April 12, 2010 / 3:11 PM / 10 years ago

UN pact doubt curbs S.Africa clean energy investment

MIDRAND, South Africa (Reuters) - Uncertainty over a global treaty to cut carbon emissions has slowed investment in clean energy in South Africa, where only a handful of such projects have started compared to other emerging markets.

A worker shows a sample of biodiesel made from castor beans (L) at a biodiesel refinery in Iraquara, 310 miles (500 km) west of the Bahia state capital, Salvador March 31, 2008. REUTERS/Jamil Bittar

A senior official from South Africa’s agency for assessing domestic clean-energy projects told an African conference on biofuels on Monday the country, the continent’s worst emitter, has lagged global trends in launching such projects.

Under the Kyoto protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), countries are required to cut carbon emissions by 5.2 percent by 2012.

“One of the barriers to CDM projects in South Africa is the uncertainty around the post-2012 regime, on whether the accord will continue or not,” Ndiafhi Tuwani, the official at South Africa’s Designated National Authority (DNA) said.

“Some of the potential project developers are reluctant because of that ...there is need for a new protocol or a new accord. The previous Copenhagen accord did not come up with a new protocol (beyond) 2012.”

According to Tuwani, South Africa has 17 CDM projects registered to date, of which only 4 have been issued with CERs. The top two nations in the scheme, according to U.N. figures, are China with 787 projects and India with 498.

The CDM is part of the Kyoto protocol climate pact whose first phase ends in 2012 and there is no decision yet to extend it or agree on a separate climate treaty.

Under the agreement, rich nations that invest in clean-energy projects in developing countries earn certified emissions reductions (CERs) that can in return be sold for profit or used by polluting firms to meet their mandatory emissions targets.

A U.N meeting in Bonn, Germany on Sunday agreed to revive talks on a new deal to slow global warming after December’s Copenhagen summit fell short of a binding deal.

CDM Africa Technical Manager Marco Lotz was optimistic projects aimed at cutting emissions would continue beyond 2012.

“Protocols come and go but it is not the end of the world if the Kyoto (protocol) expires. There is a whole industry that has evolved,” said Lotz.

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