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Open Letter to UNFCCC Heads of Delegations on Ending the CDM

Dear UNFCCC Head of Delegation,

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 99 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 about 580 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 integrity[1]. 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.


  • Greenpeace
  • Friends of the Earth U.S.
  • Climate Action Network Canada
  • Action Aid
  • San Francisco State University
  • Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona
  • University of Sussex
  • Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
  • Griffith University
  • Leiden University
  • Carbon Market Watch
  • FIAN Deutschland
  • Berkeley Carbon Trading Project
  • Transport & Environment
  • Both ENDS
  • Abibiman Foundation
  • FERN
  • Change Partnership
  • Environics Trust
  • ZERO – Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System
  • Forest Observatory
  • Regional Centre for International Development Cooperation
  • Let’s Talk Climate Action
  • Gujarat Forum on CDM
  • Barnabas Charity Outreach
  • Madden Sainsbury Foundation
  • Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (cE3c)
  • AGGEM – Cameroon
  • Bolivian Platform on Climate Change
  • Banka BioLoo
  • Uto ni Yalo Trust
  • GenderCC Southern Africa
  • ONG Développement Pour Tous
  • Movimiento Victoriano Lorenzo
  • Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo
  • Association Camerounaise pour le Développement, l’Entraide Sociale et la Protection de l’Environnement (ACDESPE)
  • Association de Jeunes de Bépenda 7ème (AJB7)
  • Environnement Sans Frontière (ESF)
  • Asociacion ANDES (Peru)
  • Asociación de Parques Nacionales
  • Almáciga
  • Un Monde Avenir
  • de Lamar Consulting
  • Rainbow Pride Foundation Fiji
  • Youth Parliament Alumni
  • ASTM / Klima-Bündnis Luxemburg
  • Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo (ACD)
  • Colectivo VientoSur – Chile
  • “Armenian Forests” Environmental
  • “GOY” Environmental-Legal NGO
  • Colectivo Voces Ecológicas COVEC
  • Sustainable Population Australia
  • Ecologistas en Acción – Spain
  • Association pour le Developpement, la Protection de l’Environnement et la lutte contre la Desertification (ONG Amade Pelcode)
  • Deutscher Naturschutzring
  • GenderCC – Women for Climate Justice e.V.
  • Taller Ecologista
  • Women Development Program
  • UK Youth Climate Coalition
  • 11.11.11
  • Foundation for GAIA
  • Planetary Association for Clean Energy (PACE)
  • Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
  • Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo
  • Alliance Sud – Network of Swiss Development Organizations
  • Alternatives Urbaines
  • Let’s Talk Climate Action
  • Paryavaranmitra
  • Almáciga
  • Mom Loves Taiwan Association
  • FORCERT Forests for Certain: Forest for Life!
  • Corporate Accountability
  • Human Rights Foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand
  • 2Celsius
  • ZERO – Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System
  • Regional Center for Development Cooperation (RCDC)
  • Rapid Transition Alliance
  • Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement
  • Centro Alexander von Humboldt
  • KINABUHI, Central Visayas People’s Network for Life and Environment Inc.
  • Partnership for Policy Integrity
  • Arab Youth Climate Movement – Lebanon
  • Attollo – The People’s Development Network
  • CCFD-Terre Solidaire

Private Citizens:

  • Ethemcan Turhan
  • Kate Ervine
  • Sarah Killoh
  • June Killoh
  • Jamie Killoh
  • Leah Schreiber
  • Katia Soland
  • Peter Spörri
  • Annika Salmi
  • Fernanda Gomes
  • Valentina Heiss
  • Özgür Üstel
  • Lannen English
  • Sabine Hirsig
[1] Oeko-Institut (2016): „How additional is the Clean Development Mechanism?”, study prepared for DG CLIMA – European Commission

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