Since the establishment of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) there has been on-going discussion about its potential and actual effectiveness in assisting in reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions. Projects implemented in non-Annex 1 countries have had the aim to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases and also to contribute to sustainable development. In China, a significant number of CDM projects have been implemented across a range of sectors of the economy. Although various evaluations have been made of Chinese CDM projects, one industrial sector that has received little attention has been mining. In particular, the sustainable development outcomes of Chinese CDM projects associated with methane capture and utilisation from coal mines have not been evaluated. This research has involved review and assessment of 30 Chinese coal mine methane CDM projects. The evaluation approach involved content analysis of coal mine methane CDM project documents in relation to quantitative reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and indicators of contributions to sustainable development. The sustainability indicators found to be most prevalent were safety, energy use, technology transfer and employment. Also a comparison of outcomes was made with six coal mine projects initiated under the CDM in other developing countries. Overall, it was found that only brief accounts of sustainable development goals are given in CDM documents for coal mine methane project activities and that these are arguably insufficient in detail. Although varying types of sustainability initiatives were identified, many potential areas were not. These findings have implications for the future success of CDM projects in the coal mining sector, the proposed new market mechanism under UNFCCC and similar projects being implemented under mechanisms outside the UNFCCC.

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