Without Incentives: the Significance of Article 6.8: “Non-Market Approaches”

–Lucy Kramer, ‘26 

I met Ghazali Ohorella in the back of the room at a late-night Article 6.8 negotiation. I was observing with Tomohiro Harada, who has been following Indigenous People’s participation at the UNFCCC process for years. He pointed to a man sitting at the other side of the deserted back row: “That’s who you should be talking to,” he proposed. Ohorella is the executive secretary of the Indigenous Coordinating Body of the UN, focusing specifically on Article 6. A little way into the meeting, he asked me what my hopes were for Article 6.8, in a way that implied that he had hopes himself. I tried my best to summarize what might be the thesis of this essay: “I hope that it validates mitigation efforts outside of capitalism, including how we live as a whole.” He nodded, in seeming agreement.

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement concerns how countries can collaborate on their Nationally Determined Contributions. At COP28, there were three negotiations on subarticles: Article 6.2 related to trading emissions reductions and carbon removals, 6.4 related to the creation of a global carbon trading mechanism, and 6.8 focused on non-market approaches, shortened as NMAs (Carbon Market Watch, 2022).  

But I didn’t know this when I was first introduced to Ohorella. He asked me what the title of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement even is in the first place. I make a few guesses in vain: “mitigation?” “No.” In the end, I looked it up. “Cooperative Implementation,” according to Google. “The market is the only way that they trust to cooperate,” said Ohorella. These approaches use money as the only metric of success. “Cooperation” through carbon markets is not exclusively about climate change; it is also about allowing those playing the market to capitalize on climate change. Economic “cooperation” in this sense reproduces neocolonial inequity and extraction of labor and resources from the global South to global North.

As geographer David Harvey explains in A Brief History of Neoliberalism, free market capitalism with minimal regulations became not just an economic system, but a way of life that in “‘substituting for all previously held ethical beliefs’, emphasizes the significance of contractual relations in the marketplace.” The 1980’s boom of neoliberalism was a historic transition away from what Ghazali explains as the basic principles: “all previously held ethical beliefs.” Harvey describes how neoliberalism became “hegemonic as a mode of discourse;” contractual methods for collaboration dominate Article 6.2, Article 6.4, and negotiations within the UN under the guise of “common sense.”

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Ohorella sets three pens on the negotiation desk. Two are identical black pens, and the other is purple. “These two are worth ten,” he says, pointing to the identical ones, “and the other one is free. Which one is more valuable?” “The free one,” I answered. He smiled. “Okay, not to you, but to a normal person in society.” “Then of course, the $10 pens.” 

“Exactly. What Bolivia did when they devised 6.8, was to sandwich 6.8 between the market approaches, where it would hold equal weight. They were supposed to be a package, non-market and market approaches.” Subarticle 6.8, in Bolivia’s plan, used the UNFCCC framework to position non-market approaches with equal importance to market approaches like carbon pricing. Carbon markets are already incentivized, because they allow institutions to continue business and profiting while trading carbon. He drags the purple pen away from the black pens. 

“This is what happened instead.” Parties have spent most of their energy focused on the monetary solutions, because again, the goal is not just saving the climate, but maintaining the current economic order. The co-chair for Article 6.2 on trading urged that “the markets are not stopping without us and our framework,” in order to get the parties to pass the document. In the meantime, the markets are already trading carbon in the guise of “carbon neutrality” without regulation.

Bolivia, in alliance with Indigenous Peoples, is advocating for solutions and cooperative frameworks that address the root of climate change, and allow for creativity outside of a profit margin. “What Indigenous people see is that we need to return to basic principles, respect and reciprocity,” said Ohorella.

 As I was following the COP, I was looking for well-being paradigms I heard at events with Indigenous peoples, the UN, health, biodiversity, and beyond to be represented in negotiation spaces. These simple ideas seem radical compared to politically constrained and technical negotiations. Is there a place in the texts for these words and principles to guide the action that we move forth with? 

“That’s where 6.8 comes in,” said Ohorella. As we were walking to a negotiation, Harada explained 6.8 as a “litmus test” for community engagement; “The parties don’t know what non-market approaches actually are or how to implement them.” This creates an essential window: the document calls on  “participation… in the identification, development and scaling-up of non-market approaches including by encouraging the participation of relevant stakeholders, including Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.” Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities are mentioned 3 times in this text as those most fit to build NMAs. The inclusion of this language is the beginning of recognizing that “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them,” as Einstein famously said. For starters, 6.8 helps to recognize the knowledge and practices of Indigenous people and their paramount importance for addressing climate change.  

The discussion of mitigation through lowering emissions at COP28 was focused on energy transitions that perpetuate an overconsumption across the global North. I heard about techno-solutions and “scaling-them-up” in the consulting/business area, as well as in the carbon removals in Article 6. The Indigenous Environmental Network in collaboration with other organizations passed out a zine on the first day called “Hoodwinked in the Hothouse,” which explains how these practices are “false solutions” masking and enabling the polycrisis: climate change, pollution, biodiversity, and social inequity. Without addressing hegemonic practices like neoliberalism, the problematic paradigm Full solutions are complex, yet hold onto the simple principles of respect and reciprocity. 

 There are a few voices speaking about diverse mitigation, including one of the best side events that I went to entitled “Beyond Growth: Sufficiency for a sustainable and equitable future,” which names mentalities of continual growth, progress, and development as fundamental causes of the polycrisis which must be addressed in solutions. The co-president of the Club of Rome gave a riveting speech to a room packed full of people: “This COP is not talking about de-growth, and it is certainly not talking about sufficiency.” Indeed, the incredible event that followed titled “Sustainable Lifestyles” around Europe and Japan had only a handful of attendees scattered about the rows. We are not talking about NMAs that involve confronting our lifestyle—at best, we are only beginning to do so. 

The non-market sharing platform deepens the discourse on mitigation and climate change as a whole. Indigenous people are fighting to have their knowledge, practices, and intrinsic ways of knowing recognized as legitimate epistemologies and solutions. Ohorella explains it like this: “They’re fighting over whether they want an apple or an orange. We know that fruit is good for us all, and we’re waiting for that to be realized. They think that it’s one or the other, one way of doing this, but it’s not.” Article 6.8 is offering the beginning of an equal footing between Western and Indigenous epistemologies. The increase of stakeholder participation in NDCs is proven to increase ambition with NDCs (Peterson, 2023). The opportunity 6.8 offers is to not just provide more ambition, but a different kind of ambition.

What does a UN document like 6.8 even do? It all goes back to the Paris Agreement, which is referenced by Article 6, Section 8. UNFCCC documents are formed by consensus, meaning that by the time a document is approved, it has been signed off on by every party, either through direct approval or not participating in the interventions. The Paris Agreement serves as a precedent in international law and provides standards for mitigation ambition in NDC’s (Voigt, 2023). These documents then provide the framework for how to think about the climate crisis itself, and how to proceed. The documents hold soft power because parties buy into the process. Moving forward, who decides what counts as a valid NDC approach, and what is included is extremely important. 

Countries are already using approaches beyond market solutions. While I was at the opening meeting for a coalition on NDC collaboration with Ministers of Finance, I noticed how influential sharing these could be. First, Singapore shared what they had done to bridge mitigation and adaptation, which was to invest heavily in public transport, because electric cars weren’t going to make the traffic any better on a small island. The U.S. went next, and expressed the success of the Inflation Reduction Act, which created economic incentive for buyers to choose clean energy and cars. The U.S. agenda at COP focused on this approach, making it clear that each country will have a unique response based on circumstances.

To me, this was an attempt to justify the continuation of individual transportation and green vehicles versus focusing on public transportation, because the U.S. is not a small island where it is otherwise necessary. Involvement of Indigenous perspectives on Work programs like 6.8 can provide additional validation to holistic methods that bridge mitigation, adaptation, and human rights, and move beyond the bare minimum climate response. The U.S. NDC has no mention of NMA’s. Passing a document like 6.8 gives confidence in non-market approaches, and has the potential to further increase their presence in NDCs. 

Yet the language in this document is still weak in terms of its suggestions. UNFCCC documents italicize the first words of each paragraph, which show the strength of the statement. In 6.8, almost all of the initial words are non-commital: “invites,” “requests,” “recalls.” There were no strong terms such as “urges.” Non-market and Indigenous perspectives have the potential to directly address the complexity of the polycrisis.

The second section, simply called non-market approaches, has two paragraphs. The first reads: “Recalls the thirteenth preambular paragraph of the Paris Agreement, which notes the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including oceans, and the protection of biodiversity, recognized by some cultures as Mother Earth, and noting the importance for some of the concept of “climate justice”, when taking action to address climate change.” The U.S. adamantly opposed the language “Mother Nature,” on the grounds that it was beyond what was written in the Paris Agreement and the mandate for this text. Now, only “some cultures” recognize Mother Earth in the final document. Recognizing Nature’s right to be healthy is an integral step to challenging exploitative capitalism, and regaining our sense of connection with ecosystems. 

Furthermore, this document begins to “note…some of the concept of ‘climate justice’” with trepidation. While it is noted in concept, it still needs to be operationalized in the text and beyond, including mandates for incorporating and financing NMA’s. As Ohorella notes, the consensus method forces Indigenous peoples and countries like Bolivia to add more and more “water with our wine, diluting our solutions to the most acceptable scenario.” What is acceptable for many wealthy countries, as well as countries seeking development, is the continuation of neoliberalism. Weakened language in the text “kills Indigenous people and removes our rights: the people that protect the Earth.”

The balance of the three pens is still being sought. “It’s even in the name,” Ghazali explains. “Which one seems more attractive: non-market approaches or market mechanisms?” “Market mechanisms” imply that there is already a solution in motion, and it’s just a matter of working out the kinks. By using indirect language that only refers to “Non-Market Approaches” through negation, NMAs are implied as peripheral to the central market mechanism. They are undefined, and simply other to market collaboration. Myra Jackson, a long-time advocate for the Rights of Nature and a member of the Sustainable Development Goals Working group, emphasized that language is everything, and that “we can’t use the paradigm of markets to describe holistic solutions being sought in NMAs.” 

I was sitting next to Harada and Ohorella during the last day of the Article 6 negotiations. The co-chairs opened: “It’s far too late to hear your thoughts. We’re here to listen if you accept or reject the text.” We started with 6.4, the medium-controversy text. Almost every party rejected passing the text. Next, 6.8, the less controversial of the three, sandwiched in between. Besides the United States’ dissatisfaction with carbon pricing being cut from the final text, and the Coalition of Rainforest Nations wanting to pass all of the article 6 passages together, 6.8 got the green flag. Following Mexico’s staunch disapproval, the carbon-market focused 6.4 and 6.2 did not pass. I looked at Ohorella, who smiled. As Harada implored earlier; “A bad text passing is worse than no text.” 

At the last minute, the parties expressed interest in extending their time in order to get all of Article 6 to pass. It was the United States, at the very end, that refused to continue working on 6.2 and 6.4—they were not going to pass this year. Ohorella looked around in disbelief at his colleagues in the audience. At COP28, non-market approaches passed alone. I looked at Ohorella, not sure whether my excitement was premature. He smiles, “Get excited. Balancing the scales.” 

So much of the conversations at COP outside of negotiation rooms urge for a new economic system that considers planetary boundaries and whose goal is to meet human needs. Now that the framework for non-market co-operation has passed, it is up to the “stakeholders” to use NMAs to shift the climate action paradigm. Can future COPs be a space beyond corporate profit and neoliberalism? Can we do things simply because they are better for society, and better for the wellbeing of the planet? Can we protect and restore Indigenous rights and Rights of Nature? Paragraph 14 of the 6.8 text “Invites Parties and observers to submit via the submission portal by 31 March 2024.” We must ensure that Article 6.8 passes the “litmus test” by participating in real cooperation and real solutions. And ideally, taking us places we don’t yet know: where we can learn, develop, collaborate, and emerge.

Work Cited

Crook, Jonathan. “COP27 FAQ: Article 6 of the Paris Agreement explained.” Carbon Market Watch News. Last modified November 2, 2022. 


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