Carbon markets versus communities: balancing the scales

see more photos of the no carbon markets without safeguards action at the Bonn Climate Talks

It is an oft-repeated maxim that climate change is first and foremost about human rights, but that’s rarely obvious in discussions here at the UN. Yesterday, YOUNGO members took action to highlight the missing voices of local communities in the implementation of clean energy and offsetting projects. We invited passing negotiators to balance the scales between communities and carbon credits by placing safeguards on the side of the people.

Under carbon market systems such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD/+), governments, civil society organsiations and the private sector can invest in projects that protect the environment, promote sustainability and develop clean energy in other countries to count towards domestic emissions reduction targets. At least, that’s the theory. In practice, these mechanisms are somewhat controversial and the evidence that they achieve these objectives is mixed at best, as work by Greenpeace on REDD+ and by CDM Watch illustrates.

Our concern is that as things stand, local communities have no legal right to consultation or participation when these projects are implemented in their homelands. Current discussions here in Bonn under the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) are considering the role of safeguards for project investors, but not for people directly affected by offsetting activities. There is already emerging evidence of human rights abuses linked to some projects, including the deaths of sixteen activists last year in an ongoing land rights dispute in Honduras.

Negotiators took to balancing YOUNGO’s ‘scales of justice’ with great enthusiasm and we hope they take this message forward within relevant working groups. We were surprised by how many people we engaged with weren’t aware of this issue, and touched by others who were delighted to see it get a profile boost. Regardless of our opinion on carbon markets (that’s a can of worms for another day…), we believe environmental integrity and human dignity ought to be the guiding principles of efforts to tackle climate change, and will continue to remind parties of this on the road to Durban.

  • Caroline

    Does REDD exist as a market system? Where?