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World Bank’s rush for forest carbon markets threatens indigenous peoples’ rights

Will REDD+ and carbon-rights regimes finally support local land rights, or instead end their progress? That’s one of the questions that the Rights and Resources Initiative asks in a new report. “The signs are not good,” is RRI’s answer.

RRI points to the methodological framework for purchasing REDD carbon credits from countries in the South, approved last year by the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s Carbon Fund.

This methodological framework “will inevitably impinge on other rights”, RRI states, adding that the Carbon Fund approved the methodological framework “without taking on the recommendations by NGOs to protect or promote community rights”.

Looking for Leadership, RRI’s annual review of forest and land rights around the world, can be downloaded here.

In a press release about the report, Andy White, co-ordinator of RRI, expands on the risks involved:

“For centuries, governments have been handing out Indigenous Peoples’ forests to supply the next commodity boom — whether rubber, oil palm, cattle or soy. The carbon market is the next global commodity from tropical forests and, once again, there is a major risk that Indigenous Peoples are not recognized as the owners of the forest. The World Bank sets the investment standards that many national governments and private companies follow. They are now proposing to weaken their own safeguards and are encouraging governments to sell carbon rights without first ensuring human rights. This puts at risk both the forests and the credibility of the carbon market.”

No laws on trading forest carbon

RRI has analysed eight of the 11 countries that have submitted Emissions Reduction Project Idea Notes (ER-PINs) to the World Bank’s Carbon Fund. RRI found that none of these countries has a law governing how forest carbon could be traded. Only two of the countries (Guatemala and Mexico) have laws defining forest carbon rights.

RRI also found that governments in these countries (with the exception of Mexico) claim ownership of large parts of forest land (in one case all of it):

  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, 100%
  • Republic of the Congo, 98%
  • Vietnam, 98%
  • Indonesia, 96%
  • Peru, 71%
  • Nepal, 68%
  • Costa Rica, 40%
  • Mexico, 4.4%

RRI asks “how the countries accepted by the FCPF would establish carbon as a tradable commodity without viable legal frameworks in place.”

The report highlights the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo where the country’s Climate Fund project for Mai Ndombe “is going ahead despite a lack of data on, and analysis of, the existing tenure arrangements of 1.9 million people”.

RRI’s report concludes:

The inevitable conclusion is that many of these carbon “ready” countries are actually far from ready for the reality and certain complexity of carbon transactions.

The World Bank’s response

Elizabeth Harball at Climate Wire asked the World Bank for a response to RRI’s report. The Bank’s response suggests that whoever produced this statement hadn’t bothered reading RRI’s report:

The FCPF will be piloting results-based payments for a small number of forest countries to demonstrate that REDD+ can be implemented and accounted for at scale. Currently, no emission reductions payment agreements have been set up for any of the 11 countries selected, and before this happens all criteria and indicators of the FCPF Carbon Fund’s methodological framework would have to be met.
Local community and self-selected indigenous peoples representatives have been involved in all stages of the development of the framework.
Transparent, consultative and participatory stakeholder engagement is an integral part of all stages of the FCPF’s operations.

In its report, RRI points out that the FCPF’s methodological framework will “inevitably impinge” on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. To which the World Bank responds that countries have to meet all criteria and indicators of the methodological framework, and in any case Indigenous Peoples were involved in the development of the framework. Hardly reassuring is it?

But even if the World Bank manages to incorporate indigenous peoples’ rights into its REDD carbon trading mechanism (and let’s face it, given the World Bank’s record and the fact that it is currently threatening to weaken its safeguards, that is a really big “if”), insurmountable problems remain. Carbon trading undermines the chances of addressing climate change, because for every seller of carbon credits there is a buyer, who uses the purchase to continue polluting.

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  1. Many thanks! How way do we make the Zero Deforestation on 2020, this is the big actions.