By Chris Lang
In May 2022, the Convention on Biodiversity is set to discuss a new target to put 30% of the planet in protected areas by 2030. The IUCN World Conservation Congress, held in Marseille in September 2021, promoted the 30×30 plan as a “solution” to climate change. Motion 101, which was approved at the Congress, calls on members of IUCN “to support, at a minimum, a target of effectively and equitably protecting and conserving at least 30% of terrestrial areas”.
On 6 December 2021, IUCN retired a total of 1030 carbon credits to offset the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the IUCN World Conservation Congress.
IUCN’s choice of project is revealing and extremely disturbing. The carbon credits come from the Madre de Dios Amazon REDD+ Project.
One of the projects that they looked at was the Madre de Dios Amazon REDD project. The REDD project is run by two logging companies, Maderera Río Acre S.A.C. (Maderacre); and Maderera Río Yaverija S.A.C. (Maderyja).
A fake baseline
The reference region selected to set a counterfactual baseline of what would have happened in the absence of the project is much more heavily populated than the project area. It even includes the town of Iberia, and forest on either side of the Interoceanic Highway. Deforestation has increased dramatically since the road was completed in 2011. Unearthed reports that “97% of deforestation in the reference area occurred within 20km of a major road. There are no major roads in the project area.”
The project is certified by Verra. In a response, Verra argued that the journalists “did not understand how its methodologies work”. Verra writes that,
Absent from Greenpeace and The Guardian’s consideration of this issue is any recognition of what rainforest preservation projects are doing on the ground and how they are contributing to the fight against climate change and deforestation.
Obviously, Verra does not address the issue that what’s happening on the ground in the Madre de Dios Amazon REDD project consists of two industrial scale logging operations.
The REDD project ignores Indigenous rights
In September 2021, investigative journalist David Hill wrote about the human rights concerns with the Madre de Dios Amazon REDD project. An Indigenous reserve exists next to one of the logging concessions. The reserve is part of the territory of the Mascho Piro, an Indigenous People living in isolation.
Hill writes that,
[W]hen the reserve was first proposed 20 years ago by regional indigenous federation FENAMAD, a large part of what became MADERYJA’s concession was included in it. However, when the reserve was actually established, in April 2002, it was much smaller than hoped – two million acres instead of six million – and then the very next month MADERYJA signed the contract for its concession. FENAMAD was so concerned about the potential impacts of logging on the indigenous people living in “isolation” whom the reserve was intended to protect that three years later they appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which in 2007 ordered Peru’s government to “take all the necessary measures to guarantee [their] lives and integrity.”
Earlier this year FENAMAD put out a statement about the 2002 proposal for the reserve’s boundaries and the ongoing struggle for the rights of the Mascho Piro to be fully respected:
FENAMAD’s proposal was not considered, and in 2002, the State decided to create the Territorial Reserve of Madre de Dios, with an arbitrary delimitation and an area smaller than that requested, leaving unprotected territories where the presence of peoples had been documented in isolation, and which were finally categorized as Protected Natural Areas and Permanent Production Forests, where extraction rights were granted to forestry companies. That decision created risks for the lives and integrity of the Mashco Piro that persist to this day.
Hill notes that in 2016, the Ministry of Culture (MINCU) contracted WWF to produce a report as part of the process of updating the reserve in accordance with 2006-2007 laws. WWF’s researchers found evidence of Indigenous People in isolation inside Maderyja’s concession, including “camp-sites, footprints, animal remains and poaching near the River Acre”. The report describes the logging concession as one of the biggest threats to the Mashco Piro.
Hill writes that,
In other words, not only does the “Madre de Dios Amazon REDD project” area double up as logging concessions, as pointed out by other journalists in May, but a considerable portion of it is within an area that for two decades the regional indigenous federation has been trying to include in an off-limits reserve and which for five years now the Peruvian state has also accepted is part of the territories of indigenous people in “isolation.” Worse, the latter are at serious risk from one of the project’s proponents, MADERYJA, which has not only entered their territories, chainsawed however many trees and even developed its own road network, but potentially exposes them, if some kind of contact occurred, to fatal epidemics. Even worse, another of the project proponents, MADERACRE, has publicly argued against expanding the reserve, as recorded in the minutes of a Cross-Sector Commission work-group meeting in February 2017.
One of the major concerns about the 30×30 proposal is that it does not respect the rights of the Indigenous Peoples and local communities who live in and around these proposed protected areas. IUCN’s decision to source carbon credits to “offset” the emissions from its 2021 World Conservation Congress from the Madre de Dios Amazon REDD+ Project raises major red flags about the proposal to put 30% of the planet into protected areas by 2030.
IUCN chose to buy carbon credits from a REDD project that is risking the lives and livelihoods of Indigenous People living in voluntary isolation. IUCN did so instead of supporting the Mascho Piro by arguing that the Indigenous reserve should be expanded. This sets an extremely worrying and dangerous precedent.