By Chris Lang
On 1 July 2021, the Indigenous Kichwa community of Puerto Franco held a press conference to announce that the community is taking the Peruvian Government and the Cordillera Azul National Park to court. The community’s complaint is that the Peruvian State imposed an exclusionary conservation area and a REDD carbon trading scheme on their lands, without their consent. The state has also failed to title their traditional lands.
Six days after the Kichwa press conference, CIMA (Centro de Conservación, Investigación y Manejo de Áreas Naturales) the company that manages the Cordillera Azul National Park, organised a webinar together with Peruvian law firm Hernández & Cía. Speakers in the webinar included:
- Gabriel Quijandría, Peru’s Minister of Environment;
- Pedro Gamboa, Director of SERNANP (Peru’s National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State);
- Angelo Sartori, Director of Regional Outreach, Verra;
- Lily Rodríguez, Director of Institutional Development and Research, CIMA;
- Brendan Oviedo, Partner, Hernández & Cía;
- Gonzalo Varillas, Executive Director, CIMA; and
- Juan Carlos González Aybar, Senior Project Manager, Nature-Based Solutions, TOTAL.
As the Kichwa leaders point out in their statement, no Indigenous Peoples were invited to speak at the webinar.
Two days after the webinar, Minister of the Environment Quijandría announced the sale of US$87 million worth of carbon credits from the Cordillera Azul National Park. He did not disclose which company had bought the credits, except to say that it’s an “international company from the extractive sector”.
The webinar revealed that since 2014 the Cordillera Azul National Park has been almost entirely funded by the sales of carbon credits. In November 2014, CIMA signed a Loan Agreement with Althelia Climate Fund. The deal included a 6-year €8.55 million loan that financed 75% of the operations of the national park and its buffer zone. The contract ran until at least 2021.
CIMA is now directly negotiating sales of carbon credits with SERNANP and private corporations.
Pedro Gamboa, Director of SERNANP, said that one-third of the revenues needed to run protected areas in Peru comes from tourism. The coronavirus pandemic has massively reduced this income source. SERNANP is therefore keen to ramp up sales of carbon credits.
TOTAL’s Juan Carlos González Aybar talked more about himself than about TOTAL’s plans relating to the Cordillera Azul National Park. But he did mention that he hoped that the incoming President, Pedro Castillo, would continue to support the expansion of carbon credits in Peru.
González Aybar previously worked at Althelia. At a Global Landscape Forum meeting in 2019 he explained why he moved:
The emissions come mainly from energy. So, somehow, if you have a lot of energy, a lot of the mitigation effort should come from there. Of course there are internal things that are being implemented by the group, which comes from the energy mix, but while we change the energy matrix, what do we do in this transition period? This is why TOTAL decided, before I joined the group, to create a new subsidiary which is called TOTAL Nature-Based Solutions S.A. It’s a new entity that is 100% owned by TOTAL S.A. with an annual budget of US$100 million.
Which amounts to a confession that TOTAL is involved in Nature-Based Solutions in order to continue profiting from business as usual for as long as possible. Which, of course, is the entire purpose of carbon offsetting.
The webinar ended without taking any of the questions that the Kichwa leaders had put forward to the panelists. Following the webinar the federations of the Kichwa people of the San Martín region issued a joint statement (available here in Spanish).
A translation is posted here in full (using DeepL Translator):
PRONOUNCEMENT OF KICHWA FEDERATIONS AGAINST THE EXCLUSIONARY AND DISCRIMINATORY EXCLUSIONARY AND DISCRIMINATORY CONSERVATION OF THE CORDILLERA AZUL NATIONAL PARK IN PERU
The Ethnic Council of Kichwa Peoples of Amazonia (CEPKA), the Federation of Kichwa Indigenous Peoples of Chazuta, Amazonas (FEPIKECHA), and the Federation of Kichwa Indigenous Peoples of Bajo Huallaga, San Martin (FEPIKBHSAM), Indigenous organisations that are members of the Coordinating Committee for Development of Indigenous Peoples of the San Martin Region (CODEPISAM) of Peru, express our deep unease and indignation at the exclusionary and discriminatory vision of the Cordillera Azul National Park in Peru, express our deep discomfort and indignation at the exclusionary and discriminatory vision that persists around conservation in Peru, and is carried out at the expense of the forests that we have occupied, protected and managed ancestrally, and the violation of our fundamental rights.
On Wednesday, 7 July 2021, the NGO CIMA and Hernández & Cía, together with SERNANP, MINAM, Verra, and TOTAL, organised a discussion on the mechanisms for nature conservation that these institutions carry out, especially in the case of the Cordillera Azul National Park (PNCAZ). The supposed achievements of mechanisms such as REDD+ and carbon markets in the context of the carbon markets in the framework of the Paris Agreement commitments were presented.
We openly ask, were there any indigenous voices invited to speak at this “expert” event? No.
And this is because these institutions are still biased by an outdated model of conservation. This is exclusionary conservation because at the time of establishing the PNCAZ the existence of our Kichwa communities already occupying the area, who have woven their histories, their knowledge and their relationships with these forests and territories for centuries, was not taken into account. Even less was our right to our right to effective participation, which includes Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), as an obligation under international human rights law, applicable under the American Convention and ILO Convention 169, among others.
As Kichwa people, we ask those in charge of SERNANP, what kind of integrated territorial management are we talking about when they exclude ancestral peoples? We are concerned that all the talk of medium- and long-term sustainability and the supposed success of this model is and long-term sustainability and the supposed success of this conservation model, as expressed in the virtual conversation, success for whom and at what cost for the Kichwa people? What about our traditional rights and livelihoods?
We affirm that the institutions that took part in the virtual discussion forum are discriminating, because over the years the only beneficiaries of the carbon market have been the institutions that have organised the virtual workshop, while those of us who have “managed the area” – to use SERNANP’s jargon – have ancestrally been us, the Kichwa people.
SERNANP, CIMA, MINAM, you do not talk on the level with our communities nor with their representative federations. In a recent statement, the Minister of Environment mentions that through the Cordillera Azul National Park and an international company from the extractive sector, the largest sale of carbon credits in the history of Peru has been made for US$87 million. However, there is no further dialogue or redistribution of benefits to Indigenous organisations.
Recalling the inaccurate intervention of the representative of Verra when he spoke of equitable distribution of benefits to our Kichwa communities and our federations, we point out that:
(i) We have no idea what is the actual amount of money coming into the PNCAZ from the sale of carbon credits in specialised markets and what that money is being spent on.
(ii) We don’t officially know how many carbon credits have been sold since the PNCAZ REDD+ Project was established.
(iii) We do not know who is involved as beneficiaries from the sale of these carbon credits and how the process of prioritisation and selection of actors took place.
(iv) Is it reasonable for you that a workshop considered to be a “capacity building” workshop for the communities settled in the buffer zone counts as having received a direct payment for the carbon credits produced by PNCAZ? If so, why did the Kichwa people not participate in this decision and it was taken unilaterally from the top down?
No, ladies and gentlemen “experts” in conservation, on the eve of the bicentennial of the Republic, no more disregarding us and making our role in conservation invisible. Enough is enough.
The state has an obligation to ensure that indigenous peoples receive an equitable share in the distribution of benefits arising from any activities carried out in their customary territories. This requirement was established by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Saramaka case, and has been affirmed in many other cases, including the recent case of the Kaliña and Lokono Peoples. Benefit sharing is also explicitly anticipated in article 15.2 of ILO Convention 169, as well as article 8.j of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which recognises that this right includes conservation activities such as natural protected areas.
Therefore, we, the Kichwa people, demand that the economic resources received be fairly distributed, because how is it possible that external and transnational organisations receive benefits while we are not listened to? How have the technical and legal teams in charge of the issue been appointed?
We also express our deep concern from our federations that a law firm such as ‘Hernández & Cia’ is sitting at the table with MINAM, SERNANP and other conservation “experts”. It seems that the Minister of the Environment has not heard that this law firm has provided legal advice to the Melka Group and the Ocho Sur Group, oil palm companies associated with massive deforestation and human rights violations against our brothers and sisters of the Shipibo-Konibo people of Ucayali.
Is that the face of forest conservation and protection in Peru? Taking away indigenous territories to create a protected area and then sitting around the table talking with those who endorse the deforestation of thousands of hectares in another Amazon region?
Are we at fault because our wealth ends up in the hands of those wiracuchas, that they take what is ours and give it to others without us even knowing it?
Traditionally, we have not only preserved the forest, but also the buen vivir among our communities. Nowadays, however, there are timber extractors and land traffickers who are dedicated to planting coca leaves. It is no man’s land, and what is the Peruvian state doing to help us mitigate these problems? How can the Peruvian state not strengthen our own community strategies to defend the forests?
Mr. Minister of the Environment, do you really believe that these mechanisms presented at the workshop are a democratic and fair solution for MINAM to boast about when companies like Shell can continue to clean up their image in the global north and undermine those “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities that the IPCC says are necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C?
Gentlemen of TOTAL, what added value or nature-based solutions are we talking about when Indigenous Peoples are excluded from the mechanisms for the conservation of life?
For all these reasons, we are also surprised when they mention that the PNCAZ has been included in the Green List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). For the native communities, as rights holders, it is evident that the necessary criteria established by the IUCN are not met, especially that of Good Governance as the first pillar, which includes:
(1.1) Ensuring legitimacy and voice.
(1.2) Achieving transparency and accountability.
(1.3) Enhancing the vitality of governance and its ability to respond adaptively.
We are surprised that to date the PNCAZ has been distinguished as a model of conservation, when it flagrantly fails to meet more than one of the requirements for this.
Our people are not opposed to the conservation of biodiversity; on the contrary, we want to make visible and continue to generate local conservation actions, which are ancestral practices that are friendly to the forests and form part of our history, our customs and our way of life as Kichwa people.
We also reaffirm our commitment and support for the community of Puerto Franco. Our grassroots community is suing the Peruvian government and the Cordillera Azul National Park in the face of the state’s refusal to title their traditional lands, the imposition of exclusionary conservation and the generation of profits from the sale of carbon credits without their consent in the San Martin region of the Peruvian Amazon.
We urge the Peruvian State, especially MINAM and SERNANP, to include rights-holders such as Indigenous Peoples in order to respect buen vivir and move towards a conservation paradigm that respects our human rights and recognises our millenary contributions to the protection of the Amazon.
We demand legal security for our territories through their collective titling, in coordination with MINAM, in order to address the legal obstacles that exist as a result of the overlapping of ANPs [Natural Protected Areas] in our territories. They were wrong in the virtual conversation, once again, to affirm that ANPs are the panacea for biodiversity conservation, when there are hundreds of scientific articles that demonstrate that secure tenure of Indigenous territories should be the way forward.
From our knowledge, as well as from scientific knowledge, it has been proven that, if territorial rights are respected, conservation is more effective and sustainable in social and economic terms. It has been demonstrated that securing communal land and resource rights is crucial for the sustainable management and effective protection of forests, both in the Amazon and globally.
Forests legally owned or designated for use by Indigenous Peoples and local communities are linked to lower rates of deforestation and forest degradation; lower levels of conflict and large-scale land-use change; lower carbon emissions and greater carbon storage; better conservation of forests and biodiversity; and better overall social, environmental and economic outcomes than state or privately managed forests, including protected areas.
We urge CIMA to listen to our voices and redistribute the benefits to our communities who have conserved these lands since before these imposed and discriminatory models even existed. It has become evident that spaces for dialogue with us have not been created, and a small example of this has been the failure to make us part of this virtual conversation, let alone answer our legitimate questions.
LONG LIVE THE KICHWA PEOPLE!