The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) was created under the Kyoto Protocol as a sort of international currency meant to stimulate sustainable development while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions. Referred to as a market-based mechanism, the CDM allows developing countries to earn certified emission reduction (CER) credits with the implementation of emission-reduction projects. Each CER equates to one tonne of CO2 and can be traded and sold internationally to help parties meet their Kyoto Protocol-mandated emission reduction target.
Purposefully inherent in the CDM system is a degree of flexibility for industrialized countries, who undoubtedly emit more carbon than developing countries. Theoretically, their purchasing of developing countries’ CERs stimulate both economic growth and emission-reducing projects.
To date, over 6,500 projects are registered as ‘emission-reducing’ under the CDM, though problematically, the UN has not implemented procedures to ensure that any project registered under the CDM safeguards human rights. The Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam in Panama is an example of a project registered under the CDM that will result in unintended but devastating impacts on indigenous communities and the environment on which they depend. CIEL is working to ensure the CDM not only considers the human rights implications of a projects before it is registered, but also that human rights standards are respected during the life cycle of the project, and individuals have access to redress if rights are violated.