Putting People at the Center of Article 6

10 December 2019

Over the last week, we”ve heard a lot of talk about Article 6, and a lot of it has been very technical, including critical rules for ensuring global emissions are reduced globally, preventing double-counting, and what share of proceeds should go to the Adaptation Fund, amongst others. And ECO has been pleased to see an increasing number of Parties (Tuvalu, Switzerland, Mexico, Costa Rica, followed by Australia, Canada, the EU, New Zealand and Norway) talking about the critical role of human rights in successful and fair climate action. But missing from all of this are the human stories about what these rules mean to people who are being impacted – every day – by projects that fail to integrate human rights, were given a “sustainable development” stamp, and have resulted in destructive outcomes. We cannot ignore these people.  

Never fear, ECO is here to help. This Human Rights Day, we’re sharing the story of the communities impacted by the Alto Maipo hydroelectric project. Since we aren’t in Santiago, you won’t be able to visit the Cajon del Maipo, just 50km from the former COP25 venue, where you could have witnessed the devastating impacts of this so-called “clean” hydro project. So, ECO will help paint a picture. Currently under construction on the Maipo River, which provides water for 7 million people in the Santiago metro area, Alto Maipo is a run-of-the-river project that is blasting tunnels through the Andes, creating fissures in the glaciers, and polluting local communities with dust, light and noise. In a water-stressed country, it is drying up the Alto Maipo River, which is currently running at 50%, and it threatens the livelihoods of thousands of people who rely on the watershed for fishing, tourism, and recreation. In short, Alto Maipo is violating people’s rights to food, water, adequate housing, and a healthy environment, among others. And there was no adequate consultation. Surely, ECO must be misremembering: how can this project be considered clean? How could it have been registered under the “Clean” Development Mechanism? 

ECO wants to remind Parties of these human stories (this is but one of many), and the people behind them whose lives are too often on the line, as they sit in the halls of IFEMA, isolated from the real-world impacts of their decisions. Advocates calling for human rights, social and environmental safeguards, community consultation, and independent grievance redress in Article 6 are doing so because there are real people and real lives at stake. As Marcela Mella, a community member who’s been fighting the Alto Maipo project shared with ECO, “We have lived the devastating impacts of carbon markets in Chile. If Article 6 fails to substantively protect human rights and environmental integrity, it would condemn other communities to suffer harmful impacts similar to those that we have endured as a result of the CDM-registered Alto Maipo project.”

As the saying goes, “insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting a different result.” ECO certainly hopes that Parties will learn from the experience of the Kyoto Protocol and ensure decisions related to Article 6 integrate human rights to ensure the Paris Agreement doesn’t turn insane.

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