By Mathew Carr
June 3-4, 2023 — The UN 6.4 Supervisory Body, which is struggling to create and install rules to regulate a new UN carbon market, reverted to meeting in secret after suffering pointed criticism and bickering in public earlier Saturday at the end of a 4-day event in Bonn.
The article 6.4 market is being created under the Paris climate deal, which was struck by UN negotiators amid much back slapping in 2015. It so far has not cut global emissions, which appear to be still rising to new record levels.
The supervisory body was accused on Saturday of (these are just a few examples …I recommend you watch the full interaction with observers here):
*Being obsessed about creating controversial and potentially damaging “removal carbon credits” projects to extend the fossil-fuel era (instead of stopping heat-trapping gas from getting into the atmosphere in the first place)
*Humiliating observers of the meeting by requiring them at the last minute to slash the time of their interventions to 2 minutes …and not actually observe the meeting, even though there was enough space to allow this
*Ignoring the human rights of vulnerable and first-nation people; Benjamin Schachter, Human Rights Officer and Environment team leader at United Nations Human Rights., UN Human Rights Office, was scathing (see below).
*Trampling over previous decisions of the UN climate talks
*Failing to properly transition projects from a previous UN market into the new one, as required — ie selecting ways to discourage early-moving projects from transitioning into the program being constructed
On the last point, Maria AlJishi, a Saudi Arabia energy ministry official who sits on the body, made a barnstorming speech — seemingly to accuse her fellow members of the disruptive “cherry picking” of measures that would slow the transition of older projects into the new market.
“At this point in time, at least to me, it feels like going into these discussions is a betrayal of the decision that was adopted by the [wider UN talks] to allow for these flexibilities. And it feels as if we are trying to cripple these projects from their ability to transition. I am sure that that is not the intention. But that is the feeling that I am receiving because of this extended conversation on cherry picking,” she said.
“What of the new 6.4 new rules and procedures do we want to cherry pick and apply to the existing Clean Development Mechanism [CDM is the previous UN market] methodologies when we have [a] very clear decision text that says: until a complete methodological guidance is available, CDM activities can use their existing methodologies in order to facilitate their transition into the 6.4 mechanism.”
The transition is beginning by the end of this month.
“And it is not … within our purview to walk that back and start putting in ‘placeholders’ of what they may or may not need to update [in their project documentation]. And if that is something that we do then I personally would feel like I am participating in the betrayal of a decision text that was given to us under extreme trust,” AlJishi said.
Martin Hession, a member of the body and official at the European Commission, spoke immediately after AlJishi, though he was scheduled to do so before he had heard what she had to say.
He said the body would allow the transition to proceed. He urged caution because the older emission-cutting projects did not need to justify how permanent their cuts were, for instance, he said.
CarrZee: Allowing projects to transition will probably boost the supply of credits in the new market and lower their price. This could in turn lower the incentive to cut emissions. But one thing is sure…with global emissions near record levels of about 40 billion tons a year of co2 equivalent, “emission reduction credits” are the ultimate scarce commodity. Weirdly, or by design, OPEC+ is also meeting this weekend to try to influence the price of crude oil.
“The difficulty is whether we have all of the things that we need in place to do the rest of what we agreed — as a delicate compromise,” Hession said. “That, we can’t betray on. That we must fulfil to the letter. We shouldn’t be cherry picking. But I think we’re in a massive orchard of cherries,” he said, signalling [I think] there are plenty of ways to improve on the regulation of the CDM’s emissions-cutting systems.
As of 9:30pm in London (10:30pm in Bonn) Saturday, the UNFCCC website was signalling that the meeting had not finished; Saturday was meant to be the last day.
The meeting is usually streamed for the world to see. Delegates of the body held a “closed session” at the end to put together the meeting’s report.
By 11:30pm Bonn time, a short video of the meeting formally adopting the report had appeared on the UNFCCC website.
Even though the chair of the meeting and of the supervisory body, Olga Gassan-zade, said that the adopted meeting report was projected into the meeting, the video did not reveal the text of the document. Gassan-zade has been supporting the delegation of Ukraine in Article 6 negotiations [an article of the Paris climate deal] since COP27 in Glasgow in 2021 and in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process since 2007.
“The decisions are always taken in the open meeting under respective agenda items,” Gassan-zade said Sunday on LinkedIn. “The meeting report merely reflects them [CarrZee invites readers to view the videoed sessions to see if this is true.] The report is always drafted in closed session for practical reasons. There is no substantive discussion at this point. It should be on the website now. As for Ben’s intervention, during the session, the interaction with stakeholders is always limited to one hour because we have [a] very busy work plan. We have announced two additional stakeholder interaction sessions before the next meeting. And I personally apologized to Ben, and all other stakeholders who were requesting the floor, for the time limit. We were reacting situationally and wanted to give everyone a fair chance to speak.”
The published report is here and below, for download, for convenience.
Benjamin Schachter, Human Rights Officer and Environment team leader at United Nations Human Rights., UN Human Rights Office, earlier told the meeting (edited, emphasis added):
“I will get to removals. But first I want to talk about participation. It is a human right? It should be free, meaningful, informed and effective. I received a message around midnight [last night] suggesting I coordinate with other observers representing states, indigenous peoples and businesses to develop a series of two-minute presentations. This is not feasible, let alone meaningful. UN Human Rights has a unique mandate. We stand up for rights holders. Not financial interests.
“This process is failing when it comes to participation of rights holders. Nothing in the supervisory bodies rules of procedures requires that rights holders be kept in a separate room, or that their participation be limited to a small scheduled session with all other observers that can be cancelled and postponed on short notice as we saw at COP 27 [climate talks last year in Egypt], are limited to two minutes per organisation and 30 minutes total with 30 minutes of responses from the supervisory body rather than actual interaction.
“I represent UN human rights in a wide range of environmental processes. Others are doing better. Beyond being a human right, participation and rights based approaches are recognised by the IPCC and its six assessment report as integral to effective and sustainable climate action. Article 12 of the Paris agreement itself states that parties shall cooperate and take measures as appropriate to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, recognising the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this agreement.
“Bad processes lead to bad outcomes. I urge you to reconsider the modalities of observer participation that this body has employed. The supervisory body can do better. Observers here representing rights holders are deeply committed to this process and its success. They can offer tremendous expertise and bring the voices of those most affected by climate change to your discussion. They can support you to generate political momentum for constructive outcomes. This body and its mandate is too important to proceed without transparency and meaningful and effective participation from people.
“I’d like to say a lot more than on this, and on the substantive work that you’re doing. That was roughly two minutes already. It’s not enough time. You had four days and observers got three minutes. 30 minutes, two minutes each. Please bear with me one more minute.
“I urge you to prioritise the work necessary to ensure the article 6.4 mechanism functions effectively for people and planet. Don’t start a market before you have in place environmental and social safeguards procedures for participation and consultations, including free prior informed consent for indigenous peoples and an independent redress mechanism.
“And please take a step back from your focus on removals. A broad definition of removals creates a permission structure for continuation of the status quo.
“Such a definition can encompass processes and activities exploiting the natural environment or deploying unproven technologies that have substantial actual and or potential negative impacts on human rights and the environment without guaranteeing the emission reductions that are needed to slow and limit the damage of the ongoing climate crisis.
“There is a substantial risk that the work of this body on removals can divert attention from the critical need to reduce emissions. Emission reductions are a human rights imperative. Please focus your efforts there.
“And I’d like to just note there’s plenty of room in this space. I would love it if you would invite us to continue here for the rest of the day. Thank you.”
(Updates with AlJishi, Hession, Schachter comments, report apparently adopted; I used Otter AI transcriber to help with the comments so let me know if there are any faults I didn’t pick up at firstname.lastname@example.org)