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International: Paris Agreement Parties to Consider Human Rights Issues

(May 20, 2016) The parties that signed the 2015 Framework Convention on Climate Change, popularly called the Paris Agreement, are meeting from May 16 to May 25, 2016, in Bonn, Germany, to consider the human rights implications of aspects of the climate change plan. (Adoption of the Paris Agreement, FCCC/CP/2015/L.9, United Nations website (Dec. 12, 2015); Mark Casper, Paris Agreement States Urged to Address Human Rights Issues, PAPER CHASE (May 13, 2016); “No Time for Complacency” – UN Rights Expert Says as the Paris Agreement Faces Its First Key Test, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (May 13, 2016).) The meeting’s purpose includes negotiating a new international climate mechanism “to transfer funds from developed to developing countries for projects that contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development.” (“No Time for Complacency” – UN Rights Expert Says as the Paris Agreement Faces Its First Key Test, supra.)

According to John H. Know, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, the planned meeting will be the “first test of States’ commitment to the principles of the Paris Agreement … .” (Id.) He added that the Paris Agreement is the first environmental pact to include a human rights commitment and said that “[t]he fact that 177 States have signed the Paris Agreement in less than a month is very welcome news, but the hard work of safeguarding the environment and human rights is just now beginning.” (Id.)

The existing climate plan includes the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is described on the CDM’s webpage as permitting “emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2. These CERs can be traded and sold, and used by industrialized countries to a [sic] meet a part of their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.” (What Is the CDM?, CDM website (last visited May 16, 2016).) The CDM has been under criticism for enabling the establishment of “hydroelectric and other projects that were linked to human rights abuses, including displacement of indigenous and other communities without transparency or adequate consultation.” (“No Time for Complacency” – UN Rights Expert Says as the Paris Agreement Faces Its First Key Test, supra.) The expectation now, with the Bonn meeting, is that a new mechanism will be instituted to include safeguards against violations of rights and procedures for filing grievances when such violations do occur. (Casper, supra.)