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Architects of UN carbon market must not sacrifice human rights in the interest of speed

The body responsible for supervising the new UN carbon market mechanism must abandon the inadequate rules for social and environmental safeguards and return to the drawing board.

At COP28 in Dubai at the end of last year, numerous countries cited concerns about human rights as a key reason for their lack of willingness to move forward with the UN-mandated carbon market under Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement. 

The group tasked with overseeing and setting the rules for this market has been working on developing provisions to protect human rights in the mechanism – but it risks falling short of what is needed.

In early discussions of the Article 6.4 Supervisory Body’s 11th meeting during the week of 29 April, members had a chance to express their position on the two documents up for adoption: the appeal and grievance processes and the sustainable development (SD) tool. Adopting both documents as they are, as some members seem ready to do, would be a mistake.

As we have expressed in our submissions on the appeal and grievance processes and the SD tool ahead of this meeting, and as echoed by other stakeholders, the Supervisory Body must rethink and rework these two foundational documents to avoid  locking in insufficient human rights safeguards. 

Safeguards: down

The appeal and grievance processes in the current draft make the key avenues for redress inaccessible for people negatively affected by carbon market projects. This is because they require complainants to pay fees, place excessive bureaucratic hurdles in their path, do not permit local communities and indigenous peoples to interact in their native language, and fail to provide sufficient anonymity to guarantee people’s safety.

The SD tool fails to acknowledge that national regulations may not be adequate to protect human rights, especially those of indigenous peoples, and places more emphasis on corporate practice as a reference for assessing environmental and social impacts rather than on international law.

Hasty decisions

Rushing to pass rules that fail to protect people and the environment is a bad idea.  The Supervisory Body has enough time before COP29 in Baku later this year to work out a robust and effective ruleset that not only prevents and addresses harm, but can also ensure that the indigenous peoples and local communities that so often draw the short end of the stick in carbon market projects, may benefit from them.

Past sessions have shown that submitting incomplete or insufficient guidance for adoption at the COP is counterproductive and generates political tensions that could have been avoided. We urge the Supervisory Body to learn from this experience and to prioritize quality over speed.

We urge the Supervisory Body to take stakeholder input seriously and redesign these crucial elements. Putting human rights and environmental  front and centre of the new global carbon market should not be seen as optional: getting it done right is the only way to move forward.


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