in Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, USA

Indigenous Peoples speak out against California’s carbon offsets scheme: “You cannot trade pollution for nature”

Indigenous Peoples speak out against California's carbon offsets scheme: You cannot trade pollution for nature

An international delegation of indigenous leaders from Brazil, Mexico and Ecuador is currently in California to oppose California’s proposed carbon offset scheme. The scheme could allow companies in California to meet limits on greenhouse gas emissions by buying carbon credits rather than reducing pollution at home.

The recent meeting of the Governor’s Climate and Forest Task Force in Chiapas (which links several provinces and states in the Global South with California) was met by protests, a People’s Forum against REDD, statements opposing REDD, and a report from Greenpeace opposing REDD offsets.

Indigenous peoples are now taking the protest to California.

California’s Global Warming Trading Scheme Could Endanger Indigenous Forest Peoples

International Delegation Warns Against Carbon Offsets Rejected by Other Global Governments

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 17 – Leaders of indigenous forest peoples warned today that California’s proposed carbon credits trading scheme – intended to help reduce global warming – could in fact threaten the survival of those who live there.

At issue are so-called REDD credits that may be part of the state’s cap-and-trade carbon market. These credits would allow California polluters to meet limits on greenhouse gas emissions by buying carbon offset credits from international initiatives intended to prevent destruction of tropical rainforests.

“In Acre, the demarcation of indigenous territories is paralyzed because they want to take our lands to make profits from environmental services, through programs like REDD,” said José Carmelio Alberto Nunes, known as Ninawá, the President of the Federation of the Huni Kui people of Acre, Brazil. “We will not and cannot trade our hunting, our fishing, and our lives for pollution. You cannot trade pollution for nature. We are for life – therefore we are against REDD.”

Ninawá is among a delegation of indigenous leaders from Mexico, Brazil and Ecuador who are traveling to Sacramento this week to testify before the state Air Resources Board and meet with officials from Gov. Jerry Brown’s office and Cal-EPA.

“We support California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Minnesota-based Indigenous Environmental Network. “But REDD amounts to nothing more than a plan to grab the lands that our indigenous peoples have always cared for, in exchange for permits that let industries continue to pollute.”

“REDD plus indigenous peoples equals genocide,” Goldtooth said.

Although the Air Resources Board has yet to issue a draft rule to accept REDD credits into its carbon trading system, the state has been actively exploring the option through initiatives such as the Governors Forests and Climate Task Force. The task force is an initiative started by California in 2008 to create a supply of REDD credits for California’s carbon market. Under a 2010 agreement, Chiapas, Mexico and Acre, Brazil are the two states that will be the first to potentially supply California with REDD credits.

The Task Force held its annual meeting last month in Chiapas, Mexico, where the meeting was met with public protests.

Rosario Aguilar, a health promoter from the region and a member of the delegation to California, said, “Even before California has established its market, the REDD+ project being implemented in our communities is causing conflict and displacement. As part of their plan to move indigenous people off the land, the government cut off medical services to the village of Amador Hernández in the Lacandon Jungle. This is why we say that REDD is promoting death, not life.”

Opposition to REDD credits is also building within California. In July, over 30 California groups, including Friends of the Earth, Communities for a Better Environment, the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment and Greenpeace wrote to Governor Brown, urging him to reject REDD credits from California’s cap and trade system. The groups pointed out that because REDD credits lack environmental integrity and pose unacceptably high social risks, “to date no regulatory carbon market in the world has allowed the use of sub-national forest offsets for compliance.”

“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,” said Nile Malloy, Northern California Program Director at Communities for a Better Environment. “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.”

CONTACT: Michelle Chan, Friends of the Earth, 202 427 3000

The following members of the delegation are available for interviews:

Rosario Aguilar, a health promoter and social anthropologist from the town of Las Margaritas in Chiapas, Mexico.
José Carmelio Alberto Nunes (Ninawá), President of the Federation of the Huni Kui people of Acre, Brazil.
Berenice Sanchez Lozada, a Nahua from Mexico, one of the founding members of the Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Against REDD and for Life.
Marlon Santi, a Kichwa from Ecuador and leader of Ecuador’s indigenous movement.
Tom Goldtooth, a Dakota/Dine, and Executive Director of the Minnesota-based Indigenous Environmental Network.
Gloria Ushigua, is a member of the Association of Zápara women, Ecuador, and a vocal critic of both conventional extractive industries and REDD-type programs as they are being implemented in Ecuador.

Leave a Reply

  1. Hey, Chris;

    Did you see the open letter that 11 Indigenous leaders from Acre sent to CIMI earlier this year? They’re basically saying that a lot of people on both sides of the debate are playing loose with the facts. Here’s the money quote:

    Both those in favor of and those against REDD must be serious and ethical in conveying correct information and establishing continued dialogue. Those in favor of REDD cannot promote it as something that can resolve all the problems of our communities; those against it cannot terrorize our peoples using western capitalism as a backdrop and creating a climate of distrust and fear based in suppositions and untruths.

    We’ve made it available for download here:

    NGOs Square Off Over REDD in California

  2. Dear Chris,

    See also Tashka Yawanawa’s open letter from Acre that states:

    “With all respect to you all, please stop trying to cause more division among indigenous peoples who either support or do not support REDD or any other projects. The time right now is not to discuss who is in favor and who is not. The time now requires wisdom to confront this dilemma that we are living in this millennium which affects us all… Indigenous peoples need to walk together and not divide us in a black and white picture.”

    Tashka Yawanawa Chief of Yawanawa people and coordinator of Associacao Sociocultural Yawanawa – ASCY

    Chris – you must look deep into your soul to find the wisdom that is currently overshadowed by dogma and vitriol towards a shadow enemy that you have inflated in your mind.

    Critiquing and ensuring no corruption and abuse of rights in REDD+ is highly important, trying to understand how the destructive power of the global market can be turned around is crucial.

    But you seem to have lost your way my friend, and are approaching it from an angle that finds no solutions, only tries to beat something to the ground without providing a workable solution yourself. You beat down any hope and good with your blunt approach, along with the bad that needs to be exposed and remedied. It takes courage to turn around and see where you have gone wrong. I hope you have that courage within you.

  3. The ‘shadow enemy’ that ‘Balanced View” informs Chris is not a shadow at all. The experiences of indigenous peoples for example in Guyana, is a fact as experienced by indigenous peoples throughout the world… where governments make commitments nationally and internationally but are conveniently designed to squeeze our peoples onto lands that do not incorporate traditional occupancy of their lands and territories but instead takes actions that result in the government holding onto lands of our peoples.

  4. @ Laura G – I completely understand that there are real and present threats that we must deal with. There is a whole community of people working on trying to ensure that REDD+ safeguards will be put in place. If we all put our efforts behind that we can create a system that is strong and doesn’t fall prey to historical abuses of indigenous peoples land. Many indigenous peoples are working towards that but Chris refuses to represent their points of view, this is what Tashka and the other indigenous leaders are talking about in their letters above.

    The tragedy is that indigenous peoples are already losing their lands, to beef farmers, oil plantations etc. REDD+, if indigenous people strongly and firmly demand their rights in REDD+ is currently the only hope of saving forests.

    The problem: The ideologically opposed such as Chris are not presenting any solutions. They will drag everyone down, there will not be indigenous involvement in REDD+ and indigenous peoples will have less of a chance to secure their rights in REDD+ if they don’t engage and demand their rights.

    Even if REDD+ doesn’t happen, they will still lose their lands. This is already happening. REDD+ is the only viable chance we have seen to negotiate with governments that have always and will continue to ignore indigenous peoples. These governments don’t care what you think and if you say “no REDD+” they will say “fine, give me an oil plantation”.

    Laura – Tell me how we are going to solve this problem, don’t just present me with the obvious issues that we are all aware of. What is the alternative that Governments will listen to if there is no money behind it like REDD+????

  5. @Balanced View (#4) – Do you honestly think that safeguards are going to prevent abuses under REDD? Perhaps you need to take a look at the record of the World Bank in the forests of the global South. And then ask yourself whether the Bank’s safeguards successfully stopped the destruction or not.

    Incidentally, you may not have seen the follow-up post on REDD-Monitor, which linked to articles by EDF and Ecosystem Marketplace.

    I agree that cattle ranching, oil palm plantations, industrial tree plantations, land grabs, large-scale hydropower dams, logging (legal and illegal), oil exploration and extraction, mining and so on present a serious threat to indigenous peoples. But I’m not convinced that REDD is genuinely going to address these threats. To a large extent REDD is simply taking place in parallel to all these destructive developments – Indonesia being the perfect example of this.

    You call me “ideologically opposed”, but you don’t say what I’m opposed to. I am opposed to carbon trading and have explained several times why that is (here, for example – Forests, Carbon Markets and Hot Air: Why the Carbon Stored in Forests Should not be Traded). I’m opposed because it will not address climate change (it’s a distraction that just moves emissions around without reducing them). If the aim is to get money to local communities and indigenous peoples, then carbon trading is one of the worst mechanisms for doing this. As the Munden Project has pointed out, way more money ends up in the hands of intermedidiaries than gets though to the local level.

    You accuse me of “not presenting any solutions”. That’s not really true. See this post: Alternatives to carbon markets to finance REDD, for example. Believe it or not, carbon trading is not the only way to finance REDD.

    Also, REDD-Monitor features occasional interviews with REDD actors, including several who are implementing REDD projects and several who are in favour of carbon trading.

    I think that indigenous peoples and local communities should have as much information available as possible about the risks of carbon markets. I don’t believe that carbon market proponents (such as EDF, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, Ecosystem Marketplace, the World Bank) are doing a very good job of either investigating those risks or of passing on information about the risks – especially the fact that carbon trading will not reduce emissions.

  6. @ Balanced View

    I don’t know that it really needs @Laura G or indeed anyone else to tell you “how we’re going to solve this problem”. If you look at the major achievements that have happened in, say, Brazil, in terms of getting indigenous territories under legal protection (proven to be the best form of forest conservation), as well as improvements in reducing deforestation, these have all happened through government action and regulation, and without a cent of carbon market money having been required. If you can’t draw any obvious conclusions from that, well, maybe your own position is purely ideological and not evidential.

    I don’t know how many times it has had to be said on this web-site, but anyone with any knowledge of the history of environmental protection (in the widest sense) will know that everything has been achieved through government regulation, with one or two very minor exceptions.