FEATURED ARTICLE: Mongabay: Inclusion of REDD+ in Paris climate agreement heralded as major step forward on deforestation

Inclusion of REDD+ in Paris climate agreement heralded as major step forward on deforestation

14th December 2015

The international community is getting serious about lowering emissions to stop global temperatures from continuing to rise unabated — and negotiators in Paris did indeed include mechanisms for addressing deforestation as a major means of accomplishing that goal.

Inclusion of REDD+ in Paris climate agreement heralded as major step forward on deforestation
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Deforestation in Sumatra. Photo by Rhett Butler.


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  • Many forest experts and conservationists are saying that the inclusion of REDD+ as a standalone article — Article 5 — in the final agreement out of Paris sends a strong signal that the era of blithely chopping down forests for agriculture and other economic development projects is officially drawing to a close.
  • The agreement includes the necessary technical and scientific rules to provide a blueprint to countries looking to build forest protection plans under REDD+.er REDD+
  • While many experts applauded how the agreement calls for financing for REDD+, there is a need for more funds, especially from private sector.



Is REDD+ without enforcing forest people’s rights a “step forward”?

Mike Gaworecki in this 12-14-15 article states, “Indigenous peoples and other local forest communities are known to be excellent stewards of their land, but according to the Indigenous leaders assembled in Paris, their ability to protect the forests they call home is often limited by lack of legal and financial support, especially when they lack title to their traditional lands…..The provisions on human rights and ecosystem integrity in the Paris Agreement are aspirational, however, meaning they are not binding requirements and must be implemented on the ground before they begin to make any kind of difference — and while it’s easy to make commitments on paper, it’s often far harder to make them a reality.”

Since COP21, virtually all major articles & blogs supporting REDD+(REDD) implied that indigenous peoples, tenure & rights are protected by REDD. Gaworecki’s article & CIFOR 12-23-15 blog correct that misinterpretation of the COP21 agreement. CIFOR was even more specific stating, “REDD+ has moved issues of transparency, accountability, tenure and rights, and indigenous peoples onto domestic political agendas. The dramatic change in the global narrative and the political momentum generated are reasons for cautious optimism.” One might be not be so cautiously optimist if one were a forest person without human rights or resource tenure

Jorge Furagaro Kuetgaje, climate coordinator for COICA, the Indigenous People of the Amazon Basin stated, “For us to continue to conserve the tropical forests … we need to have strong rights to those forests. Death should not be the price we pay for playing our part in preventing the emissions that fuel climate change. A Global Witness report found “that at least 116 environmental activists were murdered in 2014, and 40% of the victims were indigenous.”

The domestic politics of Tropical forested countries have very poor human rights & land tenure records. Global Witness’s Nov. 30, 2015 Press release stated, “At least 640 land and environmental activists have been killed since the 2009 climate negotiations in Copenhagen – some shot by police during protests, others gunned down by hired assassins.”

“According to Ninawa Huni Kui, the president of the Federation of the Huni Kui people in Acre, Brazil in the Brazilian Amazon, the community he is from, is no longer to fish in their own land, to cultivate food, or to practice agriculture. All of these activities are banned and have been declared illegal, and people are jailed if they participate in agriculture or go fishing. Leaders are being criminalized for opposing the [REDD] project.”

The history of land rights & human rights for the world’s 1.2 billion forest people* suggests that these rights should be required prior to REDD funding. Global Witnessed continued, “Most murders occurred in Latin America and Asia with far fewer reported in Africa, however this may be (due) to a lack of information…. …Justice is rarely given to murder victims. Killers are rarely brought to trial and often acquitted when they are. In Brazil, fewer than 10 percent of such murders go to trial, and only 1 percent see convictions.”

The promotion of REDD without requiring these rights makes these people & their forests much more endangered. The world’s unprotected forests and their peoples primarily exist because these forests were not profitable to exploit due to inaccessibility or danger. REDD is creating an economic incentive to now make these forests and their peoples much more profitable to exploit but without requiring the enforcement of the rights that will protect forest peoples & create well regulated markets. Carbon credit entrepreneurs, Government entities and NGOs have started promoting REDD without the enforcement of required safeguards in the last remote forests.

Scott Goetz, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, stated, “I think a major strength of the agreement is the call for ‘adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources’ (for REDD+) as well as language that payments be results-based. In other words, payment for performance, which is an incentives-based approach that rewards successful efforts to reduce deforestation over time.”

The following studies indicate that recognizing and enforcing the land & resource tenure of forest people should precede results-based payments & are more effective than such payments. A, Agrawal’s study “shows that the larger the forest area under community ownership the higher the probability for better biodiversity maintenance, community livelihoods and carbon sequestration.” “The growing evidence that communities and households with secure tenure rights protect, maintain and conserve forests is an important consideration for the world’s climate if REDD schemes go forward, and even if they do not.” Agrawal, A (2008) ‘Livelihoods, carbon and diversity of community forests: trade offs and win wins?’

World Bank SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT WORKING PAPERS Paper No. 120/December 2009 stated, “…the cost range of recognizing community tenure rights (average $3.31/ha) is several times lower than the yearly costs estimates for …. an international REDD scheme ($400/ha/year to $20,000/ha/year).” “…a relatively insignificant investment in recognizing tenure rights has the potential to significantly improve the world’s carbon sequestration and management capacity…, prioritizing policies and actions aimed at recognizing forest community tenure rights can be a cost-effective step to improve the likelihood that REDD programs meet their goals.”

Donald Lehr, a consultant to the REDD+ Safeguards Working Group, a coalition of civil society organizations, said , “So it’s only a beginning, The Agreement will be proven by the actions countries take.” Tropical forested countries have very poor land tenure rights enforcement record for forest people.

Living on Earth”(LOE) radio reported, that “governments own about 75 percent of the world’s forests, less than ten percent legally belong to communities. In Indonesia, 65 million people live off forests—most of them have no official rights to the land they consider theirs. In the eyes of the Forest Ministries, they’re squatters occupying a national resource.”

Even Brazil which has a better record than most Tropical countries, has failed to adequately recognize & enforce resource & human rights. “Clear ownership records exist for less than 4 percent of the land in private hands throughout the Brazilian Amazon, government officials said. …In the state of Pará, officials have discovered false titles for about 320 million acres, almost double the amount of land that actually exists, according to federal officials.” NYT, December 26, 2009 by Alexei Barrionuevo.

Lehr said, “Dive into this guidance and you find the critically important REDD+ safeguards – designed to protect natural forests and their biodiversity as well as the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities…Most importantly, it includes a system to report on how those safeguards are addressed and respected.”

?Rights “Addressed and respected”?

Given the history of land tenure and conflict in most Tropical countries with large remaining forests, it is implausible and inefficient to believe that rights being “Addressed and respected” will be sufficient. After remote forests & their peoples are put on the REDD’s radar it will be a rearguard nightmare to try to stem the suffering, dislocation & acculturation. Either amend REDD to stipulate recognition & enforcement of resource and human rights prior to funding or do not increase interest in those forests by introducing REDD without rights.

How is REDD effective and just, if it only is requesting to address land tenure rights, forest governance, safeguards and participation for marginalized traditional forest peoples? Would the Paris Agreement negotiators and REDD promoters sign an agreement not to have their family’s property rights or human rights enforced but just request them to be addressed? Not to secure those rights prior to REDD funding or payment for marginalized forest peoples with minimal legal means and sophistication is unethical, not the “Golden Rule”.

Abdon Nababan of Indonesia, Secretary General of Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago told LOE: ” I think nothings wrong with REDD, if the implementations put indigenous peoples’ rights as a precondition. We have the same goals with REDD+, to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, but if they put that in a market scenario, if they put REDD into the hands of corporations, the REDD + will colonize our territory.”

REDD could be amended, so that it would stipulate that forest communities’ resource customary rights shall be secured and enforced before more before REDD+ funding is granted for anything other than implementing that legal land tenure process. These rights of resource tenure should be secured for at least three times the life of the oldest tree species in the forest in question and 51% of REDD+ funds or carbon offsets received by the national or sub national Government should be matched by those entities and provided to the forest peoples for the recognition & enforcement of these rights.

?Mongabay, CIFOR or REDD supporters, what is the strategy to ensure REDD requires the recognition and enforcement of customary resource tenure and human rights for forest peoples prior to REDD payment or funding?

* Mongabay posted on 5-16-2012, “Up to 20% of humanity directly dependent on forests. Despite a global trend towards urbanization, some 1.2-1.7 billion people worldwide remain primarily dependent on forests for their livelihoods, reports a review published by the Forest Peoples Programme. The figures exclude people who are indirectly dependent on forests for the services they provide, including climate regulation, provision of clean water, and carbon sequestration.
The data, which comes from an array of sources, indicates that the vast majority of people dependent on forests are small-holders, who rely on subsistence agriculture or agroforestry. Only a handful of forest people remain truly nomadic.
The report notes that 200 million of the world’s “forest people” are considered “indigenous”. Estimates of indigenous people worldwide range from 454-560 million.” https://news.mongabay.com/2012…

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