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Environmental, Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights Groups Reject International Offsets in California's Global Warming Solutions Act
OAKLAND, CA - August 23 - The California Air Resources Board meets tomorrow in Sacramento, CA to announce the findings of its evaluation of alternatives to Cap and Trade in AB32, the state's Global Warming Solutions Act. Environmental, indigenous peoples' and human rights groups warn that outsourcing the state's emissions reductions through carbon offsets will shift the responsibility for the climate crisis from industry to under-resourced communities, both in California and abroad.
"Any Cap and Trade Provision in AB32 will not only leave California communities continuing to bear the brunt of industrial pollution, they are no solution to climate change," said Jeff Conant from the Oakland, CA office of Global Justice Ecology Project. "If the offsets are enacted in-state it will undermine forest conservation in California. If California's offsets are enacted at the international level, they will exacerbate land and resource conflicts in places like Chiapas, Mexico and Acre, Brazil - especially because these offsets are based on the controversial policy of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)."
The Cap and Trade provision in AB32 has clear links to REDD-type forest carbon offsets, as demonstrated by the Memoranda of Understanding signed by former Governor Schwarzenegger last year with the state governments of Chiapas and Acre. While the mechanism for such an offsets program is not expected to be enacted until 2015, the effects of the policy are already showing impacts in these states. Commentators see this MoU as the world's most advanced sub-national carbon offsets agreement, which could serve as a model for similar agreements worldwide.
In comments submitted to the California Air Resources Board, Francisco Hernández Maldonado, an indigenous Tzeltal from the village of Amador Hernández in the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas, Mexico wrote: "The promotion of REDD+ in Chiapas, which the government is doing without consulting us, is causing conflict between our peoples, because it benefits some and tries to criminalize those who truly dedicate ourselves to coexist with the earth and are not in favor of REDD + as a solution to climate change. By failing to consult us, our human rights are violated as well as international agreements such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."
The Air Resources Board says that REDD as part of a Cap and Trade program will be developed under a separate process with public participation and environmental review. But critics of REDD recognize that the mere suggestion that California will engage in international offsets sends "price signals" to developing world governments - signals that have already led to forced evictions in the name of forest protection.
"These REDD forest offset initiatives in Mexico and the global South have no guarantees for safeguarding against land grabs and violating the rights of indigenous communities," said Tom Goldtooth, Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. "Putting trust in carbon market regimes based upon the privatization and commodification of air, trees and biodiversity could be devastating to indigenous peoples and their cultures. Not only abroad, but right here at home. Many of the dirtiest industries in the U.S. and Canada are located on Indigenous and First Nations lands and would benefit from domestic and international offsets--buying carbon credits to greenwash the pollution and toxic hotspots they create in our communities. Our people lose out on all sides of the border. There is no justice in carbon offsets - only more suffering."
A coalition of California environmental justice groups is expected to turn out in Sacramento to demand that the Air Resources Board give real attention to concerns of ongoing pollution in the state's heavily impacted industrial zones.
"Cap and Trade is no solution to climate change," said Nile Malloy of Communities for a Better Environment in Oakland, CA. "It allows industry to continue polluting our communities, while the emissions continue to worsen climate change. It is a lose-lose scenario, benefiting only corporations like Chevron."