to be successful in this regard (see Section 3.2.1). As such, we
acknowledge that any additional, personal coaching from experienced SSD
practitioners would be a valuable complement when using CDM Select. If
this is not feasible, TNS Canada’s e-learning tool, Sustainability: Step by
Natural Step (TNS Canada, 2006), has been identified as a powerful
capacity-building tool for SSD. When this is also not an option, our results
suggest that CDM Select can still serve as an effective initial introduction to
the concepts of SSD, and a useful way to encourage project participants to
try implementing them in practice. However, the tool should be tested on
actual projects prior to wide dissemination or unguided implementation
Revising and Refining the ‘Trigger Questions’
The ‘trigger questions’ were reviewed and refined at two stages in the
process of creating CDM Select. First, during the initial development
phase, questions were added to address principles of sustainability and SSD
that we felt the TSPDs did not address sufficiently for the international
development project context. As previously discussed in Section 2.3.1,
these gaps were identified through the use of the ‘trigger question’ matrix
(Appendix B).
An illustrative example of this is the addition of questions addressing selfreliance. We had concerns about projects that might result (intentionally or
inadvertently) in a counter-productive dependence on foreign technology,
resources, expertise, and capital for the host country. At first glance selfreliance may seem to be at odds with the design of the CDM, which
promotes interdependence. Max-Neef succinctly addresses this apparent
contradiction, by first pointing out that “the different domains of
dependence – economic, financial, technological, cultural and political –
cannot be viewed in isolation from one another, since the power of one is
derived from the support it receives from the other domains.” He then goes
on to explain that he understands “self-reliance in terms of a horizontal
interdependence and in no way as an isolationist tendency on the part of
nations, regions, local communities or cultures. Interdependence without
authoritarian relationships is able to combine the objectives of economic
growth, social justice, personal development and freedom” (Max-Neef
1991, 56-8). Therefore, problems with dependencies arise when there is a
power differential at play, which runs the risk of being abusive.
We determined that in the context of the CDM, self-reliance is important,
and should be addressed with questions that were not explicitly considered
in the TSPD. Though it is somewhat addressed by questions we added
concerning the fourth Sustainability Principle when considering abuses of
power that undermine people’s capacity to meet their needs, we felt that
more explicit questions were necessary. For example, we added question
3.7: What are some potential project ideas that are designed to be operated
on an ongoing basis by members of the community in which it is located? is
tied to the SSD principle of participation, and attempts to address the issue
of self-reliance. Questions 4.26: Will this project contribute to the
economic and/or technological self-reliance of the host country? and 4.33:
Will this project increase the community's economic, financial,
technological, cultural and political self-reliance? address the issue more
After we received feedback on the test version of CDM Select, we refined
the ‘trigger questions’ further. During this revision, we removed confusing
jargon identified though the interviews. We also added questions phrased
in the negative (e.g. Question 4.36: Will this potential project create
dependencies by relying on technologies that the organisation/community
does not have the capacity to support or maintain?) to discourage
disingenuous use of the tool, which is discussed in more detail below in
Section 4.3.3.
Revising the Human Needs Tool
Though we made efforts to simplify the Human Needs Matrix (Max-Neef
1991, 29-55) into a manageable tool, expert feedback indicated that the
Human Needs Tool was still too complex. We maintain that a key goal of
CDM Select is to get project developers thinking in terms of meeting needs
with fewer GHG emissions, rather than simply finding opportunities to
maximize emissions mitigation at least cost. However, we determined that
it was less important for users of CDM Select to complete a detailed matrix,
and more important that they begin to differentiate between satisfiers and
needs, and focus on identifying sustainable and synergistic satisfiers. We
refined the Human Needs Tool into a much simpler matrix (see Appendix H
for screenshots of both the test and the revised versions), focusing on the
concept of differentiating between human needs and the satisfiers that aim
to meet those needs, and referring users to the original Human Needs
Matrix for deeper exploration. Further research, including a case study,
would be required to indicate if this effort has been successful.
Key Findings: Inherent Limitations
Front-loaded approach
CDM Select takes a front-loaded approach so that the most appropriate and
effective projects are selected and upstream, synergistic sustainable
development attributes can be designed into those projects from the
beginning (see Section 1.3.2). A common theme from the key informant
interview respondents was that the front-loaded approach will require
upfront capital commitments, which represents a risk that most private
developers may not be willing to take (Pallant, 2006b; Figueres, 2006).
“According to experience, the process of CDM project
identification typically goes the other way round, namely the
project idea comes first [before stakeholder engagement]”
(Heuberger, 2006).
Target audience for CDM Select. Because of its front-loaded approach, it
was thought that CDM Select will likely be more appropriate for public
institutions, multilateral funding agencies and NGOs, which are presumably
driven less by profit than by social welfare (Pallant, 2006b; Figueres,
2006). Expert interviewees also suggested that local communities and
DNAs could benefit from CDM Select through using it as a screening tool
for proposed projects (Brent, 2006; Schlup, 2006).
We agree that it is important to clearly identify our target audience on the
Introduction page, as recommended by one of our expert collaborators:
“[The Introduction and guidance sections were h]elpful and
clear. However, after concluding the tool you should clearly
state on the first page, who is your target group, who should
use the tool, what is the scope of the tool, how much time will
it take, etc.” (Heuberger, 2006)
This will be particularly important as we develop new versions of CDM
Select that are tailored to certain user groups.
Re-thinking risk. Because such a large percentage of the total life-cycle
costs of a project are determined before it is implemented (see Section
1.3.2), it follows logically that particular attention and sufficient resource
allocation should be given to the early conceptualization, selection and
design stages. While private developers may be resistant to the costs and
bureaucracy involved in thorough stakeholder engagement, we believe that
this is due in part to the type of impact-based thinking identified in Section
1.3.2. A foresighted, strategic investor will understand that there are much
larger risks associated with ‘hitting the walls of the funnel,’ (Section 1.3.1)
and see the self-benefit of staying ahead of increasingly strict legislation
and scarce resources. (Robèrt et al. 2005, 9-14).
One of the goals of CDM Select is to encourage project developers to shift
away from seeing stakeholder engagement as a risk, towards understanding
it as a relatively low-cost means of risk mitigation. The resources required
are usually a relatively small percentage of a project’s overall cost when
considered across the entire lifetime (Pallant, 2006a), and therefore a small
price to pay for the risk mitigated through positive stakeholder
relationships, particularly:
non-approval and approval-delay risk by the DNA, DOE, and the
community or NGO opposition to project;
performance risk e.g. project failure or disbandment due to lack of
local capacity or support; and
political risk, i.e. the uncertainty of the nature, or even existence,
of the KP, emissions targets, and the carbon market post-2012
(Wilder 2004, 83-97; Carbon Credit Capital, 2006).
An early and thorough engagement process also lays the ground work for
future CDM projects with the same community or organisation. By
building genuine partnerships with stakeholders, project developers can
earn their trust, cooperation and support. Once strong relationships have
been developed, the entire CDM process will conceivably run more
smoothly and quickly in future projects with the same group, resulting in
lower-risk project opportunities.
With regard to political risk, it is important that project developers take
ownership of the part they play in ensuring the continuation of the lucrative
carbon market after the end first commitment period in 2012. Going into
the next round of KP negotiations, a key issue will be whether or not
developing countries (particularly the G-77) are realizing the development
dividend (Cosbey et al., 2005). It is vital that projects truly contribute to
sustainable development in order for the G-77 to maintain interest in
participating in the KP.
Therefore, embedded in CDM Select is the idea of ‘enlightened selfinterest,’ or in other words, the idea that project developers will benefit
more in the long run from projects that are desirable in terms of social and
ecological benefit, by mitigating risk, fostering a strong reputation, etc. In
order to test the ability of CDM Select to mitigate risk in a meaningful way,
it will have to be used in real-world projects, which is outside the scope of
this study, but fertile ground for further research.
Challenges of Open Dialogue
CDM Select relies heavily on open dialogue with stakeholders, which may
not be feasible in certain situations, e.g. where repressive political regimes
or polarized economic class structures exist.
“Criticizing or being criticized as a community, no matter how
constructive the process, can be a touchy process that can generate
ill will if not handled carefully. [Question 1.10: What activities in
the organisation/community are undermining people’s ability to
meet their needs,] certainly pops to mind as an item that may
generate fracases with some aspects of a ruling/business elite.”
(Pallant, 2006b)
Identifying the underlying causes of unsustainability, particularly social
issues, can be a difficult process. In all situations, but particularly more
delicate political and social climates, a facilitator skilled in dialogue
processes and learning organisations as well as sustainability education is
likely necessary for a successful outcome. Acknowledging the current
reality may be difficult, but building projects intended to contribute to
sustainable development on a flawed foundation of limited awareness will
likely lead to failure. Understanding the true reality of the organisation or
community will allow project developers the opportunity to deal with the
real issues early in the project planning process, when there is more
flexibility to address them. If not considered, these issues will inevitably
present themselves as risks later in the process, and will have to be
addressed with reduced flexibility and at greater cost.
Potential for Disingenuous Use
Feedback from our presentations and the expert interviews indicated some
concern about the potential for CDM Select to be used inappropriately to
misrepresent a project’s contribution to sustainable development:
“In theory, the projects will be planned better to address all
the [sustainable development] issues, but in practice project
developers may just use [CDM Select] to better 'sell' projects
to the DNAs” (Brent, 2006).
We recognize the risk that CDM Select could be used disingenuously,
particularly because of its non-prescriptive nature, but we hope its design
will limit the likelihood of this happening. First, we believe that projects
that involve stakeholders have built-in control mechanisms (formal or
informal ‘checks and balances’) against corruption. Second, the addition
of ‘trigger questions’ phrased in the negative is an attempt to build controls
into the tool itself. It is more difficult to avoid considering the potential for
undesirable outcomes if it is specifically addressed by CDM Select.
The principles for SSD include honesty and transparency, and one of the
objectives of CDM Select is to build capacity around their importance.
Nevertheless, the project participants bring their values and ethics to the
process. CDM Select is merely a tool, and limited in its ability to counter
abuses of power.
Challenges for Capacity Building
To be most effective, CDM Select requires a certain level of awareness of
the complex issues to consider when planning for SSD. In absence of the
knowledge of the relevant basic sustainability concepts, both key
stakeholders and project developers must spend time and resources on
The stakeholder engagement workshop toolkit will provide some tools for
this, but for various reasons, this may not be feasible in practice. For
example, local stakeholders may not have the time or resources to attend
engagement sessions, and/or project developers may not have the time,
resources or skills to conduct effective dialogue sessions.
The importance of the stakeholder engagement element cannot be
overstated. The growth of individual and collective capacity for selfreliance in host communities through the process of using CDM Select is
one of the tool’s key potential benefits, as we concur with the following:
“[a]t a personal level, self-reliance stimulates our sense of identity, our
creative capacity, our self-confidence and our need for freedom. At the
social level, self-reliance strengthens the capacity for subsistence, provides
protection against exogenous hazards, enhances endogenous cultural
identity and develops the capacity to generate greater spaces of collective
freedom” (Max-Neef 1991, 60).
It remains our contention that development projects done in a community or
organisation without consideration of and consultation with the key
stakeholders impacted by the entire temporal and spatial scope of the
project, run the risk of creating unsustainable impacts, regardless of the
intention of the project developers. As one of our interviewees said:
“primarily [the CDM] is about introducing new technology in developing
countries, which means that developing countries will remain competitive
with other countries and thereby more sustainable. In theory this goes
hand-in-hand with capacity development to deal with the new technologies.
If it doesn't then a CDM project may by definition actually be
unsustainable” (Brent, 2006).
While these pragmatic considerations about the difficulties of stakeholder
engagement represent challenges that in certain situations will limit the
effectiveness of CDM Select, they cannot be used as an excuse for not
attempting to ensure that CDM projects are appropriate and effective
instruments to assist host countries and society at large move towards
sustainability. Further, it is conceivable that simply through the attempt to
do so, participants’ understanding of the system and our current
unsustainable society will grow. This understanding, in turn, will increase
the likelihood that people rally around the idea of changing unsustainable
practices and work towards the shared vision of a sustainable future.
5 Conclusion and Recommendations
There is a need for SSD capacity-building tools in the CDM context. CDM
Select, with some refinement, can be a practical tool to ensure that projects
contribute sustainable development by taking a strategic approach,
potentially making a strong contribution to the CDM planning process.
CDM Select contains the key attributes of a comprehensive tool for SSD in
CDM project planning.
In particular, it employs a whole-system
perspective, with a principle-based definition of sustainability and a
backcasting approach. This rigorous strategic approach to sustainable
development helps to operationalise action towards achieving the goals of
the Brundtland Report. CDM Select is flexible in that it is non-prescriptive
and not quantitative. Our results show that while the tool is clear and
logical for the most part, there is opportunity to improve the interface and
clarify the language. Finally, by presenting the concepts of SSD
information through the format of a project planning tool, CDM Select
helps to build capacity to address the sustainable development pillar of the
CDM in an interactive way.
Future Research
CDM Select. Given the opportunity for future research, we recommend that
there be more iterative loops, i.e. that CDM Select be refined, sent out for
more expert feedback, then refined further. It is also imperative that it be
tested in a real-world application prior to wide dissemination. Further
developments could include additional modules specific to each of the
major CDM project sectors.13. It would also be beneficial as part of further
research to translate CDM Select into other languages commonly spoken in
host countries.
The CDM project sectors are: end-use energy efficiency improvement, supply-side
energy efficiency improvement, renewable energy, fuel switching, agriculture, industrial
processes, solvent and other product use, waste management, and
afforestation/reforestation (UNFCCC, 2006c).
Further research could also include partnering with other organisations to
find synergies between CDM Select and complimentary tools such as the
Gold Standard and CCB Project Design Standards. Our results show that
there is potential for CDM Select to be adapted into an international
sustainable development planning tool, helping to build long-term regional
SSD strategies. Our results also indicate that CDM Select also has potential
for other applications, such as generic business planning.
The CDM process. We recommend exploration of the idea of CDM project
developers using CDM Select in cooperation with the same organisation or
community over a longer period of time with multiple projects. In this way,
a broader strategic plan can be developed and enacted that take advantage
of synergies between projects.
Global sustainable development and the SSD principles. As discussed,
much of the confusion around sustainable development stems from a lack
of a principled definition of sustainability and sustainable development at
the international level. Interest in CDM Select’s comprehensive approach
using SSD principles indicates that it may be of value to open international
discussions around this, using the framework for SSD as a useful starting
point. Further development of the SSD principles at the strategy level, and
fostering a deeper understanding of the social and cultural principles in
particular, would be beneficial.
Applications of CDM Select
With its front-loaded approach and heavy focus on stakeholder
engagement, CDM Select is designed to help project developers
conceptualise and design CDM projects through the lens of SSD from
inception. We recommend that it be used by project developers in
conjunction with facilitators that are familiar with the tool and SSD.
Because of its front-loaded approach, CDM Select, in its current form, is
most likely to be used as a screening tool for project selection by NGOs and
multilateral funding bodies, which are more likely to be driven by
sustainable development mandates and have better resources to support this
We believe that forward-thinking independent project developers could see
the depth of stakeholder engagement that CDM Select encourages as a risk
mitigation tool. It is our hope that enlightened self-interest will drive
independent project developers to use the tool to more effectively move
society towards sustainability.
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Appendix A: Sample of criteria, indicators and
frameworks for sustainable development and the
Analytical Hierarchy
Process (AHP) as it relates
to the CDM
Baseline and Best Practices
Approach as it relates to the
Capacity Development for
the Clean Development
Mechanism (CD4CDM)
CERES Global Reporting
Initiative (GRI)
Climate, Community and
Biodiversity Project Design
Standards (CCB)
Community Development
Carbon Fund
Cost Effectiveness Analysis
(CEA) as it relates to the
Cost-Benefit Analysis
(CBA) as it relates to the
Criteria & Indicators to
Evaluate the Contribution of
CDM Projects to
Sustainable Development
Olhoff, Anne, et al. n.d. “CDM Sustainable
Development Impacts.” Developed for the UNEP project
‘CD4CDM.’ Funded by the Netherlands Ministry of
Foreign Affairs:
Olhoff, Anne, et al. n.d. “CDM Sustainable
Development Impacts.” Developed for the UNEP project
‘CD4CDM.’ Funded by the Netherlands Ministry of
Foreign Affairs:
Olhoff, Anne, et al. n.d. “CDM Sustainable
Development Impacts.” Developed for the UNEP project
‘CD4CDM.’ Funded by the Netherlands Ministry of
Foreign Affairs:
Olhoff, Anne, et al. n.d. “CDM Sustainable
Development Impacts.” Developed for the UNEP project
‘CD4CDM.’ Funded by the Netherlands Ministry of
Foreign Affairs:
Anagnostopoulos, K. Flamos, A., Kagiannas, A.G. and
Psarras, J. 2004. “The Impact of Clean Development
Mechanism in Achieving Sustainable Development.”
International Journal of Environment and Pollution 21,
no. 1: 1-23.
Environmental Evaluation
Matrix (EEM)
Gold Standard
MDG – Human
Development Indicators
Millennium Development
Goals Carbon Facility
Assessment of CDM
Ranking Methodologies for
Sustainable Development
and CDM Project Checklists
SSN Matrix Tool
Sustainability Metrics of the
Institution of Chemical
Sustainable Development
Policies and Measures (SDPAMs)
Systemic Sustainability
Analysis (SSA)
UN Commission on SD
UNFCCC Additionality
Wuppertal Sustainability
Labuschagne, Carin, Alan C. Brent and Schalk J.
Claasen. 2005a. “Environmental and Social Impact
Considerations for Sustainable Project Life Cycle
Management in the Process Industry.” Corporate Social
Responsibility and Environmental Management 12: 38–
Sutter, Christoph. 2003. Sustainability Check-Up for
CDM Projects: How to assess the sustainability of
international project under the Kyoto Protocol. Zurich:
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
Bradley, Rob and Kevin A. Baumert, eds. 2005.
“Growing in the greenhouse: Protecting the climate by
putting development first.” USA: World Resources
Institute (WRI):
Bell, Simon, and Stephen Morse. Sustainability
Indicators: Measuring the Immeasurable. London:
Earthscan, 1999.
Spangenberg, J.H., and Bonniot, O. 1998.
"Sustainability indicators compass on the road towards
sustainability." Wuppertal Paper No 81:
Appendix B: Trigger question matrices
Appendix C: Key informant interview participants
Christian Azar
Thomas Black
Alan Brent
Anne Ferqvist
Christiana Figueres
Shannon Gordon
Kelly Hawke Baxter
Renat Heuberger
Harmke Immink
Sami Kamel
Tim Lesiuk
Anne Niederberger
Joseph Pallant
Oliver Percl
Karl-Henrik Robèrt
John Robinson
Michael Schlup
Position and Organisation
Professor, Physical Resource Theory
Chalmers University of Technology
Andean Centre for Environmental Economics
Chair, Life Cycle Engineering
University of Pretoria Department of Engineering and
Technology Management
Technical Officer
United Nations Development Program Bureau for Development
Policy, MDG Carbon Facility
Executive Director
Centre for Sustainable Development in the Americas
Sustainability Coordinator
Resort Municipality of Whistler
Executive Director
The Natural Step Canada
Managing Director
myclimate – the Climate Protection Partnership
DOE Manager, Governance and Sustainability
PriceWaterhouseCoopers – Southern Africa
Senior Economist / Carbon Finance Coordinator CD4CDM,
United Nations Environment Programme Risoe Centre
Climate Change Management
BC Hydro
A + B International Sustainable Energy Advisors
International Project Coordinator
Brinkman & Associates Reforestation Ltd.
Project Manager
Allplan GmbH
The Natural Step
Professor, Sustainable Development Research Initiative
University of British Columbia
The Gold Standard
Appendix D: Key informant interview protocol
Please describe your reactions to the CDM Select Tool
Please describe your experience with CDM Select in terms of functionality:
• Is the language used in the CDM Select tool easy to understand?
• Do the modules have a logical flow?
• Was it easy to navigate through the tool?
Please provide your thoughts on the difference components of CDM Select:
• How effective were the Introduction page and the ‘guidance’ sections in helping
you use the tool and understand the concepts of strategic sustainable
• Did you feel that the ‘tools pages’ were helpful and/or sufficient to work
through all the modules effectively?
• How do you feel that this tool could best be improved in order to better assist
with the CDM project selection process?
Please describe your thoughts on the potential for real world applications of CDM Select:
• Of the following, who you do think would benefit most from using CDM Select:
project developers, investors (including multilateral funds), host country
Designated National Authorities, local host communities, the CDM Executive
Board, Designated Operational Entities, other?
• Please describe in what ways you think CDM Select would help create projects
that are more likely to contribute to sustainable development.
• What other tools are you aware of that might complement CDM Select?
Please describe your experience with the CDM project process.
Please describe how you think CDM projects can contribute to strategic sustainable
development as they currently operate.
Appendix E: The five-level framework for Strategic
Sustainable Development
Focus & Description
Details & Examples
System principles,
describing how the biosphere
and society are constituted
Ecological principles
Conservation laws
Laws of thermodynamics
Biogeochemical cycles
Dynamic equilibrium
Social principles
Human needs (subsistence, affection,
participation, identity, freedom, creativity,
idleness, protection, understanding)
Sustainability principles, a
definition of success within
the system
The Brundtland definition
“Such development can be defined simply as
an approach to progress which meets the
needs of the present without compromising
the ability of future generations to meet their
own needs.”14
The Sustainability Principles15
In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to
systematically increasing…
…concentrations of substances extracted
from the Earth’s crust;
…concentrations of substances produced by
…degradation by physical means;
…and in that society people are not subject
to conditions that systematically undermine
their capacity to meet their needs.
14 Toyko Declaration (27 Feb 1987).
15 The Sustainability Principles, developed by The Natural Step through a process of scientific consensus, provide four second order
principles under the Brundtland definition, shaped as basic principles for societal design, from which higher orders of principles follow, e.g.
Strategic sustainable
development principles,
describing the process to
meet the sustainability
principles, and how to
maintain sustainability and
avoid relapses once it is
Behavioural principles for strategic planning16
Measures should bring a planning
endeavour closer to compliance with
the sustainability principles;
serve as flexible platforms for further
advancing the planning endeavor
towards compliance with the principles;
bring financial, social and political
capital to the process so that it doesn’t
halt due to lack of resources.
Communication: Intrapersonal (selfawareness), Interpersonal, Group &
Intergroup (dialogue)
Intentional principles for strategic planning
‘ The Golden Rule’18
Social Principles for strategic planning
Political (policy: taxes, subsidies,
legislation, agreements; levels: international,
regional, national, provincial/state,
Economic (policy: market mechanisms;
levels: international, regional, national,
provincial/state, municipal)
Educational (post-graduate, graduate,
college/university, secondary, primary)
Organisational (corporate, nongovernmental organisations, etc)
Cultural Principles for strategic planning
Norms and standards
dematerializations and substitutions, elimination of abuses of political, economic and environmental power and barriers to people’s meeting
their needs.
16 Principles for strategic thinking are based on logics.
All concrete actions taken in
alignment with the principles
for sustainable development
All means of sustainable
development, which have a
higher strategic value when
focused on upstream
solutions of the underlying
causes of symptoms of
unsustainability rather than
downstream effects
Switch to renewable energy
Recycle material
Change taxation structure
Run a capacity-building workshop
Institute democratic representation
Strategic Tools to evaluate how progress towards
success and compliance with the strategic plan:
CDM Select
Environmental Management Systems (ISO
14001, EMAS)
Life Cycle Analysis
Ecological Footprint
Factor X
Cleaner Production
Natural Capitalism
Systems Tools to monitor actual impacts in the system
we want to protect:
Species counts
Toxicity level measurements
Total Material Flow
Capacity Tools to build capacity to understand the
system itself:
The TNS Framework
CDM Select
Training programs
Causal Loop Diagrams
Systems Thinking
Table adapted by Michelle McKay, Georges Dyer, and Lisa Chacon from:
Capra, 2002; Max-Neef, 1991; Robèrt, 2000; Robèrt et al. 2002; Robèrt et
al., 2005; Waage, 2005; Wilber, 1996.
17 The precautionary approach was officially adopted in international development community as part of the United Nations Environment
Program’s Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Principle 15 states that “[i]n order to protect the environment, the
precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible
damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental
18 The Golden Rule, ‘do not do unto to others that which you would not like done unto you’, is a cross-cultural, all-embracing value
statement that concisely conveys the spirit behind the social principles. Manifestations of this idea can be found in most of the world’s
religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.
Appendix F: The CDM project planning cycle
Project Stage
Project Design
Host country Approval
Validation and
Verification and
Issuance of Certified
Emissions Reductions
Project identification, design,
feasibility assessment, stakeholder
Project Design Document (PDD):
must use an approved methodology
and includes a baseline estimate of
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in
absence of the project, as well as an
estimate of avoided GHG emissions.
Contribution to sustainable
development evaluated, Letter of
Agreement (LOA) issued (or other
means of host country approval)
Validation of PDD and approval by
the CDM Executive Board (CDM
Verification and certification of
avoided or reduced GHG emissions
Issuance of CERs, equalling total
tons carbon-equivalent, less a 2% tax
to cover CDM EB administration
Responsible Party
Project developer and
Project developer and
Designated National
Authority (DNA)
Operational Entity
(DOE) and CDM EB
Table adapted by Georges Dyer, Michelle McKay and Mauricio Mira from:
Hyman, 2005; UNFCCC, 2006a.
Appendix G: Suggestions for getting started with
stakeholder dialogue
1. Pay attention to your state of being and to how you are talking and
listening. Notice your own assumptions, reactions, contractions, anxieties,
prejudices, and projections.
2. Speak up. Notice and say what you are thinking, feeling, and wanting.
3. Remember that you don't know the truth about anything. When you
think that you are absolutely certain about the way things are, add 'in my
opinion' to your sentence. Don't take yourself too seriously.
4. Engage with and listen to others who have a stake in the system. Seek
out people who have different, even opposing, perspectives from yours.
Stretch beyond your comfort zone.
5. Reflect on your own role in the system. Examine how what you are
doing is contributing to things being the way they are.
6. Listen with empathy. Look at the system through the eyes of the other.
Imagine yourself in the shoes of the other.
7. Listen to what is being said not just by yourself and others, but through
all of you. Listen to what is emerging in the system as a whole. Listen with
your heart. Speak from your heart.
8. Stop talking. Camp out beside the questions and let answers come to
9. Relax and be fully present. Open up your mind and heart and will.
Open yourself up to being touched and transformed.
10. Try out these suggestions and notice what happens. Sense what shifts
in your relationships with others, with yourself, and with the world. Keep
on practicing.
From Kahane 2004, 129-30.
Appendix H: Screenshots from CDM Select
Main Menu of CDM Select test version
Main Menu of CDM Select revised version
Human Needs Tool: Negative Human Needs Matrix for Step Four –
Select Best Option of CDM Select test version
Human Needs Tool for Step Four – Select Best Option of CDM Select
revised version
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