The two aims of the clean development mechanism (CDM) were to reduce greenhouse gases cost effectively and contribute to sustainable development (SD) in developing countries. So far, however, SD components of the mechanism have been questionable. In this opinion article, we argue for a more theoretically informed engagement with the CDM that could be empowered through the better provision of transparent and clear information in the project implementation processes. Drawing on our work in Latin America, we concur with other authors that the CDM as it stands does not ‘deliver’ SD, but that improved information and a research agenda that focuses on the multi-level political economy of project-based CDM could assist in the mechanism delivering on multiple forms of SD in local contexts. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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