Tag Archives: offsetting

False Solutions

Another major issue at this round of talks was actually a hangover from COP24 in Katowice. The shorthand is “Article 6” – referring to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which deals with international cooperation between countries to result in an overall decrease in emissions. Mainly this has focused on controversial trading of “offsets”. 

Market mechanisms have long been a bone of contention in the climate talks, going back at least 2 decades to the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. Back then, a so-called Clean Development Mechanism was set up with the intention to help developed countries meet their emissions reductions targets under the Protocol through the purchase of emissions reductions credits. 

However the actual result was that some people made rather a lot of money selling these “credits” to people who wanted to pollute more but not have said pollution “on their books”, while very little progress was made to actually cut emissions. Concerns around the actual function of the scheme expressed themselves in terms like “efficiency”, “additionality”, “carbon leakage”, and the simpler “human rights violations”.  

For years afterwards, negotiations attempted to establish global carbon markets, voluntary trading schemes and so forth. As opposition to carbon markets is a core tenet of climate justice, many groups did not even engage or follow this process, which usually ended in no agreement between countries, although of course some countries did set up their own domestic markets which they hoped would one day allow for international emissions trading.

In the process of negotiating Paris, market mechanisms did not feature. They suddenly appeared towards the end in Article 6, which established a “Sustainable Development Mechanism.”

Now we have to reckon with the reality. There are markets whether we like it or not. We can oppose them while also attempting to reduce the harm they cause.

In Katowice, the section of the “rulebook” dealing with these was not agreed and became a major sticking point. The talks nearly collapsed in spectacular fashion, and eventually the formal conclusion taken was that there was no agreement. 

The scene was thus set for a pressurised round of talks in Bonn, as the deadline they set to conclude this last remaining section of the Paris rulebook was December 2019, at COP25. 

They had a lot of ground to cover, as the starting point wasn’t even agreed. 

Nor was the way forward. 

But absent from the debate was any real answer to some important questions, like does this market approach actually reduce emissions? Does it help vulnerable people? Do transfers of credits actually even benefit the seller country? Are forests and biodiversity going to be traded away? Are we going to hold the rest of the talks to ransom for this? 

The most they were able to agree upon was to forward the decision-making to SB51 in Santiago, setting the scene for an even more pressurised negotiation. 

As per TWN’s reporting, “on the last day of negotiations, three separate set of draft conclusions on each of the three items under Article 6 (i.e. on the international transfer of mitigation outcomes [ITMOs] under Article 6.2; the sustainable development mechanism under Article 6.4 and the framework for non-market approaches under Article 6.8) were proposed for consideration by the SBSTA Chair Paul Watkinson (France) .

Each of the draft conclusions contained three paragraphs: the first para recognised the work carried out at the Bonn session; the second stated that there is agreement to continue consideration of the draft decision text (to advance further negotiations on the matter) at the next session of the SBSTA in Dec. 2019 (with the decision text referenced in a footnote) and the third para provided a placeholder for intersessional work (i.e. for a technical paper and workshop) within brackets, due to different views of Parties on the matter.

“Following these extensive interventions, the SBSTA Chair Watkinson after hearing “divergent views” on intersessional work said that there was “no consensus” and therefore suggested that the draft conclusions ‘do not include intersessional work'”.  

He also said that draft decision texts “do not represent a consensus among Parties,” and assured Parties that there would be no further iteration of the texts (prior to the meeting in Chile). He also clarified that the only editing that would be taken into account are such as “brackets are correctly inserted” and ‘accurate representation of inputs of Parties'”.

We should be talking about real solutions. Instead all the attention and effort is on what we know are false ones.

Even Leo DiCap is pushing the dangerous distractions.