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Saving or Selling the Planet? REDD, Climate Change and Indigenous Lands


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Around the world communities are already facing the impacts of climate change. Now international organizations, like the World Bank, are pushing a policy that asks polluters to offset their pollution by paying governments to protect forests. But is it working? On this edition, we take a closer look at this policy and ask, is it a plan to save the planet, or just sell it off? We’ll hear from indigenous activists and extracts from “A Darker Shade of Green: REDD Alert and the Future of Forests” by Jeff Conant, narrated by Dania Cabello. A Darker Shade of Green: REDD Alert and the Future of Forests is a production of the Global Justice Ecology Project and Global Forest Coalition.


Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project director; Pavan Sukhdev, UN Environment Programme’s Green Economy Initiative former head; Robert Zoellick, World Bank president; Gustavo Castro, Otros Mundos director; Osmarino Amancio Rodriguez, Rubber Tapers Union of Acre president; Elder Andrade de Paula, Federal University of Acre professor; Leticia Yawanawa, Union of Indigenous Women of the Brazilian Amazon; Alegría De La Cruz, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment attorney; Henry Clarke, West County Toxics Coalition director; Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network executive director

For more information:
Global Justice Ecology Project
UN REDD Program
REDD Monitor
Carbon Trade Watch

Articles, Video
REDD In Doha: What You Need To Know (And How You Can Get To Know It)
Murder on the Carbon Express: Interpol Takes On Emissions Fraud
The dark side of the green economy: ‘Green grabbing’
Friends of the Earth’s Forest Program
FOE forests and climate



A Darker Shade of Green: REDD Alert & The Future of Forests
Narrator: Welcome to the new normal. By burning high-carbon fossil fuels, and by clearing vast areas of forested land for agriculture, agribusiness and industry, we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. Temperatures are rising. Severe storms and droughts are increasing. Glaciers are melting. Plants and animals are being forced from their habitats. People, too, are being displaced. We call it the Climate Crisis.
And we understand its primary cause. While the 99% of humanity that is most vulnerable strive to adapt, a corps of global institutions is actively pursuing false solutions. Why do we call them false solutions? Because rather than getting at the fundamentals of a broken system that has devastated the global eco-system, policies like carbon trading, offsets, and payment for environmental services focus on maintaining continued economic growth. One such policy is called REDD, for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. Tropical forests naturally capture and store carbon dioxide. But, due to industrial development, agriculture, and other demands, an area of forest larger then the nation of England is destroyed every year. Forests are worth more, to industry, when they are felled, for timber, for plantations, for all the demands of industrial civilization. But what if forests were given more economic value if they were left intact? REDD claims to do just that: to pay developing countries to keep their forests standing. The United Nations and other global agencies are aggressively pursuing REDD as a climate solution. But REDD appears to be more about making money, than about protecting forests or saving the climate. Pavan Sukhdev, is the former head of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Economy Initiative

Pavan Sukhdev: We should have the developed world allocate significant funds in this direction because it is tothe benefit of their future economies as well as to the benefit of the local communities and the economies of the developing world. In fact studies have been done which estimate that the value of ecosystems, goods and services from the hundred thousand not protected areas on earth are something of the order of 1 ½ trillion dollars per annum…that’s a huge amount of the economy!

Narrator: Anne Petermann is the Director of the Global Justice Ecology Project
The carbon market … in a nutshell… is a system … designed to allow industries in the north that pollute to continue polluting by either trading their emissions with someone else’s who has reduced theirs, or theoretically reduced theirs… In the case of tree plantations or forests say that this carbon being stored in those trees can be used to offset pollution in the north.

Narrator: REDD policies are moving forward quickly. At the United Nations Climate Summit in Cancun, Mexico in 2010, REDD had come to dominate the negotiations. The multilateral development banks and the world’s major financial institutions are already investing millions to pave the way for REDD.

Robert Zoellick is President of the World Bank:
“It’s actually clear that REDD+ enjoys very broad support all around the world. And it’s pretty easy to see why. It offers some very significant opportunities … to achieve multiple goals.

REDD plus is one of the best chances we have, maybe one of the last chances we have to really save our rich biological biodiversity.
So we really need this Cancun meeting to adopt a decision on REDD +. I think if there is a lesson coming out Copenhagen is that we don’t have time towait. And if there’s any issue right for moving forward it’s REDD+.

Voiceover_5.5: While corporate elites pushed REDD inside the Cancun Climate Summit, thousands of people excluded from the official venue marched in the streets outside.

Narrator: Amidst the urgency of the climate crisis, The United Nations, the World Bank, and other global bodies are overriding popular sentiment to push through REDD as part of what they call “the new green economy”. In the wake of the global economic crisis, greenhouse gas emissions reached record levels in 2010. More than eighty percent of these emissions come from burning fossil fuels, and only around seventeen percent come from deforestation. So why is the discussion about forests?
Gustavo Castro is director of Otros Mundos,

Gustavo Castro, Otros Mundos: Because the countries and companies of the north need, by law, to reduce their CO2 emissions. rather than reduce, they buy the right to absorb it – the capacity of the trees to breathe. They make it a business based on the notion that ‘I’m not going to reduce CO2 emissions, instead, you are going to act as my carbon sink.’ And the countres of the South become responsible for absorbing the CO2 that the North is emitting.”

Alberto Saldamando, International Indian Treaty Council: “REDD is a program that is supposed to create this gigantic market for carbon secuestration from trees, but who owns the trees? what are they buying when they buy the carbon in the trees? Are they going to restrict indigenous lifeways, are they going to restrict subsistence? And itturns out …yes, that’s part of the plan. I think one of the things that we have accomplished internationally is a declaration of the rights of indigenous people…that require states to ask before they take. That has to be the new relationship between indigenous peoples and the state. Because until they have to ask, it’s the same old colonialism that Columbus brought over…

ANON: We are already seeing the land grabs. There are many, many situations of indigenous lands where there’s no clear title and those lands are rapidly being gobbled up already and REDD threatens to speed up that process even more.
NARRATOR: While REDD is being negotiated at the United Nations climate forums, state governments around the world have begun forging their own REDD agreements. In late 2010, the Governor of California signed an agreement with the Governors of Acre, Brazil and Chiapas, Mexico to combat climate change and protect tropical forests. How? By linking industries in California with forest protection schemes in Acre and Chiapas…through carbon trading. Alegría De La Cruz is an attorney at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment
Alegría De La Cruz, Attorney at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment: California is one of the richest places in the world and at the same time communities that live near sources of pollution are over burden by those costs. Those costs come out in their health, in the enjoyment of the places where they live, work, play and pray.

Narrator: Dr. Henry Clark, Director, West County Toxics Coalition in Richmond, California, site of Chevron’s oil refinery.

Dr. Henry Clark, Director, West County Toxics Coalition, Richmond, California: I was born and raised here in the north Richmond area so I have experienced a whole lifetime of negative impacts from the Chevron refinery here, waking up in the morning and finding leaves from trees and flowers in the yard burnt crisp over night from chemical exposure From an environmental justice, community perspective we want polluting companies like Chevron here and others in our community to try not to produce the pollution in the first place and reduce it

Ananda Lee Tan is a member of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives in Berkeley, California

Ananda Lee Tan, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Berkeley, California
Incinerators, refineries, coal power plants that spew climate pollution should not be able to protect the forest and say that their job is done. They need to reduce their pollution, they need to pay the historic debt for all the externalized cost, public health impacts, system loss, loss of clean air, water, the loss of livelihoods to all the communities that are most impacted..

Alegría De La Cruz, Attorney at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment: Carbon offsets recreates the injustices that happen in the local level for communities that are over burden by pollution and externalizes those costs to communities that are similarly vulnerable outside California.

Gopal Dayaneni, Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project, Oaklnad California
In reality it’s a lot like trying to lose weight by paying someone else to go on a diet, the idea is that you can give somebody else a bunch of money to lose weight and you add your two weights together, divide it by half and your average weight goes down if they lose enough weight. And in the case of some of the particular offsets in particular the REDD proposals, it’s a lot more like starving somebody someplace else as a way of losing weight.

PART 2: REDD Alert in Chiapas
Chiapas, on the border with Guatemala, is the Mexican state with the highest number, and greatest diversity of Indigenous Peoples in Mexico. Chiapas also has the most forest cover, and the deepest poverty. The government of Chiapas has a long history of conflict with indigenous communities. Now, the governor plans to put the entire surface of the state into the carbon market. The Lacandon jungle is one of the largest remaining areas of rainforest north of the Amazon. But only about 10 percent of the Lacandon jungle remains intact. Over the course of many years, numerous communities have settled in areas of the Lacandon that are now designated as natural protected areas, such as the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. Now, these communities are under threat, as the government seeks to displace these so-called “illegal settlers” in order to accommodate REDD.

“Our grandparents suffered for many years, ever since they were on the plantations, but after awhile they couldn’t tolerate the exploitation there, so they had to decide to look for a place. So they came to this community. They had to suffer many illnesses, and a lot of injustice from the government. And we’re still living this way. The government doesn’t support us, not at all. They treat us as if we’re not human beings, as if we’re not part of Mexico. The government doesn’t give us the things that the people really need. Instead, they give us projhects that don’t give live, but that bring death. They are projects that want us to plant oil palm and all of this, to reforest, to plant trees that we don’t even recognize. This doesn’t serve us, we don’t need it.

Francisco:“They see our Mother Earth as a business, and for us you should never see it like that, its our Mother, she can’t be sold. Now they’re developing this REDD Project, that’s about carbon capture, this is their project, it doesn’t serve us. We struggle simply to feed ourselves.”

Narrator: According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, any project that affects Indigenous Peoples can only go ahead under conditions of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Yet, the displacements of indigenous communities occurring right now in the region of Amador Hernández, with the goal of fencing off the Lacandon Jungle for carbon sequestration, are in clear violation of The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Santiago: They have always blamed us as destroyers. They have always looked for ways to speak badly about us…Now it’s not only the government that is thinking about this, these are international plans. Our grandparents struggled for many years, and they’ve always resisted and they’ve always continued living here. As our grandparents always said, there is nothing else, this land is our home, and without our home we can’t live.”

PART 3: REDD Alert in the Amazon
Narrator: The state of Acre, Brazil, in the western Amazon, was once one of the most forested places on earth. But the forests have been logged for precious hardwoods, and to make way for vast cattle pasture to produce beef for the world market.

Since 2006, Acre has had a state law implementing a program of Payments for Environmental Services, and it is moving quickly to prepare the ground for REDD. But not everyone in Acre is at peace with these plans. In November, 2011, people from throughout the Amazon and from other countries came together in Acre to discuss their concerns about REDD. They found that there are similar concerns everywhere.

Elder Andrade de Paula, Professor, federal University of Acre: Today the destruction of the forest, and the exploitation of the people who live there, is a little more sophisticated. After legitimizing the monumental theft of wood, of the forests, and the exploitation of the population, now we’re seeing something even more perverse – through the mechansims of REDD they are trying to commercialize the air we breathe. This merchandizing of nature leads to the elimination of any possibility for the people who live in these forests to have the autonomy to exercise control over their territories, and to live the way they want to live.

Leticia Yawanawa, Union of Indigenous Women of the Brazilian Amazon, Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon

Practically, ninety percent of the people affected are indigenous women and children, by projects like freeways, hydroelectric projects, the other big projects on near our lands…and we are not invited to participate in the meetings, or the conferences about these things.
This project comes imposed from above to below. We are not recognized for preserving nature. Before REDD came long, we already practiced an indigenous REDD which is the preservation of nature. As for the green economy, the green economy doesn’t work for the indigenous people.

Osmarino Amancio Rodriguez, President of the Rubber Tapers Union of Acre: Whoever is promoting REDD today is proposing the privatization of the natural world…is proposing the privatization of water, forests, wood…is promoting the merchandizing of nature.”

Author: IreneFlorez

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