Reconciling the Carbon Market and the Human Right to Water: The Role of Suppressed Demand under Clean Development Mechanism and the Gold Standard

By Williams, Mark; Murthy, Sharmila | Environmental Law, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Reconciling the Carbon Market and the Human Right to Water: The Role of Suppressed Demand under Clean Development Mechanism and the Gold Standard


Williams, Mark, Murthy, Sharmila, Environmental Law


  I. INTRODUCTION  II. THE COMPLIANCE AND VOLUNTARY CARBON CREDIT SYSTEMS III. UNDERSTANDING THE THEORY BEHIND SUPPRESSED DEMAND       A. Defining Suppressed Demand       B. Suppressed Demand Carbon Accounting Approach for          Household Water Treatment and Storage Projects          1. Suppressed Demand under the CDM          2. Suppressed Demand under the Gold Standard  IV. SUPPRESSED DEMAND & HUMAN RIGHTS       A. Equity and Human Rights Considerations          1. Right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress          2. Right to an adequate standard of living          3. Right to health          4. Right to water       B. Normative Content of Human Right to Water          1. Availability          2. Quality/safety          3. Acceptability          4. Physical Accessibility          5. Affordability       C. Cross-Cutting Criteria of Human Right to Water          1. Non-Discrimination          2. Participation          3. Accountability          4. Impact          5. Sustainability                   i.   Environmental indicators                   ii.  Social indicators                   iii. Technological indicators   V. CONCLUSION 

I. INTRODUCTION

Reconciling the unequal impacts of climate change, while simultaneously enabling the least developing countries (LDCs) to develop, is one of the greatest challenges facing the global community. Countries that have contributed the least to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are those that are most vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate. (1) Yet, because these countries have historically had low emissions, they have not been able to take advantage of funding available through the carbon markets. (2) A new approach has been pioneered in the carbon market to foster development toward cleaner, low-emissions technology in LDCs and to improve the standard of living for millions of people who lack access to basic services, such as clean energy and water. The approach, known as suppressed demand, makes certain projects in LDCs more attractive to the carbon market by imputing a higher level of baseline emissions on the theory that greenhouse gas emissions would be higher if demand for a minimum level of services were not 'suppressed' by poverty. (3)

The suppressed demand approach was first used to obtain carbon finance for clean energy projects like cookstoves and solar panels but it has recently been promoted as a tool for bringing household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS) projects to the developing countries with the highest needs. (4) These projects seek to promote alternative methods of purifying drinking water other than boiling, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions through burning wood or other biomass. (5) Through suppressed demand, a higher emissions baseline is assumed in certain cases on the theory that even if the recipients are not currently boiling their water, they would if they had access to the natural or financial means to do so. (6) This article assesses the extent to which the use of the suppressed demand to facilitate carbon financing of clean water projects in poor countries is consistent with the human right to safe drinking water and the goal of environmental sustainability.

In 2010, the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly (7) and the U.N. Human Rights Council (8) recognized a human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, highlighting the urgency of the global water and sanitation crisis. (9) The human right to water requires that everyone have access to adequate amounts of safe, accessible, affordable, acceptable water. (10) In recognizing the right, the General Assembly resolution expressed concern that "approximately 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water" and also expressed alarm "that approximately 1.5 million children under five years of age die and 443 million school days are lost each year as a result of water- and sanitation-related diseases." (11) It also called upon "[s]tates and international organizations to provide financial resources, capacity-building and technology transfer, through international assistance and cooperation, in particular to developing countries, in order to scale up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible, and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all. …

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