Is a clean environment a human right? Part II

Is a clean environment a human right? Part II

5: The green development mechanism

Monolingual of verkemidla what was adopted in the Kyoto Protocol, was d a lushly Development Mechanism (CDM – Clean Development Mechanism). Here, countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol (developed countries minus the USA and a few others) cooperate with developing countries to establish sustainable projects there.

Under the CDM mechanism, projects in developing countries that are environmentally approved – according to specific rules – can be awarded a certain number of certified emission reductions (CER). These are purchased (one of several types of climate quota trading ) and used in the climate emission accounts of states or companies in the global north . This makes it easier and cheaper for them to meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Developing countries are getting more sustainable technology.

A CDM project must therefore

  • be approved by the state where construction is to take place (host country)
  • contribute to sustainable development
  • contribute to the reduction of climate emissions.

About half of the projects we find within wind and hydropower.

Many objections have been raised against the CDM scheme. Among other things, it is said that the environmental components that CDM finances would have been included in most projects anyway. Some of the most profitable CDM projects – which make up half of the CER quotas purchased by Norwegian companies – are linked to the destruction of a particularly toxic gas. This gas is a residual product of a cooling gas that has been banned in Norway since 2003. From 2013, the EU has banned trade in quotas related to cooling gas production on the European quota market, but it will still be possible to buy CER from production outside the EU.

The CDM scheme has weak mechanisms to ensure that people who are affected by the projects in question are probably involved (consulted) in the design and implementation of them. An example of a project that requires good involvement of local populations is afforestation projects, which can go beyond local communities’ accumulation of resources.

In the annual report on CDM for 2011, human rights are mentioned for the first time. Furthermore, the report warns that the processes of approving CDM projects will be characterized by greater openness and participation. The bodies that ensure that the CDM project complies with the specific rules will also be made more responsible. As we saw above, both responsibility , openness and participation are central human rights principles . We only achieve effective realization of people’s human rights when these principles are linked to basic human rights.

6: Forest conservation and human rights

Norway has been one of the driving forces behind promoting forest conservation measures. These measures are about states that can document that deforestation stops, they will be paid for it. The paying states can, in turn, credit the reduced emissions in their own emissions accounts. Tropical forests that are not felled continue to sequester CO 2 .

Forest grazing accounts for as much as 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. As for afforestation measures within the CDM, affected local communities must be involved in the forest conservation project, but the requirements for such involvement are stricter.

Guidelines for such involvement were adopted in 2012 by the UN Forest Program (UN-REDD) and the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. According to the guidelines, it is crucial that the states that have UN-REDD programs are confident that the activities take place in accordance with human rights, and comply with:

  • UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (see Box 5)
  • UN Guidelines on Indigenous Issues
  • Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.

Although all of these agreements deal with indigenous peoples, the guidelines also apply to so-called forest-dependent communities. This means that some local communities are also covered by the guidelines, even though they are not recognized as indigenous peoples by their own government.

7: National measures for climate adaptation

Both CDM and forest conservation projects are primarily about measures in developing countries . According to, these measures will reduce the need for measures in industrialized countries (get the most possible climate measures out of every euro or krone). Less attention has been paid to how developing countries can be helped to adapt to climate change. The climate summit in Durban in 2011 highlighted such climate adaptation. There, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was adopted with the aim of promoting a system change towards low-emission societies and those that are resistant to climate change. Another goal was to specify requirements for national plans for adaptation .

None of these mention human rights explicitly. They only say that the projects and plans must ensure the involvement of relevant actors . Vulnerable groups, women and indigenous peoples are mentioned separately. The Climate Fund will also establish so-called environmental and social security measures. Such security measures – which are also central to the CDM – could have been based on a human rights-based approach, as the guidelines for the REDD project do.

When the CDM was established without reference to human rights, it was due to the fact that the CDM is part of the Kyoto agreement – ie adopted at a time when there was little awareness of the link between the environment and human rights. However, the CDM’s annual report for 2011 calls for the CDM to address the growing criticism that the CDM project does not address human rights.

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