Open letter to ICAO council representatives & national delegates on ending the Clean Development Mechanism

Dear ICAO Council representatives and national delegates,

The Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 marked a groundbreaking evolution in the global ambition to fight climate change. It also makes clear that a radical shift is required to move beyond the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). We, representing 61 organizations from around the world, are therefore calling upon you to discontinue the CDM when the Kyoto Protocol period ends in 2020. This means that UNFCCC Heads of Delegation must decide at COP24 in December to not allow CDM credits to be used to meet NDCs, and ICAO Council representatives should agree at the 215th ICAO Council meeting in November to not rely on CDM credits to tackle aviation’s emissions.

If we are to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, the CDM must not be allowed to undermine future efforts for the following three reasons:

1. The CDM undermines domestic climate action
The CDM is, at best, a zero-sum game: one entity is able to emit while another will reduce its emissions by the same amount. However, the urgency of climate change demands that all countries and all sectors rapidly transition towards being zero-carbon, and that developed countries support developing countries through adequate tools. Additionally, investing in domestic climate action, rather than counting on others to clean up your pollution, can bring multiple benefits such as improved air-quality or clean technology development. Perpetuating the CDM therefore sends a wrong signal to countries, undermining their ability to meet and expand their NDCs.

2. The CDM has increased greenhouse gas emissions
The use of CDM credits towards climate targets has increased global greenhouse gas emissions. In the EU alone, emissions increased by over 650 million tonnes of CO2 as a result of the use of CDM credits in the EU Emissions Trading System. This is because an overwhelming majority of CDM projects essentially issue ‘junk’ credits that do not lead to real-world emission reductions. Only 2% of CDM projects are likely to have environmental integrity1. Allowing CDM credits into the Paris Agreement – or into any other climate agreement – could hence be equivalent to blowing a gigantic (carbon loop)hole in the climate accord.

3. CDM projects have violated human rights
Several CDM projects have violated human rights, in particular indigenous peoples’ rights, and led to disastrous impacts, such as the exploitation of land resulting in the displacement of local communities, as was the case in the Barro Blanco hydrodam project. The CDM does not have a system in place to avoid and remedy such harmful impacts and continues to allow registration of projects with well-documented adverse effects such as large hydro dams and coal power plants. Furthermore, CDM benefits have not been equitably distributed. The overwhelming majority of CDM credits have been issued in fewer than five countries. Consequently, the least developed and most vulnerable countries –the CDM’s main intended beneficiaries– have barely profited from it at all.

Do not breathe new life into the CDM
Climate targets are set to limit global warming, and there is no intrinsic benefit in meeting them only on paper. No accounting or engineering tricks can fool the atmosphere, and when these so-called solutions harm people and the environment, we end up being the losers and victims of our own short-sightedness.

This is why we call for the end of the CDM by not allowing any CDM credits to be used to meet post-2020 climate commitments. Achieving the Paris Agreement will mean that new post-2020 climate commitments must be met through new action, and CDM credits must not be allowed to undermine the wave of climate ambition brought about by the Paris Agreement.

If the integrity of this Agreement is to be maintained, no CDM credits can be used to meet climate targets after 2020.

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CSO letter to ICAO on Ending the Clean Development Mechanism