Currently, parties to the UNFCCC are meeting in Bonn for a new round of climate negotiations. One of the topics that is on the table is the review of the Modalities and Procedures of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Parties are thereby discussing rather “light” issues and shy away from more conflicting topics. But, when turning a blind eye on the necessity for more controversial themes, such as the establishment of a grievance mechanism, the review of the modalities and procedures may fall behind its great potential to improve the CDM for the future.
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is one of the flexible mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol. It was designed to reduce emission reductions in a cost-effective way and to bring sustainable development to developing countries at the same time. 10 years of experience with the CDM have shown that numerous projects do not live up to their sustainable development promises, but on the contrary can have even negative social and environmental impacts. The review of the Modalities and Procedures is thereby an important gateway for addressing continuing flaws in the CDM.
With four sessions that were allocated to this agenda item in Bonn, parties brought forward their views on what should be negotiated at this intersession. They thereby agreed to discuss on Programmes of Activities (PoAs) and the role of the Designated National Authorities (DNAs). Mainly, parties debated what elements they identify as relevant to have in the Modalities and Procedures. Such are, for example, definitions and necessary elements for the project cycle. This set of identified elements will be used as a basis for further discussions at the climate negotiations in Paris.
What is evident from this review is that only rather easy topics have been put on the table for negotiations, not touching on substantial and more controversial issues such a grievance mechanism or improvement of the local stakeholder consultation rules. It thereby needs to be reminded that the CDM so far does not offer a compliance mechanism for affected communities. This is in contrast to many other mechanisms and funds such as international financial institutions, also including Green Climate Fund (GCF) that already have, or are in the process of establishing a redress mechanism. Currently, affected communities have no means to raise their concerns when they are negatively impacted by a CDM project.
In a landmark decision in February 2015, the construction of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam, a project registered under CDM, was suspended by Panama’s national environment agency. The decision was taken because of breaches of the national environmental impact assessment requirements, including shortcomings in the agreement with the locally affected indigenous communities. Barro Blanco is thereby not a stand-alone project. A number of registered projects have been strongly opposed by local communities, because of their negative social and environment impacts, as well as their human right violations.
The establishment of a CDM grievance mechanism is thereby also essential for the operationalization of the 2010 Cancun agreement, that calls for all parties to fully respect human rights in all climate change related actions. It is crucial that the negotiators do not turn a blind eye on this but improve the CDM and include the long needed grievance mechanism!