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Human rights and the clean development mechanism: lessons learned from three case studies

Wolfgang Obergassel, Lauri Peterson, Florian Mersmann, Jeanette Schade, Jane Alice Hofbauer and Monika Mayrhofer

Keywords: climate policy; human rights; Clean Development Mechanism; involuntary resettlement

Abstract

This article analyses the human rights implications of projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). While the CDM is likely to expire in the near future, the experience gained should be used to inform the rules of the new mechanism to be established under the 2015 Paris Agreement. We argue that the CDM and the new mechanism, as international organizations under the guidance of UNFCCC member states, should apply the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Based on the experience drawn from three case studies (two hydro power projects in Barro Blanco, Panama, and Bujagali, Uganda, and one geothermal energy project in Olkaria, Kenya), we show that CDM projects, while in formal compliance with CDM rules, can lead to a number of human rights infringements. We conclude with a number of recommendations on how to achieve a greater recognition of human rights in the new mechanism under the Paris Agreement.

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