News from the Columbia Climate School

Columbia Climate School Releases ‘Carbon Markets, Nature, Rights and Climate Justice’ Roundtable Report ahead of COP28

A historic and rapid transformation of nature credit and offset markets is underway. Estimates of nature credit market growth vary widely and the market continues to be volatile, with some estimates predicting that the carbon market alone is expected to scale to $50B by 2030 and $4T by 2050. Meanwhile, more than two thirds of countries are planning to use carbon markets to meet nationally determined contributions (NDCs) (World Bank). Ahead of COP28, negotiations to define the human rights safeguards and eligibility of voluntary market activities, crediting mechanisms, and authorizations and guidelines that enable internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOS) under Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement, and establishment of a supervisory body are heading towards a critical juncture. Amid this landscape, national governments are rushing to create new laws and regulations to govern the markets and projects in their territories. 

Market growth does not guarantee nature-positive, climate positive or equitable outcomes. Lessons from early nature-based markets, and related offset schemes, have shown significant risks if the needs of frontline actors are not considered in every step of design and implementation. These risks include greenwashing, underpricing, double counting and over accounting based on counterfactuals, displacement and threats to sovereignty, lack of land and marine tenure rights, discounting of future climate risk and biodiversity baselines, additionality, and inadequate local jurisdictional policy and governance. 

Moderated by Columbia Climate School Visiting Professor Sheila Foster on September 19, 2023, Namati, Grassroots Justice Network, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, the Columbia University Climate School, and Columbia World Projects convened a dialogue that provided space to listen and engaged a cross-section of actors impacted by and influencing these markets and projects with the aim to consider if and how they could be more just.

Instead of aiming for consensus, the event was focused on hearing from impacted communities and responding to the issues they raised. In the process, we surfaced a number of areas of common understanding and potential collaboration as well as areas of contestation about the perceptions and realities of the market. The roundtable report provides a summary of all discussions, documentation, and policy considerations including for: 

  • FAIR MARKET ACCESS: AVOID A LICENSE TO POLLUTE
  • FAIR LAND AND MARINE TENURE
  • FAIR INFORMATION, CONSULTATION, AND CONSENT
  • FAIR COMPENSATION
  • FAIR PARTICIPATION

The report and conversations concluded with opportunities for multi-actor advocacy, recommendations for technical assistance and establishment of a Fair Market Access Fund, engaging key regulatory stakeholders, and capacity building as well as legal and clinic-based support programs. Most importantly, the roundtable provided and will continue to provide actors across the issues an opportunity to share knowledge and reach understanding. 

As a means of using convening to advance specific and immediate action, the recommendations are also being used to support the following: 

  • UNFCCC Secretariat Recognition and Accountability Framework: Draft Implementation Plan with respect to Net-Zero Pledges of non-State actors and Integrity Matters;
  • UNFCCC Article 6.4 Draft Grievance Mechanism and Safeguards;
  • Calls for inputs from Indigenous People and local communities to the Article 6.4 Supervisory Body; and,
  • Emerging national policy in Kenya, Indonesia and Zambia.

The Climate School will continue these discussions at the Global Alliance of Universities on Climate Pavilion at COP 28 on December 5, 2023 alongside Namati, the Grassroots Justice Network, and WE ACT For Environmental Justice.

For more information about these efforts, please contact: 

Johanna Lovecchio, Director, Program Design for Climate Action, Columbia Climate School, jlovecchio@climate.columbia.edu.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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