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By Oscar Guerrero Bojorquez *
In this context, we continue with research related to the emerging carbon business and its implications. This time it's time to review the situation in Latin America.
Broadly speaking, the underlying problem, although less traumatic and blatant, is the same as in Asia and Africa: insufficient prior consultation policies, unresolved land tenure problems, disregard for the ancestral ways of life of aborigines, and little transparency of financial agents in the framework of REDD + projects in the region. However, there are some isolated cases where the implementation of the carbon business yields positive results. As much as powerful entities such as the World Bank or other financial structures want to press for the approval of the establishment of REDD + with market-specific mechanisms, there is strong opposition to this model led by Brazil, a country that has established a mechanism based on funds. for those reductions in the deforestation rate that are below the baselines.
In all this there is a double standard of international financial organizations, since, while declaring their commitment to combat climate change, they continue to finance the large-scale development of fossil fuels and extractive industries. Next we will review the situation in some Latin American countries where there are REDD + pilot projects and plans underway.
Bolivia was included in a group of tropical forest countries that proposed in 2005 a market-based mechanism for forest conservation. With the coming to power of Evo Morales in 2006, the country assumes a new orientation rejecting the market as the main body of control over the various REDD + projects.
Morales' opposition to REDD mechanisms was based on two specific points: first that the projects led to a growing commodification of nature and second that industrialized countries evaded their historical responsibility for the catastrophic consequences derived from climate change.
But Bolivia was harsher in its criticism of REDD + when it hosted the World Peoples' Conference on Climate Change in 2010 and denounced that the mercantilist mechanisms of REDD + were violating the sovereignty of the peoples and their right to free, prior consent. and informed, in addition to violating the rights, uses and customs of indigenous communities.
Between 1980 and 2010, the highland country lost more than 6 million hectares of forest area. This deforestation has taken place on soils considered suitable for forestry, which has a direct impact on biodiversity. Hence the state's concern to stop this trend and implement programs to deal with this problem. For the period of the 2010-2013 UN-REDD national program, Bolivia received funds that reached the sum of 4.7 million dollars. However, there were some deadlocks between the government and UN-REDD that slowed the start of the project.
Finally, in 2012, the Bolivian state presented its alternative to the REDD + project, the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Comprehensive and Sustainable Management of Forests and Mother Earth, whose contributions and guidelines were integrated into the work plan.
With the new government proposals, among which the non-commodification of nature and the policies for adaptation and mitigation of forests stand out, the Normative Board of the UN-REDD Program approved the work plan and budget in 2013.
The Central American country does not properly have a national REDD + program. But it does have selective support that includes the development and implementation of a Safeguards Information System (SIS). Since mid-2012, Costa Rica has been on the list of partner countries of the UN-REDD Program.
In general, Costa Rica does not have major deforestation problems in its territory. For this reason, REDD + strategists have mainly been focusing their work on expanding the System of Payments for Environmental Services (PES) and the National System of Conservation Areas.
One of the best-known environmental policies worldwide dates back to 1997 and consists of the state paying private forest owners (which may well be indigenous communities themselves) to conserve forests and even allow them to regenerate in exchange for the ecosystem services they produce.
The mitigation of emissions, the protection of water sources, the provision of scenic beauty and the protection of biodiversity constitute the four pillars of the PES that have allowed the country to be at the forefront in the use of market mechanisms to reduce the deforestation. In fact, Costa Rica implemented its Payment System for Environmental Services long before the REDD + initiative was presented at the United Nations and negotiations began at the international level. Perhaps that is why he never established reference scales.
Showing the authorities' degree of awareness, the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications acquired the commitment to make the country carbon neutral by 2021, which implies that eventual REDD projects can only be financed by foreign capital until then date.
The stumbling block that the state still has not overcome is that of land tenure. Legal ambiguities and little elaborate norms allowed that many titles of property of lands that already owned were granted.
The squatters occupy about 40 percent of the lands belonging to different indigenous reserves, a situation that has caused conflicts. At the end of 2013 only one community, the Kekoldi, managed to have its rights restored after going to court.
Peru does not have a National REDD Program, but it ranks fourth in the world in terms of countries with areas of tropical forests. The development potential of the REDD + program is immense. The government has set a goal to reduce the deforestation rate to zero by 2021, although at the rate it is going it is difficult for it to fulfill this task.
Among the factors that condition deforestation in the country are migration, agriculture, livestock, informality, the poor level of control over illegal activities and rampant corruption in the work of state officials. Even so, there are more than 40 REDD pilot projects in various regions of the Peruvian Amazon.
But it is not explained how authorization has been given to operate in indigenous territories that the State has not yet recognized. Precisely this historical debt that the State maintains constitutes the main obstacle to the implementation of the REDD + program in stages.
"As long as an estimated 20 million hectares of indigenous territory remain unrecognized and the legislative framework weakens their rights instead of strengthening them, REDD + is a threat to indigenous peoples" In this sense, it is valid to quote the words that Alberto Pizango did in this regard. , leader of the largest national organization representing the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon, AIDESEP: “As long as an estimated 20 million hectares of indigenous territory remain unrecognized and the legislative framework weakens their rights instead of strengthening them, REDD + is a threat to indigenous peoples ”(1).
In sum, the indigenous representatives of Peru seek that the REDD + scheme is adapted to the cultural base of the indigenous peoples and prioritizes their demands.
In this sense, the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) launched the Redd + Indígena Amazónica (RIA) proposal whose main axes are: better channel the request of the native universe that focuses on issues such as territoriality, consensus made the holistic, the prolonged debate so that REDD + adapts to the new learnings, take an active part in the multiple regional and international events to express concrete problems and deficiencies of conventional REDD + and reaffirm the trust in plurality.
In short, the Peruvian case of REDD + requires special attention since abuses such as those registered in the Belgian (Madre de Dios), Matsés, Yanayacu and Cusco communities should not be allowed. Logging mafias and carbon pirates often play on people's ignorance and have the complicity of local authorities.
The content of a 2010 Ombudsman's Office Report should not be surprising then, where it is said that 90 percent of the wood that left Loreto is illegal and that 80 percent of officials who have worked at the National Institute of Natural Resources (INRENA) has corruption problems (2).
Those responsible for UN-REDD pilot projects in Peru often start from the wrong premise: they assume that the communities have property titles and that is why they launch their programs. It is possible that this behavior is premeditated in specific cases, in others they simply have not carried out the pertinent verifications, showing a lack of knowledge about the feasibility of the project.
The state should do everything in its power to claim the rights of indigenous communities, including the right to choose the development model they want to adopt. It is not going to be that all the elements are being incubated so that the ghosts of Bagua return to the front pages of the newspapers.
Mexico is a member of the Cooperative Fund for Forest Carbon (FCPF) and is a partner country of the UN-REDD, where it is also an observer of the Normative Board. Eleven REDD projects are registered, many of which are already in the payment-for-results stage in the carbon market. Within the framework of the fight against the effects of climate change, Mexico has implemented a set of environmental strategies and programs such as the Special Climate Change Program (PECC) that prioritizes sectoral actions and incorporates REDD +.
At the end of 2012, Mexico ordered that the implementation of REDD + be carried out in three stages: preparation, evaluation and implementation. Deforestation in the country is related to the conversion of forests into lands with lucrative use, such as agricultural activities.
As in Costa Rica, the government has implemented the Payment for Environmental Services system where the ProÁrbol program stands out, which promotes the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of forests. Progress in community forest management has reached levels unmatched in the world. About 75 percent of Mexican forests are communally owned, including by indigenous communities.
The international discussions that have been taking place on carbon trading and UN-REDD projects have a leading interlocutor in Mexico. Early actions - as the REDD + pilot plans in Mexico are called - are expected to determine what the scope of REDD + is and whether they actually help mitigate the negative effects of global warming and climate change.
Considering some cases of countries where the presence of UN-REDD projects have had different impacts and interpretations, it is appropriate to draw some conclusions and suggest certain alternatives that could well enrich the conception of carbon trading and the policies aimed at reducing deforestation.
First of all, to face climate change, it is imperative to transform the roots of the prevailing production system and the use of energy. This could start to become a reality if governments allocate more funds to the development of renewable energy sources. Second, only an international consensus could be able to restrict industrial agriculture based on the use of fossil fuels to support small-scale sustainable agriculture. The third recommendation is associated with the need to address the central causes that are precipitating deforestation, such as the demand for biofuels, forest products and meat from animals fed with soy, and the inability to protect land rights, among others.
Finally, the challenges set by the international community to stop the destruction of the planet will have to focus on the urgent need to change stereotypes of consumer life, especially in industrialized nations. It is the consumer society that is accelerating the disappearance of ecosystems and biodiversity. As long as governments continue to relativize this reality, the less informed and abused human groups in their most basic rights will continue to be the most affected.
* Óscar Guerrero Bojorquez has a master's degree in Journalism and a specialist in International Problems.