The connection between REDD+ and the indigenous: two different points of view

 The connection between REDD+ and the indigenous: two different points of view

Agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure development, and numerous other scenarios of environmental degradation are hindering the goals of the ADP (Durban Protocol) plan for 2020 that has been discussed on this COP.

By Carlotta Dolzani, Sara Cattani and Emilia Merlini


The plan is designed to the period after the Kyoto Protocol and is completely antithetical to the need to reduce emissions that causes climate change. One of the discussions held on COP19 is about the creation of a financial value for the carbon stored by the forests: this action is called REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

The initiative is defined as a way of supporting developing countries to preserve their forests and invest in the use of a “small” amount of coal, in favor of sustainable development. On the morning of 13th November we attended a side event, where we saw the participation of representatives of indigenous peoples (Juan Carlos and Roberto) who live in the Amazon Forest and the negotiators of Canada, Switzerland and Peru discussing REDD+. In the day after, we had another meeting with Camila Cunha Moreno, on behalf of Carta de Belém, a Brazilian institution which represents a gamma of NGOs in favor of the indigenous and people living in traditional communities. She presented to us her very critical and worried point view about the REDD+ proposal.

On the first meeting, the two Latin American delegates expressed their concern about a complex and dangerous situation which is worsing and could have dramatic implications for the indigenous that would be forced to radically change their lifestyle. The proposal expressed by the indigenous representatives to save the population and improve the situation includes: elaboration of a “First Full Life Plan” for every people and territory involved, aiming to improve their lifestyle; the defense of the territory as a necessary and immediate condition; the safeguarding of the 24 ecosystems of the forest; the estrangement of public funds from the private financial sector; the effective reduction of greenhouse gases to avoid deresponsabilisation to the detriment of carbon trading credits.

The indigenous Roberto underlines that the mechanism of REDD+ is a world policy intended primarily by industrialized countries that claim to use the Amazon Forest as a carbon sink in exchange for financial compensation to the possessor states of these woods. Roberto also specifies that the main environmental threat in the Andean lands is the presence of “Pirates of the carbon and that the states are not taking control of this market.” The indigenous ability of the natives is to turn this threat into an opportunity and then take advantage of the introduction of the issue about the preservation of the Amazon Forest in the UN agenda.

The indigenous delegates want to have an official representation in the negotiation process at COP20, which is going to be in Lima (Peru). They intent to have the opportunity to assert their position and they hope for: “there will be a concrete action plan rather than flying words to cool down the planet and solve the problem of carbon emissions”.

Roberto throws in confidently: “we could really do the difference in Lima”. At this moment, to summarize the two hours of conversation with Camila, we can say that the capitalist system is trying to turn natural resources, as the air, into a market, the “green market”, especially after the 2008 financial crises. “The system wants to expand and, by the way REDD+ is negotiated, it’s going to be possible to sell hours of pollination of bees!”.

She explains that buying carbon credits, or REDD+ credits, by the offset logical, allows companies to pollute in one area and leave the cost of the pollution and devastation to the local communities, using the argument that they are compensating their carbon emission by buying credits somewhere far away. “The rain forests are the only public natural areas remaining in the world and are being sold to companies that want to explore wood, in order to produce biodiesel/biomass, and extract the minerals from the soil”.

Another point is that, depending on how the REDD+ text is going to be written, the knowledge of peoples from the forests and from the traditional communities can get, as well the wisdom diversity. Their knowledge is not considered, by the negotiators, as also a technology, as most of us are not able to survive even for one day in the forests; we don’t know how to find medicines for each disease in that complex ecosystem; or how to get food without going to a market. These peoples also have the right to live the way they want, just to live, out of any market.

Camila says that the speech about REDD+ is beautiful, but when we check its details, it can be turn in very bad results if civil society and the governments do not intervene in the way companies want to develop the proposal. Another trick point is the concept of forest considered, that can be a monoculture of transgenic eucalyptus with the use of dangerous chemicals. “And a lot of developing countries are already having huge areas of biodiversity devastated by these plantations, which produces biodiesel considered as sustainable energy, because it’s renewable.

These plantations expel local traditional people from the lands, whom lost thousand years of knowledge; as well as reduce natural diversity”. To repeat the metaphor used by the ambassador Marcondes de Carvalho used in one of the meetings with the Brazilian delegation: “Difficulty lives in the details”, so we must search for the official information but also for the critics, before building our points of view or spreading one speech. We also must try to REDD+ to be implemented more fairly, what Brazil and other civil associations are trying to do. The fight is hard!

*The Youth Brazilian Delegation on COP19 is composed by the following organizations: Viração Educomunicação, Engajamundo, Aliança Mundial das ACMs and Federação Luterana Mundial.

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