March 28, 2012
In a press conference held March 14th, Márcio Meira responded to an investigation by Pública looked into a carbon deal signed between Celestial Green Ventures and a group of Munduruku Indians, a tribe of more than 11,000 that lives in the Amazon Basin. As reported by REDD-Monitor, Celestial claimed the project would cover 15.2 million hectares in the state of Rondonia and generate $32 billion over 30 years. It promised to pay the tribe $120 million.
But when word of the project went public, there were immediate doubts about its legitimacy due to its extent and the lack of sign-off from FUNAI, which would be required for any forest carbon project to move forward. In his remarks, FUNAI president Márcio Meira confirmed irregularities with the project.
"These contracts have no legal validity, because Brazil has not regulated the REDD mechanism ... especially in indigenous lands, which are owned by the Union," he said.
Meira added that any REDD+ project would have to be based on social and environmental principles and criteria under a REDD+ protocol developed during a national multistakeholder process. That document requires REDD+ projects to include free, prior informed consent (FPIC) with indigenous communities, among other safeguards.
The early stages of the proposed REDD+ program, which aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by compensating tropical countries for protecting forests, have suffered from an influx of unscrupulous developers — sometimes called "carbon cowboys" — who have sought to capitalize on lack of a regulatory mechanism to take advantage of unsuspecting forest peoples, tricking them into turning over their land rights for vague promises of "sky money" or carbon payments. The problem has been particularly acute in remote parts of Papua New Guinea and the Amazon.