Forest Protection Plan Could Displace Millions, say Campaigners

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The Guardian/UK

Forest Protection Plan Could Displace Millions, say Campaigners

Livelihoods of 60m indigenous people at risk from plans to tackle climate change by protecting forests, says Friends of the Earth

Alok Jha

Amazon rainforest in Brazil. (Photograph: Ricardo Beliel/Alamy)

International proposals to protect forests to tackle climate change
could displace millions of indigenous people and fail to reduce global
greenhouse gas emissions, according to environmentalists.

of the Earth International (FoE) will argue in a report to be published
on Thursday, that plans to slow the decline of forests, which would see
rich countries pay for the protection of forests in tropical regions,
are open to abuse by corrupt politicians or illegal logging companies.

store a significant amount of carbon and cutting them down is a major
source of greenhouse gas emissions - currently this accounts for around
20% of the world's total.

Deforestation also threatens
biodiversity and puts the livelihoods of more than 60 million
indigenous people who are dependent upon forests at risk.

out a way to protect forests will be one of the key issues discussed
next week in the United Nations climate change summit in Poznan,
Poland, which marks the start of global negotiations to replace for the
Kyoto protocol after 2012.

Government representatives at the
meeting will consider the adoption of the Reducing Emissions from
Deforestation and Degradation (Redd) mechanismin which richer countries
pay to maintain forests in tropical regions to offset their own

The idea was based on Nicholas Stern's 2006 review of
the economics of climate change. Stern said that £2.5bn a year could be
enough to prevent deforestation across the eight most important
countries. But Stern also argued that, for such a scheme to work,
institutional and policy reforms would be required in many of the
countries that would end up with the protected forests, such as
Indonesia, Cameroon or Papua New Guinea.

FoE agrees that forests
could be included in climate change targets but argues that, in its
current form, Redd is fraught with problems. In its report, the group
says that the proposals seem to be aimed at setting up a way to
generate profits from forests rather than to stop climate change.

re-focuses us on the question, who do forests belong to? In the absence
of secure land rights, indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent
communities have no guarantees that they'll benefit from Redd," said
Joseph Zacune, a climate and energy coordinator at Friends of the Earth
International. "There's increased likelihood of state and corporate
control of their land especially if the value of forests rises."

the climate talks next week, Zacune said FoE will lobby for forests to
be kept out of carbon markets and that land rights are enforced as the
basis of any future forest policy. "We want some kind of mechanism to
stop deforestation," said Zacune. "If there was to be any agreement, it
would have to be developed through a joint process with other relevant
forest conventions and human-rights instruments like the UN declaration
on the rights on indigenous peoples."

Redd also has no clear
definition for what a forest is - the FoE report highlights that the UN
includes single-species plantations, such as those grown for palm oil
or other agriculture agriculture, which are often grown in areas that
have been cleared of virgin rainforests.

"Even at their very
best, they store only 20% of the carbon that intact forests do. In
Brazil, they're now talking about 'net deforestation', and this
probably means designing Redd and forest policies to match the amount
of trees being cut down due to the expansion of plantations," said

FoE's conclusions echo those of the Rights and Resources
Initiative, an international coalition of global NGOs which has argued
that the rush to protect forests could have unintended consequences. In
two reports published in July, the Rights and Resources Initiative said
that the money aimed at protecting trees might end up in the hands of
central government officials in areas of the world where they were
closely tied to illegal logging and mining activities.

"It is
widely acknowledged that poor governance and corruption also need to be
addressed if deforestation is to be stopped," said the FoE report. "The
question is whether Redd can address these issues and how it links to
existing established processes intended to deal with illegal
deforestation (which includes illegal logging and illegal forest
conversion to agriculture). Furthermore, would the use of a Redd fund
rather than carbon markets improve governments' ability to reign in
such illegal activities?"

Zacune said that the best way to manage
forests was to devolve the responsibility to localm people - an idea
proposed by Tuvalu. "The idea is that they would provide incentives for
protecting and retaining their forests. It's the communities and
indigenous people who have managed the forests for generations that
should be in control of the forest."

The FoE report also argues
that protecting forests should not become a way for rich countries to
pay their way out of reducing their emissions. "If governments are
serious about tackling climate change, deforestation must be stopped
once and for all," said Zacune. "To do this we need to tackle the
consumption of agrofuels, meat and timber products which is driving
deforestation and support good governance of forest resources."

Juniper, a sustainability adviser to the Prince's Rainforests Project,
a group set up by the Prince of Wales to work out way to fund forest
protection, said there was no single solution to the complex challenge
posed by tropical deforestation. "There are clearly dangers in raising
finance via a tradable commodity from forest carbon, but there are also
dangers in closing off options that could make a positive difference
assuming adequate safeguards are put in place. It is also important to
remember that the market is one approach among several possible funding
mechanisms. For example, major finance could be mobilised via the
auctioning of pollution credits under the European Union's Emissions
Trading Scheme, or through taxes on aviation fuel for example."

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