Analysis of the Clean Development Mechanism As a Vehicle for Achieving Sanitation Objectives of the UN Millennium Goals

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The UN Millennium Development Goals identified sanitation objectives as being fundamental to stopping the downward spiral of impoverished nations. This basic improvement is so important to quality of life that it is the foundation for protecting public health, the environment, and building economic stability. Climate change and its disproportionate impact on the poor make achieving the goals more elusive as poor nations struggle to adapt while limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) provides market incentives for reducing GHG emissions while investing in sustainable development. This master’s project looks at the feasibility of applying the CDM to provide a financial incentive for improving wastewater treatment facilities in Durban, South Africa. Specifically, it looks at algae based wastewater treatment systems to create biofuel, fertilizers and other useful byproducts.

Algae wastewater treatment enhances water quality through nutrient removal and can create certified emission reduction (CER) credits by replacing the secondary treatment process to eliminate N2O emissions and reduce energy and chemical operations costs. Algae research investment and venture capital have grown exponentially to create numerous partnership opportunities for financing. South Africa and eThekwini Municipality are competent in the CDM process, have experience with algae technology, and stand poised to leverage opportunities.

A recent carbon market downturn and escalating administrative costs in the CDM make a weak cost-benefit ratio for smaller scale projects. A “Sectoral” approach to include the entire Water and Sanitation unit of eThekwini Municipality is recommended. CDM proposals should consider multiple algae wastewater treatment plant retrofits with production of algae biofuels. The biofuels should be used by the municipality to increase offsets and credits to be more cost effective. This would increase the volume of CERs that can be generated and therefore the economic incentive available to improve sanitation.





Loken, Lorraine (2009). Analysis of the Clean Development Mechanism As a Vehicle for Achieving Sanitation Objectives of the UN Millennium Goals. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.