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From false climate solutions to addressing the real drivers of deforestation

Posted Dec. 10, 2012 / Posted by: Jeff Conant

Friends of the Earth in the news this week

As developed countries have fled the Kyoto Protocol like rats from a sinking ship, climate financing continues to be central among the issues on the table at the UNFCCC COP18 negotiations taking place right now in Doha, Qatar (as Friends of the Earth’s Karen Orenstein notes here). In the talks on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, also known as REDD, in Doha, the EU and others are trying to impose complicated Monitoring Reporting and Verification systems – ways of accounting for forest carbon stocks – essentially to prepare the way for an international offset market in forest carbon. But, if the goal is to reduce deforestation, why spend billions on counting carbon when the growth of biofuels, industrial agriculture, and the rash of illegal logging are gobbling up forest lands – and leading to landgrabs to boot?

Yesterday in Doha, the plurinational state of Bolivia put it most clearly: “We denounce to the whole world the pressure from some countries for the approval of new carbon market mechanisms, although these have shown to be ineffective in the fight against climate change, and that only represent business opportunities. This is a climate change conference, not a conference for carbon business.”

Further, as Chris Lang, editor of Redd-Monitor, writes, while the world negotiates the future of forest carbon stocks, where’s the discussion of fossil fuels? (To read more about what’s happening in Doha, have a look at Third World’ Network’s current brief

REDD is a complicated and contentious issue, but this much is clear: any approach to reducing deforestation must be based in human rights, the rights of Indigenous Peoples, land tenure reform, and territorial sovereignty. And it must address first-world consumption, which is the root cause of so much of the world’s deforestation.

These beliefs were at the heart of our recent efforts to warn California against accepting REDD carbon credits into its carbon trading system. The state is currently implementing an agreement, under the auspices of the Governors’ Forests and Climate Task Force, aimed at supplying California with REDD credits from Chiapas (Mexico) and Acre (Brazil). But quite simply, REDD programs that begin with the question: “how can we create cheap carbon offsets for polluters in California?” are bound to give short shrift to issues such as the rights of Indigenous peoples.

This dynamic was certainly on display at the September Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force meetings in Chiapas, Mexico. There, we worked with local indigenous and peasant farmer groups to challenge the state’s efforts to implement REDD without free, prior and informed consent. (Click here to see an excerpt from a promotional brochure, published by the government of Chiapas, bragging how by 2010 they had relocated 172 communities from their homes in the jungle in an effort to curb deforestation.) In this article I wrote for the current issue of Yes! Magazine I outlined a bit of what occurred at the meeting, and tried to describe what I see as the cultural rift that makes it difficult, well nigh impossible, for government agencies and global bodies to engage in meaningful dialogue with indigenous and peasant farmer communities.

Following the work in Chiapas, FoE brought these voices to California. We hosted a series of events in the San Francisco Bay Area, together with allies from Mexico, Brazil and Ecuador; the Indigenous Environmental Network; the Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Against REDD and for Life; as well as California environmental justice groups who found common cause with these communities. As Nile Malloy of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) put it, “While Chevron explodes in Richmond and causes over 15,000 people to be hospitalized, it’s clear that we need real climate solutions to address greenhouse gases and toxic pollution in California. REDD is not the solution. We need equitable, renewable and just solutions to solve the climate crisis at home and not negatively impact the Global South and other communities in the process.”

CBE and other organizations sponsored a standing-room only panel featuring indigenous leaders at the David Brower Center in Berkeley; it became the inspiration for this week’s edition of the nationally distributed radio program Making Contact: Saving or Selling the Planet: REDD, Climate Change, and Indigenous Lands.

While the world’s environment ministers are duking it out in Doha, a very different meeting is taking place in the Bolivian Amazon, at the triple border between Peru, Brazil and Bolivia. There, social movements from around the hemisphere, including our colleagues from Friends of the Earth International, are gathered to further their resolve in what they are calling (in words sent to us by Lucia Ortiz of FoE Brazil)

“a decisive battle for the destiny of humanity. On one side are the transnational corporations, agribusiness, and mining interests that  promote the destruction of our forests and water sources in the name of a ‘progress’ that benefits only the owners of capital. On the other side are us, indigenous peoples, peasant farmers, quilombolas [Brazilian communities descended from escaped slaves], rural and urban workers struggling for our territories, for the rights of Mother Earth, for our cultures, and for our right to live well, in harmony with nature.”

We urgently need financing and government leadership to address the climate and ecological crisis. But we also need to ensure that the rights of those who live in and depend on forests aren’t neglected – or outright abused – in the process. We’re pleased that FoE’s efforts to uphold the rights of forest communities have been given airtime this week by Yes! Magazine and Making Contact. As FoE’s forest program gains ground against interests that wreck forest and wreak climate havoc, we are committed to addressing the root causes of deforestation and climate change, and to continuing to advance the perspectives of the indigenous and grassroots communities most impacted by these crises.

 

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