in Brazil, Mexico, USA

California, REDD, carbon trading and Indigenous Peoples

Last week, REDD-Monitor posted a press release about a delegation of indigenous people who travelled to California to protest about the inclusion of carbon trading in the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32). This post looks at some of the responses to this “No REDD Tour“.

The aim of this post is to help facilitate discussion about the issues. I’ll post the responses, followed by some of the issues that I think this discussion raises so far. Feel free to raise other issues in the comments below.

17 October 2012: Steve Schwartzman, EDF’s Director of Tropical Forest Policy, wrote that “it’s critically important for these policy makers to hear the great diversity of indigenous voices on the REDD+ issue.”

Schwartzman refers to a letter from 11 indigenous leaders written to CIMI (the Missionary Indigenous Council, a Brazilian NGO) in February 2012. The letter protests an affidavit sent by CIMI to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Acre. CIMI’s affidavit claims that indigenous people had been tricked into accepting carbon projects and REDD.

The letter from the indigenous leaders states:

We have at no point decided if we are for or against REDD projects. First we must inform ourselves and our communities of the opportunities and challenges. 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.

Schwartzman refers to a statement made in Durban by the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, which includes the Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon basin (COICA). Schwartzman notes that the statement covers “a wide variety of issues including REDD+”. Here’s what the IP Caucus actually says on REDD:

In relation to mitigation and REDD+, indigenous peoples’ rights to land, territories and resources as well as their right to full and effective participation and to FPIC for all mitigation policies, programmes and actions that affect them must be ensured. Capacity building initiatives of indigenous peoples for mitigation must be supported with adequate finance and through appropriate technologies without conditions.

Schwartzman’s article concludes with the comment that,

The NGOs and indigenous peoples visiting California this week offer one set of perspectives on REDD+, but their views should be considered in the context of the spectrum of indigenous organizations currently engaged on these issues, many of whom view REDD+ quite differently.

18 October 2012: Writing on Ecosystem Marketplace, Kelli Barrett and Selene Castillo also refer to the indigenous leaders’ letter to CIMI.

The article uses quotations from various people (some of whom are indigenous) to counter arguments that REDD could lead to a land grab. Laura Soriana, of the Yawanawa indigenous community, for example, says,

“I think that if REDD is done with respect to indigenous rights, first and foremost, respecting territorial rights, that this project is in control, in the power, of the indigenous community, it can really help their community projectsI think this would be a good opportunity.”

19 October 2012: Ecosystem Marketplace posted a statement from Tashka Yawanawa, Chief of the Yananawa people from Acre. He wrote:

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.

We are tired of anthropologists, environmentalists, church-related organizations, and other specialists speaking for us and using us for their self-interest. Please respect our self-determination to make our own decisions.

24 October 2012: Friends of the Earth put out a press release urging officials not to include an REDD carbon credits in AB32.

José Carmelio Alberto Nunes (Ninawá), president of the Federation of the Huni Kui people of Acre, Brazil, says he and his wife have received anonymous phone calls warning them, “be careful what you say and who you talk to, or you may have an accident.”

Ninawá says,

“I think my coming to California threatens those interests that hope to make money from REDD. Anyone who speaks out against REDD in Acre is persecuted.

“If I am assassinated for resisting REDD and defending my land, other Ninawás will continue the struggle.”

Here is Ninawá’s presentation as part of the No Redd Tour, talking about the threats to people in Acre who speak out against REDD:

UPDATE – 23 May 2019: The livestream video has been removed.

The commentaries from EDF and Ecosystem Marketplace do not mention the fact that the California scheme could allow polluting companies to buy REDD carbon credits to meet part of their emissions reduction targets at home.

Steve Schwartzman refers to the IP Caucus statement released in Durban at COP 17. It includes the following comment:

[A]ny new initiative should not serve as an excuse for states to avoid taking immediate measures to dramatically reduce their carbon emissions at the source.

Which is similar to what the indigenous people who travelled to California are saying.

There are serious risks of indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights not being respected in REDD schemes. In Chiapas, for example, Global Justice Ecology Project has reported in detail about how REDD is affecting local communities.

Friends of the Earth has campaigned for several years against REDD as a carbon trading mechanism. They are not, however, telling indigenous peoples what they should or should not do. Rather they are pointing out the flaws in carbon trading mechanisms. On the other hand, neither EDF nor Ecosystem Marketplace are neutral on REDD as a carbon trading mechanism. Both have invested a large amount of money and time in promoting carbon markets.

Leave a Reply

  1. Congratilations! Uma ótima matéria sobre o tema.
    Seguimos denuncioando estas falsas soluções e suas ameaças.

  2. Just wondering will this be on our ballot this Nov? And I was just at Bioneers where indigenous people from Chiapas & the Amazon were urging everyone to vote NO on REDD AB32.

  3. The user “Balanced View” posted this response on this string, and I think it’s worth re-posting here:

    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+????

  4. @Steve Zwick, What is the alternative that Governments will listen to if there is no money behind it like REDD+????

    A proper commercial trading platform that benefits landowners and the bio diversity within their ancient forest areas.
    An agreed validated mechanism that can actually substantiate an action of reliable social forest protection and measurement.
    Reliability of protection and on going evaluation, to comfort and creed confidence to offset buyers or investors within International trading markets.
    Transparent measurable data explaining the global benefits for protecting the particular forest areas that measures the difference if happened the forest area was removed and not there.
    Measure created forest protection offsets ‘accurately’ and truthfully.
    To say the least.

    REDD+ has not been able perform capability or capacity it cannot develop compliance or mutual understandings,and basically deter a forest area to be left in its natural status.
    At present REDD+ pay-per-result ‘pledged’ funding structures and safeguards have removed any value and confidence from its purpose, it has proven to be unreliable,untruthful and far costly,before performing.