Indigenous people demand greater say in using forests to fight global warming
October 8, 2008
Indigenous leaders renewed their call for greater say in how tropical forests are managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to AFP.
Speaking to reporters at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Tony James, president of the Amerindian Peoples Association, told AFP that forest people should play a key role in determining how forests should be included in international climate negotiations.
“We have been hearing more and more about the carbon trade, but indigenous people are not being included in the discussions,” he said. “We want to know: who will own the carbon, and what will be the impact on us?”
“We need to solve the topic of property and the issue of autonomy,” added Jorge Furagaro of the Witoto people in Colombia. Indigenous leaders “have no real authority to negotiate, so too often we lose out.”
Avoided deforestation mechanisms like REDD could send billions of dollars annually toward forest conservation and poverty alleviation initiatives, but indigenous groups are worried they will miss out or be short-changed as has often been the case in the past with development schemes.
Discussions laying the groundwork for proposed forest conservation financing schemes like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) have largely excluded indigenous leaders, despite plenty of lip-service paid to their cause by environmental NGOs. As a result, while such mechanisms could ultimately benefit forest-dwellers, many indigenous groups strongly oppose measures to use forests as giant carbon offsets. Their opposition will likely continue until they play a greater part in determining policy.
Chief among their concerns is the potential for a “land grab” whereby governments, carbon traders, and speculators secure rights of the ecosystem services provided by forests without the consent of the people who live within the forests. In places where indigenous land rights are poorly defined, such claims could be used to evict forest people from lands upon which they have been living for generations. Therefore the development of policy mechanisms like REDD will involve thorny issues like traditional land rights as well as broader questions on how compensation will be structured and what measures will effectively conserve forests without driving more people into poverty. In the end, there is little doubt that support from forest people will be critical in making “avoided deforestation” schemes a reality.
“We are the ones best placed to protect the world’s most vulnerable tropical forests,” Juan Carlos Juntiach, a Shuar leader from Ecuador and leader of the Amazon Alliance, was quoted as saying by AFP. “But this will not happen by following the old path of negotiations between governments and conservation agencies.”