As negotiators discuss how and where to include human rights references in the negotiating text, Panama has set a real world example. ECO warmly welcomes the decision by Panama’s environmental authority to temporarily suspend the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam over noncompliance with its environmental impact assessment, including consultation requirements.
For the past several years, the indigenous Ngöbe communities have stood in firm opposition to the Barro Blanco dam, which would flood the homes of many indigenous families living at the Tabasará River. Where does the UNFCCC come in? Well, despite strong community resistance, the project developer applied for registration under the Clean Development Mechanism. When alerted about the danger indigenous families were facing, the CDM Board decided that the CDM’s consultation standards had been met and approved the project. There’s no question we need to fight climate change. But there’s no justification for violating human rights in the process.
Panama’s suspension of the project following the CDM Board’s decision to approve the Barro Blanco project is a game changer. Credible international climate policy needs to be consistent with existing obligations, and those obligations must be recognised and operationalised in the 2015 agreement. Dear delegates: don’t let projects like Barro Blanco undermine the integrity of international climate policy – our future climate deal should respect, protect, promote and help realise human rights.