Peruvian indigenous organizations along with the Forest Peoples Program, an international non-profit that defends the rights of native forest-dwelling peoples, said in a recent report that carbon emission reduction programs tied to the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD, a United Nations-led program, are hurting indigenous rights.
The REDD aims to lower emissions of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. REDD+ promotes reforestation, the sustainable management of forests, and other activities that help maintain healthy forests and its programs provide financial incentives to leave carbon-absorbing forests intact.
The report “The reality of REDD+ in Peru: Between Theory and Practice — Indigenous Amazonian Peoples’ analyses and alternatives,” published Nov. 30 during the United Nations 2011 Climate Change Conference held in South Africa Nov. 28-Dec. 9, and written by the Forest Peoples Program, the Inter-Ethnic Development Association of the Peruvian Amazon, and the Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and Tributaries, said that private companies are making conflicts over land and resources worse.
REDD is one of the Clean Development Mechanisms, or CDMs, included in the Kyoto Protocol that allow countries to invest in projects that mitigate these greenhouse gases caused by electricity generation, public and private transportation, heavy industry and deforestation.
A carbon credit is the right to release into the atmosphere 1 TM of carbon dioxide (CO2). For example, if a business has a 100,000 TM annual limit on CO2 emissions, and it not only reaches this but releases 10,000 TM more, it needs to acquire carbon credits equal to the excess amount.
At the same time, projects that stop producing greenhouse gases can obtain Certified Emission Reductions (CER); each CER represents 1 TM that is not released into the atmosphere, and can be sold in the carbon credit market.
Those who promote the REDD projects try to convince the indigenous people and local communities to accept agreements with the promise that they will be paid millions of dollars in exchange for the rights of large chunks of their land, said the report, adding that many of the agreements include confidentiality clauses and are negotiated without a translator, in spite of the fact that many of these communities don’t speak Spanish or English, in which the contracts are written.
One leader of the Bélgica community near the border with Brazil was quoted as saying in the report that these private companies sent them an agreement in which the community would be obligated to hand over their land’s administration rights to the project management for 30 years, stripping the community of its right to decide how to manage the land for themselves and generations to come.
According to the Forest Peoples Program and the indigenous organizations, some 20 million hectares (50 million acres) of Peruvian Amazon forest lacks legal recognition, which violates the Peruvian government’s international obligations to recognize and provide a secure environment to the indigenous peoples’ forested lands.
Private companies have taken advantage of this lax legal system, and request “conservation concessions” from the Agriculture Ministry since they are not legally recognized as indigenous lands even though it is their native territory.
The report adds that instead of taking money from the “insatiable” carbon credit market, there is a small cost to ensure that these land rights are respected and that the indigenous forest territories can be maintained by the community.
Basing a program on the respect for indigenous people’s rights has been proven to provide effective protection of forests, not only reducing emissions caused by deforestation but also because it reduces poverty, ensures food security and biodiversity, said the report.