From Kyoto to Khayelitsha

22 February 2005

A low-cost housing project in Cape Town’s sprawling Khayelitsha settlement received world attention at the Montreal climate change conference for its potential to reduce greenhouse gases and earn carbon credits under the mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol.

The development in Kuyasa, Khayelitsha is recognised by the United Nations as a gold standard clean development mechanism project. It involved retrofitting eight low-cost houses and two creches with simple energy-saving devices such as insulated ceilings, low-watt bulbs and solar water heaters.

This has saved some 2.85 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per building every year – and developed countries are prepared to pay lots of money for CO2 reductions.

The clean development mechanism (CDM) is one of the flexible ways signatories to the Kyoto Protocol can mitigate their industrial pollution. It allows developed countries unable to meet their emission reduction targets to invest in sustainable development projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.

The protocol was signed in 1990 by 34 countries – excluding the US and Australia – and came into force in February 2005.

It requires industrialised countries to reduce their emissions of six greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide in particular, by 5.2% before 2012. If they are unable to do so, they mitigate their excess emissions by “buying” carbon credits in various ways, one of which is to invest in sustainable development projects such as Kuyasa.

A first in Africa
The Kuyasa project is the first of its kind in Africa and one of fewer than 50 in the world. It was developed by SouthSouthNorth (SSN), an international CDM NGO, and Cape Town – the first African city to develop an energy strategy. The city has committed to use 10% renewable energy sources by 2020, and have 10% percent of households with solar water heaters by 2010.

In August, Kuyasa was awarded gold standard recognition by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), allowing it to earn certified emission credits. The price of these credits is calculated according to the amount of CO2 saved.

“The market price is between US$3 and $9 per ton,” Lester Malgas of SSN told the Mail & Guardian. “But Kuyasa got $15 a ton because it is the first project in Africa, and because of its gold standard.”

It is also the only one of the 45 developing country projects registered with the UNFCCC to function according to three methodologies – most use only one.

Immediate benefits
It has joined the fight against climate change, but Kuyasa offers more immediate benefits for its residents.

The retrofitted buildings are 5% warmer in winter and 5% cooler in summer, allowing a saving of up to 40% on electricity bills. Research has shown that energy burns up more than a quarter of the income of the urban poor.

The buildings also reduce localised air pollution, helping prevent pulmonary pneumonia, carbon monoxide poisoning and other respiratory illnesses. A direct benefit is the decrease in the deadly fires common in high-density and low-income settlements.

Apart from its gold standard recognition, Kuyasa was also awarded joint third place in the global Point Carbon’s Best CDM Project 2004 Competition in Amsterdam last year.

Now that the pilot programme is complete, the project will be expanded to include more than 2 000 dwellings in the Kuyasa settlement, over 21 years.

It is one of 16 South African CDM projects under development, which include landfill gas, hydroelectricity, fuel switching and industrial energy efficiency. Four have reached the stage of seeking international approval.

If implemented, the projects stand to earn carbon credits equalling nine million tons of carbon a year, with a value of US$253-million to the South African economy. The projects have crediting periods lasting until at least 2015; some extend until 2026.

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