Whilst the latest Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) text doesn’t have the words “Made in the USA” anywhere on it, it should have.
By Chris Lang, Published in Climate Chronicle No. 5, Transnational Institute’s COP-15 newspaper, 17 December 2009.
The Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperation Action produced a REDD text yesterday (15 December 2009) in Copenhagen. At the beginning of the week, the US and Colombia derailed the forest negotiations jointly earning themselves the Climate Action International’s Fossil of the Day third prize for “sinking REDD”. In a marathon session on Monday night, the text expanded from three pages to seven pages.
“The U.S. has wreaked havoc on this process in the last 48 hours,” complained Roman Czebiniak of Greenpeace.
The United States’ strategy is simple: They refuse to budge, they remove everything they don’t like, and they demand lots more to be inserted that they do like. At the last minute they agree to a text, that in fact was what they wanted all along. And then they get congratulated for fooling us all.
With only two days of negotiations remaining, the chances that REDD will
be the only agreement to come out of Copenhagen is high. The chances that REDD will be used to greenwash the North’s failure to reduce its emissions from burning fossil fuels are even higher.
The greenwash has already started. Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that REDD “may turn out to be the most significant achievement to come out of the Copenhagen climate talks.” In a similar vein, US television broadcaster CNBC reported that, “Defining how a forest can generate carbon credits could be the one landmark agreement coming out of the UN climate talks in Copenhagen.”
Without meaningful cuts in emissions from burning fossil fuels, tropical forests will go up in smoke. Four years ago, a drought in the Amazon meant that the rainforest did not sequester its usual two billion tons of carbon dioxide and dying trees released three billion tons of carbon dioxide. The total five billion tons additional carbon dioxide is more than the combined emissions of the European Union and Japan.
The REDD text itself is deeply flawed. It is not a “significant achievement”. It stinks. Any mention of targets for stopping deforestation have gone. There are no commitments for long-term finance. Safeguards are weak to the point of non-existent. Leakage is not meaningfully addressed. The principle of free, prior and informed consent by indigenous people is nowhere to be seen.
Indigenous People have been pushing for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be included in the REDD text. The words are in fact in the text. But all the safeguards are carefully tucked away behind the words “promoted” and/or “supported”. To meet the “safeguard”, and therefore qualify for REDD funding, a government can say that it is supporting respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples. Holding a meeting in the capital city and inviting five indigenous representatives would probably qualify. The word “promoted” is even weaker. The word “should” earlier in the sentence provides even more wiggle room.
The “safeguards” then, amount to little more than a list of positive things that ideally should be done.
The Indigenous Environmental Network describes the REDD text as “a slap in the face of Indigenous Peoples”. Alberto Saldamando of the International Indigenous Treaty Council notes that, “Indigenous Peoples rights are mentioned once in the form of a recommendation for nation states to consider, but not as a requirement. But ensuring basic human rights for the worlds populations who are most affected by climate change should not be voluntary. It is a matter of obligation.”
If, like Jeff Horowitz, co-founder of Avoided Deforestation Partners, you believe that we must save the forests at all costs and that doing so should allow the pollution in the North to continue, then this is the REDD text you were waiting for. “We can’t tell people to stop driving cars and trucks. But we can stop deforestation,” Horowitz told CNBC. “The value is in the carbon.”
But for those who believe in the importance of human rights, indigenous rights, local peoples’ rights and land rights this is the time to withdraw support for REDD. No rights, no REDD.
For more on REDD, please visit REDD-Monitor.