The waste management sector is an important one because of its contribution to global warming, and because it provides attractive opportunities to deploy mitigation technologies. Numerous alternative waste management strategies are available, many of which offer significant climate benefits. Available technologies can be adapted to a variety of local conditions to recover methane already generated and use it for energy or to avoid methane generation through recycling, composting, incineration, or aerobic waste decomposition processes. Moreover, the opportunities to reduce emissions are global. Although the waste management sector has different characteristics in developed, developing countries and CEITs, all regions have the potential to deploy mitigation technologies.
Many actors have important roles in encouraging the deployment of these technologies. Traditionally, large public agencies and public sector investment have dominated the sector. This situation is changing rapidly, however, and national governments need to find new roles as facilitators of municipal, private sector and community-based initiatives. In this changing environment, key roles for the national government will be in establishing workable policy and regulatory frameworks, strengthening financial management to facilitate private investment, providing technical assistance to improve technical and managerial effectiveness, and (where appropriate) providing incentives to encourage specific actions or technologies. In accomplishing these activities, national governments should seek opportunities to involve and partner with municipal and local government agencies, the private sector, and community organisations. Where national governments lack the resources of capacity to undertake these activities independently, they should seek foreign assistance.
Like government, the role of the private sector is also changing. Opportunities to participate in waste management projects are growing, and an increasing emphasis on deploying mitigation technologies will provide further opportunities. The role of the private sector will vary between regions, based on factors such as investment conditions and the readiness of various waste management systems for private sector investment. In the near-term, traditional types of private sector participation will likely expand most rapidly in developed countries. Developing countries and CEITs have the opportunity to encourage more innovative, untraditional private sector activities because of the myriad of small, informal private sector actors involved in waste management in these areas. These countries may need bilateral or multilateral assistance to assess the best ways of engaging this informal private sector, creating optimal frameworks for investment and developing strong, local private companies. The key challenge in these countries is to fully assess the range of alternative waste management approaches and project structures, instead of automatically pursuing the conventional integrated waste management systems of developed countries.
Perhaps one of the most significant developments in the waste management sector has been the recognition of the key role of community organisations. The importance of obtaining community input from the beginning, of identifying and evaluating community priorities, and of designing innovative systems that provide an appropriate level of service at reasonable cost has been well documented. Projects of all types should include community participation, regardless of whether they are undertaken by government agencies or the private sector. Community organisations are increasingly initiating their own projects, moreover, and seeking out private or government partners. This new role emphasises the importance of making climate protection a community activity, and also bodes well for the deployment of mitigation technologies. Not only are extensive networks of communities organising around climate protection and sustainable development issues, but many of the waste management alternatives pursued by communities (such as composting, recycling and methane recovery) are environmentally beneficial.
Technology transfer in the waste management sector has a long history, and has been extremely important in improving quality of life by providing waste management services to an increasing share of the world's population. The challenge is far from over, however, and expanded investments will be necessary just to keep pace with population and economic growth and urbanisation. Fortunately, a future in which the world's waste management needs are met with increased use of mitigation technologies is achievable. Meeting this goal requires the willingness of government agencies, private companies, and local organisations to expand their partnerships, consider the climate implications of waste management choices, and learn from the innovative project structures and alternative waste management approaches already being demonstrated around the world.
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