in El Salvador

Civil society in El Salvador demands more than REDD+ from climate change negotiations

In an Open Letter, the Climate Change Round-table, a group of civil society organisations in El Salvador, demands that the government should do more on climate than “loss and damage and REDD+”.

The letter is available in full below and can be downloaded in Spanish here (pdf file 560.3 KB). The latest round of UN climate negotiations (COP19) is due to start in Warsaw in less than one month, and the El Salvadoran NGOs are demanding that the government uses the opportunity to negotiate for policies that will prevent an increase of average temperature of more than 1.5°C.

REDD is included in a list of false solutions to climate change that are not guided by criteria of social equity or environmental justice. Also in the list are biofuels, monoculture plantations, genetically modified organisms, nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage.

El Salvador is already feeling the impacts of the changing climate. A rise in sea-level has destroyed mangrove forests along the Pacific Coast in the Bajo Lempa region of western El Salvador. The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources estimates that the country will lose somewhere between 10% and 28% of its coastal territories over the next 100 years.

While El Salvador has only 2% of its primary forests remaining, political ecologist Susanna Hecht points out that tree cover in the landscape is increasing. In a 2007 paper in BioScience, she and her co-author Sassan Saatchi wrote,

We analyzed socioeconomic data, land-use surveys, and satellite imagery to monitor changes in woody cover in El Salvador from the early 1990s to the present. Even where rural population density exceeded 250 people per square kilometer, we documented a 22% increase in the area with more than 30% tree cover, and a 7% increase in the area with more than 60% tree cover.

But in October 2011, after 10 days of rain and major flooding, more than 30 people were killed and about 50,000 people had to leave their homes. “There is no doubt that the deforestation has left El Salvador even more vulnerable to climate change and the storms it is increasingly bringing,” Ricardo Navarro, director of CESTA (Friends of the Earth El Salvador), told The Independent last year.

Civil Society in El Salvador demands to Government something more than just “loss & damage and REDD+”

By the Climate Change Round-table, integrated by Salvadoran organizations, whose purpose is the systematic dialogue between different actors and sectors on the issue of climate change, from the socio-political perspective and scientific-technical basis, and fully incorporating ancestral knowledge and traditional practices; while raising awareness and promoting monitoring and generation of proposals to help address climate change effectively


Addressed to ministers and official delegates appointed to participate in the forthcoming climate change negotiations (COP-19) by the Salvadoran Foreign Affairs and Environmental Ministries.


    1. According to the latest report of the Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in last September and part of the trilogy’s 5th Assessment Report (AR5) to be published in 2014, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased to unprecedented levels in at least the last 800,000 years;

    2. According to the last official report issued by the secretariat of the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change, emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the group of developed countries, excluding countries in transition to a market economy (EITs); levels of gross GHG emissions, excluding emissions or removals from the “Land use, land-use change and forestry” (LULUCF) sector, have increased 9.2% in 2000, 11.2% in 2005, 2.0% in 2009 and 4.9% in 2010, compared to 1990. Including the LULUCF sector, net GHG emissions have 2. always increased, but to a lesser extent to 11.3% in 2000, 10.6% in 2005, 0.3% in 2009 and +4.1% in 2010, compared to 1990;

    3. The warming of Earth’s climate system is unequivocal, since the decade of the 50s many of the observed changes are unprecedented over the last decades and millennia. The degree of certainty of human responsibility for climate change is 95%, due to increased atmospheric GHG concentrations (AR5);

    4. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the global average temperature increased 0.85°C between 1880 and 2012, and the global average sea level has risen 19 cm between 1901 and 2010. The ocean has absorbed 30% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emitted, causing acidification, and the amounts of snow and ice extent have decreased. Each of the last three decades has been warmer on the Earth´s surface with respect to any previous decade since 1859, and in the Northern Hemisphere, the period 1983-2012 was likely the hottest 30-year period of last 1,400 years (AR5);

    5. According to the latest findings of future climate change scenarios, by the end of this century, Earth’s average temperature could rise in the range between 0.3 and 4.8°C, and sea level could rise between 26 and 82 cm, both regarding 1986-2005 (AR5);

    6. There is a high level of confidence that climate change will affect the carbon cycle processes, so that exacerbate the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increasing carbon uptake by the ocean, which in turn will increase acidification (AR5);

    7. Global climate changes are generating increasing negative impacts in all regions of Earth, particularly in natural systems, territories and countries of highest vulnerability that do not have the resources to address them in a timely and effective manner. These impacts are severely affecting human populations in vulnerable conditions, such as: indigenous peoples, rural and peasant communities, marginal urban areas and economic disadvantaged communities, women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities and minorities; as well as natural systems, species and the diverse forms of life;

    8. Multilateral negotiations on climate change have lost their way which is dictated by the ultimate objective of the UN-Framework Convention, due to the prevalence of an economicist and utilitarian approach, ruled by the economic interests of global groups of power, as well as illegitimate political objectives of governments or local groups that protect and sponsor them. The negotiations dynamics has been manipulated by these groups and their allies, in favor of their shared interests, leading and pressing most of the governments to adopt their own approaches and negotiating positions;

    9. During the past three years, response measures to climate change, adopted by the Cancun Agreement in 2010, the Durban Platform in 2011 and the Doha Climate Gateway in 2012, have not been based on the economy of Earth nor have they considered the necessary prevalence of ecological rationality. Such measures, based on the mercantilist green economy, have not been supported by the best available knowledge and do not ensure the effectiveness of climate change mitigation globally, for its lack of permanence, additionality, measurability and verifiability; and they neither are guided by criteria of social equity or environmental justice. Such is the case of biofuels, monoculture plantations, genetically modified organisms, nuclear power, schemes to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation of tropical forests in developing countries (REDD) and its two variants REDD+[i] and REDD++[ii], as well as capture and carbon storage in geological formations, among other measures;

    10. With the level of reduction of global GHG emissions currently committed and pledged by developed countries under the multilateral negotiation process, in 2020 these emissions would be around 57 Gt CO2e, which would mean a gap of about 13 Gt CO2e, compared to 44 Gt CO2e, which is the level that according to science would be in line with the scenario of increasing global average temperature up to 2°C. Even assuming such a scenario, the risk of generating harmful and large-scale irreversible disturbance on the climate system, is high; such as the savannization of the Amazon, the melting of Greenland and West Antarctica, the risk of extinction of 20-30% of species and the conversion of the terrestrial biosphere in net carbon source, among others (TAR[iii]).

    11. The high and increasing social, economic and environmental vulnerability of the Salvadoran territory and society, are factors that exacerbate the adverse effects of climate change, whose combined impact, could produce future humanitarian crises characterized by large displacements of human populations, low yields of agricultural activities, food and nutrition insecurity, loss of livelihoods, environmental quality deterioration, degradation and collapse of natural systems and territories, and dysfunction of society as a whole.


    12. The Durban Platform raises starting in 2012 a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the UN-Framework Convention, applicable to all Parties, to be negotiated by 2015 and in force from 2020. This, in order to align the current global climate change regime with the need to adopt a long-term global GHG emission reduction goal, leading to an increase in global average temperature of at most 2°C. In tandem with the 2012-2015 negotiations, it was agreed to develop a Review for the 2013-2015 period, in order to assess the adequacy of the long-term global GHG emission reduction goal, in the light of the ultimate objective of the UN-Framework Convention and the overall progress made towards achieving this goal, including the implementation of the commitments made under that instrument;

    13. The 19th Conference of the Parties (COP-19) of the UN-Framework Convention, which will be taking place from 11 to 22 November this year in Warsaw, Poland; should focus on promoting the full implementation of the facilitative and financial mechanisms already adopted, and the strengthening and redirecting of negotiations that would culminate in 2015. This, in the light of the results obtained from the Review and the new climate change scientific findings, mainly the AR5;

    14. The negotiations ending in 2015, including those taking place in Warsaw, are probably the last opportunity for governments, which decide on behalf of the UN member States, reorient their objectives, positions and negotiation strategies and alliance policies, and resume the criteria provided by science. Scientific findings establish permissible limits of human intervention, based on the critical thresholds of natural dynamics, in order to prevent an increase of Earth’s average temperature beyond 1.5°C, and make adaptation to climate change viable.


    15. Report and explain in detail to all organs of the State and the society in general, on the commitments and obligations of the Salvadoran State derived from: the UN-Framework Convention, the decisions taken at the Cancun Agreement, the Durban Platform and the Doha Climate Gateway, as well as the commitments and obligations additionally to be adopted at COP-19 next November in Warsaw;

    16. Account an exhaustive official report on the degree of compliance with those commitments and obligations, in the light of the provisions of the UN-Framework Convention and the COP´s decisions. This should be available to national comptroller agencies for monitoring and auditing, as well as society in general, to exercise their right to surveillance and social control. The non-observance of such international commitments and obligations, could lead to violations of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic or in international treaties on human rights.


    17. The strategy, objectives and negotiating positions of the Salvadoran State shall be governed by the best available scientific knowledge, reflected in the AR5´s findings; opposing ineffective response measures to climate change mitigation, by its non- permanence, lack of additionality, measurability and verifiability, and shall be based on the guiding principles and the ultimate objective of the UN-Framework Convention, whose main body of provisions should be preserved in force in the 2015 negotiations. This in order to safeguard its current spirit, which is far from proposing private solutions to public problems;

    18. The Delegation of El Salvador shall endeavor to contribute before, during and after the forthcoming meeting of Warsaw, for negotiations to focus on the analysis of the results of the Review in progress, in order to realign the long-term global GHG emission reduction goal to the latest AR5 scientific findings, and assess progress in implementing the commitments made under the UN-Framework Convention to achieve its ultimate goal. This, by drafting proposals and participation attendance at meetings of the negotiating groups;

    19. The Government must inform the public transparently and ex-ante, on the official negotiating positions to be adopted and defended by the members of the delegation of El Salvador, on behalf of the Salvadoran State during negotiations in Warsaw. This, with respect to the various items on the negotiating agenda, considering current process priorities for 2015, and reasoning the alliance policy to be undertaken;

    20. The government to account, in a transparent, public and supported manner, in an ex-post report, on the negotiating positions adopted, negotiating issues prioritized and those followed in person, draft proposals submitted for consideration of the negotiation process, alliances made duly reasoned, during COP-19 in Warsaw. The referred report should include an overall assessment of the results obtained from the decisions, and their implications for the climate system, natural, economic and socio-cultural dynamics, and calling attention to the potential impacts on human rights, considering the criteria and recommendations of science and the ultimate objective of the UN-Framework Convention.

Signed in San Salvador on the 10th October 2013 by the following organizations, members of the Climate Change Round-table:

Asociación Salvadoreña de Conservación del Medio Ambiente (ASACMA)

Agentes de Cambio de la Fundación Friedrich Ebert

Confederación Nacional de Cooperativas Agropecuarias de El Salvador (CONFENACOA DE RL)

Asociación de Comunidades Unidas del Bajo Lempa (ACUDESBAL)

Instituto de Investigación, capacitación y Desarrollo de la Mujer (IMU)

Asociación Nueva Vida/Río+Vos

Movimiento Indígena Nonualco (MIN)

Alianza de Ulúas, Lencas y Nonualcos

Unidad Ecológica Salvadoreña (UNES)

Fundación Promotora de Cooperativas (FUNPROCOOP)

Asociación GAIA El Salvador

Fundación para la Protección del Arrecife de los Cóbanos (FUNDARRECIFE)

Los Pasos del Jaguar

Asociación de Biólogas de El Salvador

Concejo Coordinador Nacional Indígena Salvadoreño (CCNIS)

Movimiento Social SIGLO XXIII

[i] It additionally includes the role of forest conservation and sustainable forest management and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks

[ii] It additionally includes the enhancement of marine and coastal ecosystems, and is also referred to as blue carbon

[iii] Tercer Informe de Evaluación del IPCC


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  1. Excellent advocacy that this round-table is doing, as many or most of the commitments adquired by the Government, through the Ministry of Environment as focal point, have not been accomplished. The best example is the Second National Communication that does not accomplish the standards adopted by the UNFCCC and IPCC for its elaboration. The SNC is full of REDD, as the attempt of the current minister for getting funds for that, but nothing has been given for him because of a poor management and concept that he has about mitigation and adaptation.

    Excelente trabajo de incidencia el que hace esta mesa, pues muchos o la mayoría de compromisos adquiridos por el Gobierno, mediante el Ministeri ode Ambiente y Recursos Naturales como punto focal, no han sido cumplidos. El mejor ejemplo es la Segunda Comunicación Nacional de Cambio Climático, la cual no cumple los estándares adoptados por la UNFCCC y el IPCC para su elaboración, y que está plagado de las intenciones del ministro actual por implementar REDD, para lo cual ningún fondo le ha sido otorgado, sobre todo al mal manejo hecho y a una mala conceptualización que él particularmente tiene sobre adaptación y mitigación.