“WE DEMAND CLIMATE REPARATIONS!” JTA delegates and climate justice activists at COP27 info booth. Image courtesy of Norman Rogers, United Steelworkers Local 675.
Critique of COP27 & Article 6
by Alberto Saldamando
The Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP 27, was held in Sharm El-Sheikh in November of 2022. This was also the COP for the Paris Agreement of 2019 (referred to formally as CMA41). 192 States Parties to these Conventions attended, as did, by some estimates, 600 fossil fuel lobbyists and related business enterprises.
Over 30,000 people in total, both State representatives as well as Civil Society NGOs attended the COP, called the African COP. Climate change does not affect all regions of the world equally, and Africa, the continent with the smallest carbon footprint, is most severely affected. Negotiations for a fund that would compensate developing countries for the loss and damage that climate change has caused, dominated the negotiations. At the last minute, past the Friday deadline for the end of the COP, member states overcame US and EU objections and agreed to establish such a fund—a win for developing countries. However, who will pay and how this financial assistance will be delivered to help African countries and countries like Pakistan recover from climate disasters, remain to be negotiated next year.
Otherwise, COP 27, supposed to promote climate justice, was an abysmal failure.
Not only science, but daily human experience has established beyond any doubt that the main cause of global warming is greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). For 30 years, since 1992, and the adoption of the UNFCCC, the industrial and rich states of the north, most responsible for global warming, have recognized that carbon pollution causes global warming and for 30 years have failed to curb it if not eliminate it altogether. Immediately prior to COP 27, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described the world as a “chronicle of climate chaos” and stated that we are on a “highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”
Article 2 of the UNFCC states that the goal of the convention to “stabilize” GHGs at a level that would prevent dangerous human induced interference with the climate system, in a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change and ensure that food production is not threatened and enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.
Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, market and non-market approaches, is intended to operationalize the goals of the UNFCCC, by “(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change; (b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; and (c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”
Article 6.2 establishes market approaches for carbon credits and offsets, called Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs). Cooperative approaches allow countries to trade emission reductions and removals with one another through bilateral or multilateral agreements. The Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and the Degradation of forests (REDDs) is the only recognized ITMO. Investments in forest preservation by one country can be claimed as offsets against their Nationally Determined Contributions, the promises that they’ve made under the Paris Agreement to reduce their emissions. States have suggested, for example, that hydro-electric power and investments in nuclear power and/or use, could be considered ITMOs. These false solutions do not reduce emissions – their emissions would remain in the atmosphere and not in any forest, mega-dam or nuclear plant.
Article 6.4 creates a global carbon market overseen by the Article 6.4 Supervisory Body. Project developers (countries, private industry or individual investors) are to register their projects with the Supervisory Body. A project must be approved by both the country where it is implemented and the Supervisory Body before it can start issuing UN-recognized offsets to NDCs. These credits can be bought and sold by countries in the international market. Again, the nature of the projects was not defined. Investments in nuclear projects as well as hydroelectric mega-dams have been recognized as offsets. Some states are now proposing that carbon capture and storage, biomass plants (woodchips as an alternative energy source), Arctic ice and all kinds of technofixes that do not reduce emissions but only allow for the continued production and use of fossil fuels, serve as sources of offsets and credits.
The UNFCCC proscribes “dangerous human induced interference with the climate system.” In many respects, these proposed false solutions and techno-fixes are in fact “dangerous interferences with the climate system.” And the human rights affected by the land grabs, loss of food sovereignty and security, the right to development itself, Free, Prior and Informed Consent, and more, have yet to be adequately or equitably addressed.
Article 6.8, non-market approaches, was not negotiated but was discussed in a workshop. It is seen by many NGOs as a way of enhancing ambition and providing assistance, including technology transfer, to countries most affected by global warming.
Conditions under which trading could begin were greatly discussed. But in fact, carbon markets are up and running even though they have never worked to reduce emissions.
In the end, by allowing markets, offsets and credits, to substitute for real, on-site emissions reductions, Article 6 and the Paris Agreement are the problem and not the solution, allowing the pretense that fossil fuel pollution is somehow somewhere else or gone. But it is not. And the fossil fuel industry and their aiders and abettors, such as banks, insurance companies, cattle ranchers and carbon cowboys, were at COP 27 making sure that their interests were protected.
COP 28 promises more of the same. It will be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, a major oil producer, led by the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Sultan Al Jaber. No doubt major oil companies and their allies, including millionaire NGOs, will also be there with their side events and proposals for investment in false solutions to the climate crisis just as they did in Egypt.
But as in Sharm El-Sheikh, hundreds of legitimate NGOs concerned about the environment and thousands of people will be in Dubai clamoring for the de-carbonization of the environment, real carbon reductions and a move to alternative energy. Particularly, youth from all over the world attended and evidenced a strength and commitment against carbon markets, a deep respect and emulation of the Indigenous relationship to our Mother Earth, and dedication to the environment, biodiversity and a fossil fuel free future for themselves and our future generations. The future lies in their capable hands.
1 Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA)