UN climate talks 2011: REDD in the real world
On day two of the climate talks Friends of the Earth International held a workshop at C17, the civil society space in Durban, on how a carbon trading scheme is ruining the lives of indigenous communities wherever it is implemented.
Lucia Ortiz, Friends of the Earth Brazil, explains how REDD came about.
Lucia Ortiz from Friends of the Earth Brazil opened the workshop and explained what REDD is.
REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. It is a carbon trading scheme that came out the of UN climate negotiations. It is a way of enabling big carbon emitters - mainly in the global north - to continue to pollute whilst paying other countries to keep their forests - which store up to 20% of the world's carbon - in the ground.
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The floor was then open to other people to present their experiences of REDD in their respective countries.
The view from Uganda
First to present was David Kureeba from Friends of the Earth Uganda (NAPE).
Since 2007 the World Bank and other institutions have been offering Uganda money for REDD projects. Many projects have failed to materialise but now things are happening on the ground and forest dwelling communities are being seriously affected.
The government is kicking out communities from the forests and giving away their land to private investors to be turned into plantations for growing agrofules, palm oil and other monocultures.
The communities that manage to remain on their land, after it's been sold beneath them, find that their rights have been eroded. Women can no longer collect wood for making fires because the wood belongs to the new 'owner' who has paid for all trees to remain in order to claim carbon credits.
When the land is bought for cultivating agrofuels the chemicals that are used seep into the rivers and kill the fish that communities live off.
Recently the government tried to give away a protected forest to a foreign buyer in order for them to grow sugarcane. Under the rules of REDD this would be perfectly legitimate. But chopping down a forest in order to create a monoculture plantation is in no way a solution to climate change.
David Kureeba, Friends of the Earth Uganda, explains how REDD is forcing communities off their land.
NAPE are still challenging this decision in the courts.
David concluded his presentation by listing some of the lesson he's learned in his experiences with REDD:
"Governments are taking advantage of REDD. The government harasses anyone who resists a REDD project. There is a lack of knowledge by communities on REDD.
"Finally, REDD money is not reaching communities. It is taken by the top brass" he concluded.
It was a damming indictment of REDD.
REDD tries to get a foothold in Mozambique
Nilza Matavel from Friends of the Earth Mozambique (JA!) talked about the consultation, or lack of it, that is taking place in Mozambique at the moment as it gears up to start its REDD projects.
A Brazilian organisation that specialises in REDD recently held a series of workshops in Mozambique and civil society groups were invited. However, what was presented at the workshops was an extremely positive view of how the scheme would work. The hosts failed to present the negative aspects of REDD, which by far outweigh any positives.
JA! was the only group in the room raising objections to the presentations because they were the only ones with all the facts to hand. As a result, the minutes to that meeting were never circulated and in the following workshop no references were made to JA!'s objections. Nilza and her colleagues eventually walked out of the process.
"This is how things currently work in Mozambique" Nilza told us. "The proponents of the project will no doubt get the green light to go ahead after having 'consulted' with civil society"
a loss of sovereignty
The situation is the same in Latin America where numerous REDD projects are up and running.
Ivonne Yanez from OilWatch Ecuador gave her perspective on Ecuador's 'Social Forests' programme.
"When the government gives subsidy to indigenous people for payment of environmental services, which means looking after the forest, it also means the indigenous people give the right for anyone, including gas and oil companies to access their lands. The people don't realise this is what they're signing up to."
Finally Lucia talked about the situation in Brazil where the commodification of the earth is reaching new levels.
Due to pressure from corporations the Brazilian government is dismantling its internationally respected forest protection laws and literally outsourcing nature. Trees, rives and the air above are being turned in to credits to be traded on Wall Street.
Lucia echoed the common thread in all these REDD projects:
"The one who buys the credit has unrestricted access to the land. Communities are losing the sovereignty of their land which will mean an end to traditional practices"