Carbon offsets have patchy human rights record. Now UN talks erode safeguards

(Climate Change News, 6 Dec 2019) A new global carbon market could unleash finance for projects around the world. But protections for local communities were weakened in draft rules at Cop25.


Rules proposed to protect communities from carbon-cutting projects have been eroded at UN climate talks, raising fears human rights abuses under the previous system will be repeated.

From 2020, projects such as hydropower dams and sustainable forestry and agriculture will be able to sell credits for carbon emissions reductions on a new global market.

Indigenous and local community groups say the rules, which are being negotiated at the Cop25 meeting in Madrid this week, must include safeguards that ensure projects do not harm the people who live nearby.

But new draft rules released on Saturday removed the requirement for parties to “respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights”, replacing this language with a much weaker placeholder text. They also failed to include further processes that are considered norms in international development finance.

“This further dilutes the potential rules and could jeopardise the integrity of the Paris Agreement,” says Erika Lennon, senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), who has closely followed the safeguards issue for years.

To show what is at stake, many point to carbon market system being superseded: the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), established back in 1997. From 2020, the CDM will be replaced by the Sustainable Development Mechanism (SDM) being established under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

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Climate Change News, 6 Dec 2019: Carbon offsets have patchy human rights record. Now UN talks erode safeguards