Article 6 of the Paris Agreement creates mechanisms that allow for Parties to engage in cooperative approaches to achieve emission reductions and contribute to the implementation and progressive revision of NDCs. As Parties gather at COP24 to finalize the implementation guidelines, they need to ensure that any mechanism created under Article 6 does not repeat the mistakes of its predecessors, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation, or other development finance institutions. In addition to other critical provisions in the implementation guidelines, including ensuring environmental integrity, Parties should embrace the need for social and environmental safeguards and governance structures to prevent harm. This includes the adoption of a set of detailed rules for robust stakeholder engagement, and the establishment of an accessible, independent avenue for people to raise grievances and seek redress for harms that do occur.
Development projects, including climate projects, which in principle should be designed to mitigate climate change and deliver on sustainable development objectives, can and do result in harm to people and the environment. Over its existence, the CDM has allowed the registration of several projects with such impacts, e.g. the Barro Blanco hydropower project in Panama, which led to the displacement of indigenous peoples, the flooding of land, and the destruction of biodiversity with no avenue for redress. CDM projects have been criticized for harming communities, violating human rights, and damaging the environment. To end this legacy, and put climate action back on the path it should have followed all along, respecting both people and the environment, Article 6 mechanisms should be established with significantly better environmental and social rights-based safeguards, including an improved governance structure from the outset. Further, projects registered under the CDM should not be approved for registration under the new mechanism(s) without being first re-assessed against robust quality criteria.