• Indigenous Climate Action

COP25: The Paris Rulebook and Article 6. Carbon Markets are not climate solutions.

Time to move forward respect for human and Indigenous rights to end the climate crisis.

By Eriel Deranger Executive Director of Indigenous Climate Action

Here during the first week in Madrid, Spain of the COP 25, world governments are negotiating the technical advice for the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and Rulebook to guide future climate solutions. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, relates to the creation of both market and non-market mechanisms to support countries in decarbonizing their economies. Article 6 has become a critical component to adopting internationally recognized and sanctioned standards and systems to reduce emissions, however if not done right the outcomes could seriously impede human and Indigenous rights and lead us even further into a climate crisis. Some of the proposed mechanisms of Article 6 include international carbon trading and Nature-based Solutions. The time is now to put a stop to carbon markets and move forward with options that uplifts the power of communities over colonial governments and corporations.

Carbon markets are not a new idea within climate discussions. State governments and corporations have been active is pushing for false solutions to allow them to continue with their status quo. In fact over the past decade, carbon markets have been piloted in numerous regions via the disastrous World Bank Clean Development Mechanism promoting extractivism over rural electrification and the consequences are clear. Not only have global emissions increased, but the destruction and pollution from extractive industries have further devastated the natural systems, waterways and land bases necessary for the future survival of humanity.

Nature-based solutions, are defined as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.” Although it includes positive rhetoric, this definition still allows for market solutions to rear their ugly heads. Many have criticized this framework as another way to rebrand the World Bank initiative Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). REDD is a mechanism that pushes for conservation and carbon market systems to ‘reduce’ global emissions, however the system is highly contested by Indigenous peoples the world over. REDD programmes have lent to state and corporate undermining of the collective rights, sovereignty, and self-determination of Indigenous Peoples and our communities.

For decades Indigenous Peoples have articulated how carbon market systems are a continuation of governments and corporations to commodify our lands and territories, and the sacred spaces that our peoples have relied on for millennia. We are done with the onslaught of damage caused by a worldview that is fixated on profit and extractivism. The only way to survive the climate crisis will be to root out the capitalist and colonial value systems and make space for Indigenous values and ways of knowing to bring forth meaningful system change. The Paris Agreement and Rulebook can provide support for this shift by recognizing carbon markets and nature-based solutions can not create the solutions necessary to survive the climate crisis.

What’s happening now?

Over the next few days, States are negotiating the technical aspects of how Article 6 will roll out. The outcomes of these negotiations will contribute to the Paris Rulebook and create a framework for what is possible within future climate solutions. Currently, conversations are failing to include human and Indigenous rights language undermining the opportunity for options beyond carbon markets and nature-based solutions that force polluters to pay for carbon pollution at the source. At this time, Article 6 is being negotiated as an avenue for market mechanisms to reduce global emissions by pricing carbon within a carbon and conservation offset systems that can be traded internationally. This market approach is being designed to serve the interest of nation states to help them meet their National Determined Contributions to reduce emissions with minimal disruption of the current economic and energy systems; Allowing business-as-usual to continue to destroy our communities and collective rights while wearing the mask of a new ‘green’ and ‘zero-carbon’ global economy. It’s clear that the Paris Rulebook and Article 6, must respect, promote and protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples or it will continue to contribute to false solutions.

How will Article 6 contribute to human and Indigenous rights abuses?

Article 6 fails to include language on human and Indigenous rights, and yet will directly affect our Peoples, specifically those that live within territories of rich biodiversity, including forests and major biocultural carbon sinks that will be the prime targets for government to buy and sell in these new markets. This allows for a dangerous accounting scheme where state and corporate polluters can claim to achieve net-zero carbon emissions goals, while continuing business as usual with the expansion of oil and gas development and other high emitting industries, while violating Indigenous rights. This market-based approach to the climate crisis does not reduce emissions or protect the existing lands and waters from being sacrificed to future fossil fuel extraction.

Plans are underway to place a financial value on carbon sinks and the earth's atmospheric carbon cycling capacity, ie. our forests, rivers, oceans, lands and territories and all that is sacred. Turning something sacred, unsellable, and invaluable into a commodity to be bought and sold by the big polluters and governments of the world to justify extending the life of the fossil fuel economy.

Although nefarious, this is not a new approach.

Big oil wants to build a big fossil fuel project in Canada. Canada has to account for the emissions created by this project so they work with the corporation to find a conservation or carbon offset in another country (ie. Rainforest or other biodiversity rich carbon sink). They purchase carbon ‘offset’ to allow them to build the project. The ‘offset’ was land that is chosen for its rich carbon sequestration (80% global biodiversity is Indigenous lands and territories). This land has always existed, therefore it is not offsetting anything but states and corporations are ‘protecting’ these carbon sinks (ie. Indigenous sacred sites) through purchasing the land to be traded in international carbon markets that do little to nothing to actually reduce global emissions.

The carbon markets systems have been around at a smaller scale for the last decade yet have not proven to reduce emissions. In fact, the recent Emissions Gap Report indicates that global emissions are on the rise and we are heading straight toward climate chaos if real tangible action isn’t taken. It’s clear, carbon trading is not the way forward.

The truth is, these market based schemes don’t reduce emissions but rather are proven pathways to privatising forests, clearing out communities, and destroying biodiversity. Commodification can actually lend to our sacred lands and territories being turned into dystopian monocropped plantations such as palm oil and other agrofuel crops like GMO trees, while still being considered a carbon offset, or just simply taken from our community as another form of current neocolonial systems.

Here in the north, in so-called Canada, our collective rights as First Nations Peoples, rights connected to our lands, territories and waterways, are enshrined in section 35 of the Canadian constitution. Despite this, Canada has experienced some of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. A large bulk of this deforestation is to make way for fossil fuel and energy development to expand one of the worlds’ largest carbon bombs - the Alberta Tar Sands. If deforestation of Indigenous Peoples lands and mega development like the Alberta tar sands continue to expand even with Canada being a signatory of UNDRIP and the Paris Agreement, one can imagine the concern Indigenous Peoples have about proposed climate solutions in countries that do not respect or even recognize local Indigenous Peoples.

It should also be noted, that despite international commitments to reduce emissions, Canada is approving heavy fossil fuel development and the expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands. The largest ever proposed Tar Sands mine, the Teck Frontier Mine, is currently awaiting federal approval, and if approved with create 6mt of GHGs annually, while destroying critical habitat for species at risk and impede the rights of Indigenous communities in the region.

Article 6 will allow for government leaders, like the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau to push false solutions with new rhetoric. Global carbon markets make the ambition of both government and corporations to expand the fossil fuel sector while claiming to achieve net zero emissions, as not only viable but potentially internationally tradable. For example, one of Trudeau’s most recent initiatives is to plant 2 billion trees to offset the emissions of the expansion of the TransMountain (TMX) tar sands pipeline. Trudeau’s tree pact will do nothing to reduce the emissions or address the human and Indigenous rights impacts created by the TMX project or ensure a sustainable future.

State governments in the south see market and nature based solutions as a lucrative revenue stream for their economies and are resistant to any mention of human rights or Indigenous Peoples safeguards that may detract from this. Indigenous Peoples from the south have raised alarm that market and nature based solutions are already being proposed by colonial governments regardless of their protest or concerns over Indigenous rights abuses.

Indigenous Peoples across the planet, especially those based in forested territories are being pulled into big business deals which commodify the forests and carbon sinks they have relied on, and stewarded for millenia. Communities are divided as they engage with offers to have their forests protected by the very entities that have caused the crisis we are facing today.

Cause for suspicion is warranted.

The narrative the World Bank is pushing within the UN climate negotiations is that they are ‘solving the poverty and the climate crisis’ by ‘paying’ Indigenous Peoples’ to take care of our lands and forests. Despite this rhetoric, State governments are still resisting the inclusion of language within Article 6 to mandate the inclusion of human and Indigenous rights because it’s already included within the Paris Agreement and does not apply to this specific mandate. We would argue otherwise. Even with the inclusion of human and Indigenous rights, market and nature based solutions are challenging, because they promote putting a monetary value on our lands, territories and biocultural diversity - the sacred - without any means of addressing a history of colonialism, extractivism or predatory capitalism.

Canada claims that it’s most important relationship is with Indigenous Peoples and yet is currently absent from supporting the call for human and Indigenous Peoples rights safeguards within Article 6, and primarily focusing on market based solutions. It is offensive that any country who is a signatory of the UNDRIP would allow for Article six to be implemented with a front facing market based solution that simultaneously lacks any safeguards for human and Indigenous rights. Canada can do better if it truly values its relationship with our peoples. Canada has an opportunity to be a champion for climate justice and demand a strict rights-based framework in the centre of the Paris rule book of the Paris agreement.

As Indigenous Peoples, we know first hand how state governments and corporations can destroy what is sacred and essential to life when they are not held to account with appropriate safeguards. The world can not afford to allow for another market system to give license for further destruction and pollution of the natural systems we all rely on. We must move away from the commodification of the eco-systems, the atmosphere and our peoples rights and culture.

Call to Action

Current negotiations at the COP25, and the resulting outcomes, must include human and Indigenous rights to define safeguards to ensure any nature-based solutions uphold and protect our collective rights to pave the way for true climate justice. In addition, Article 6 must reflect the current conversations and negotiations on Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts, and address how to effectively include and address Indigenous rights and cultural losses.

These so called ‘ambitious solutions’ disregard human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples and contribute to false solutions. We believe that safeguards are essential to achieving and maintaining environmental integrity, that’s why it’s important that the following elements are in place in Article 6:

  • Human rights-based and Indigenous rights-based safeguards throughout the text

  • The full, effective, direct and meaningful participation of Indigenous Peoples in all climate actions under Article 6

  • A redress mechanism that allows Indigenous Peoples and others to seek remedy when actions under the mechanism cause or may cause harm.

Contact your State leaders today and demand action before it’s too late.

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©2020 by Indigenous Climate Action.