The experiences of the joint delegation from the School of Environmental Studies and the American School of Doha at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 18) in Doha, Qatar.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
REDD+ And Indigenous Peoples
One of the most difficult climate change mitigation policies to pass is called REDD+. REDD stands for
reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing
countries, with the "plus" representing the broadened scope of REDD which was the result
of agreements made at COP16 in Cancun, Mexico. In this post I will give a brief
history of REDD, current REDD initiatives, issues surrounding the policy, the role of Indigenous People in REDD+, and why the interests of Indigenous People are so important to this policy.
The idea for REDD was first introduced by the Coalition for Rainforest
Nations at COP11 in 2005. Five years later REDD finally became part of the
agreements at COP16 in Cancun. Originally REDD was designed to pay forest
owners who prevent deforestation and thus help reduce atmospheric carbon. In Cancun
they broadened the scope of REDD to include both actions that prevent emissions
and actions that increase the removal of carbon from the atmosphere, in other
words conservation and sustainable management of forests. With this revision the term
"REDD+" was coined. Another aspect of REDD+ that must be mentioned is the
inclusion of environmental and social safeguards. These are meant to ensure the
rights of indigenous people and ensure that no forest be destroyed due to any
REDD agreement. The Cancun agreement touches on these issues but nothing is set
in stone, and therein lies the issue.
During my experience observing REDD+ presentations it has been evident
that indigenous peoples have the highest interest in REDD discussions. This
stems from the fact that they have the most at stake in issues surrounding
deforestation. Many questions I have heard from indigenous people ask how it
will possible to battle the massive amounts of money that timber and
agriculture companies have. They feel that the battle is almost hopeless at the moment because no policy exists to protect indigenous rights. The current REDD policy discusses indigenous rights but does not
actually do anything to protect them. COICA, an indigenous group representing
indigenous peoples from Amazonia, believes that "REDD+ cannot advance
without immediate guarantees and conditions for indigenous peoples, such as the
recognition of rights to property, to collective legal status, consultation,
participation, and free, timely and informed consent; and, moreover these be
binding.” Although this is a very brief explanation it provides a solid,
relevant background on the issues and controversy surrounding REDD+.
Currently REDD+ is still being discussed at the international level. Even
though nothing about REDD+ is completely set in stone there are still many
REDD+ initiatives around the globe. Indigenous groups in the Amazon and South
America are currently drawing up REDD+ initiatives but more than likely nothing
will begin to happen until indigenous people have territorial recognition
and are able to secure their rights. COICA says that “without territories and
rights, REDD+ is unworkable”. Essentially at this point if indigenous people
are going to adopt any REDD+ policy they will demand self-determination and
territorial rights, otherwise as COICA says, REDD+ will be unworkable.
The important information to take away from REDD+ discussions is that indigenous people need to be represented in the decision making process. They
have the most at stake and know the most about the areas in which REDD+ will be
initiated. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the Executive Director of Tebtebba, who is
coordinating the efforts of all IPO’s (Indigenous Peoples Organizations) at COP18, said to me that if the
indigenous people do not get represented in decision making process they will
not let REDD+ policy take place in their ancestral lands.