A new video by the Global Forest Coalition and the Global Justice Ecology Project is deeply critical of REDD. Much of the criticism focusses on carbon trading, but through interviews with communities in Chiapas, Mexico, the video illustrates the perverse impacts that REDD can have on the ground.
The video starts with a description of the impacts of climate change. “We call it the climate crisis,” says the narrator. “And we understand its primary cause,” she says over a shot of a chimney’s emissions silhouetted by the sun. REDD is a false solution, because it does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.
The introduction to the video questions the whole idea of REDD, arguing that “REDD appears to be more about making money than about protecting forests or saving the climate.” To illustrate this point, the video includes a clip from Pavan Sukhdev former head of Head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative speaking on a UN video, “REDD as part of the solution”:
“We should have the developed world allocate significant funds in this direction because it is to the benefit of their future economies as well as to the benefit of the local communities and economies of the developing world. In fact studies have been done which estimate that the value of ecosystem goods and services from the hundred thousand odd protected areas on earth are somethign of the order of four and a half to five trillion dollars per annum. That’s four and a half to five million, million dollars per annum. That’s a huge amount of the economy.”
The video moves to drumming protesters in Cancún, with banners reading “No REDD” behind them. Alberto Saldamando of the International Indian Treaty Council explains that,
“REDD is a programme, is supposed to create this gigantic market for carbon sequestration in trees. But who owns the trees? What are they buying when they buy the carbon in the trees? Are they going to restrict indigenous life ways? Are they going to restrict subsistence? It turns out that yes, that’s part of the plan.”
Much of the video focusses on the REDD agreement signed in 2010 between the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the governors of Chiapas, Mexico and Acre, Brazil. With video footage and interviews from each of the three states, it illustrates how REDD has impacts on local communities livelihoods (particularly in Chiapas) and through the offset mechanism on local communities living near polluting industry in California.
The strongest part of the video is the footage from Chiapas. “The governor plans to put the entire surface of the state of Chiapas into the carbon market,” says the narrator. Under this programme, the governor plans to evict so-called illegal settlers from the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. The video features several interviews with villagers in Amador Hernádez, Chiapas. The interviews demonstrate the strong feelings against REDD and put the carbon market proposals clearly in the context of a complex, ongoing struggle between indigenous communities and the state:
Abelardo: “Our grandparents suffered for many years, ever since they were on the plantations, but after a while they couldn’t tolerate the exploitation there, so they had to decide to look for a place. So they came to this community. They had to suffer many illnesses, and a lot of injustice from the government. And we’re still living this way. The government doesn’t support us. They treat us as if we’re not human beings, as if we’re not part of Mexico. The government doesn’t give us the things that the people really need. Instead, they give us projects that don’t give life, but that bring death. They are projects that want us to plant oil palm and all of this, to reforest, to plant trees that we don’t even recognize. This doesn’t serve us, we don’t need it.”
Francisco: “They see our Mother Earth as a business, and for us you should never see it like that, it’s our Mother, she can’t be sold. Now they’re developing this REDD Project that’s about carbon capture, it doesn’t serve us. We struggle simply to feed ourselves.”
Santiago: “They have always blamed us as destroyers. They have always looked for ways to speak badly about us. Now it’s not only the government that is thinking about this, these are international plans. Our grandparents struggled for many years, and they’ve always resisted and they’ve always continued living here. As our grandparents always said, there is nothing else, this land is our home, and without our home we can’t live.”
The video moves on to the Amazon and the state of Acre in Brazil. “REDD is not being discussed with the indigenous movement,” says Jose Luis Kassupá, First Secretary of the Indigenous Movement of Rhodonia. “They are not informing the village about the intention of REDD. This project comes imposed from above to below.”
Osmarino Rodriguez, President of the Rubber Tappers Union, says,
“Here in our region, we are receiving a new mechanism, called REDD, which is yet another way of putting the environment into the market. . . . Whoever is promoting REDD today, is proposing the privatisation of the natural world, is proposing the privatisation of water, forests, wood, is promoting the merchandising of nature.”
The video returns to California, to look at the impact of the polluting industries that are hoping to benefit from cheap REDD offsets. Alegria de la Cruz, an attorney at the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment explains why she opposes offsets:
“California is one of the richest places in the world. And at the same time, communities that live near sources of pollution are overburdened by those costs. Those costs come out in their health and their enjoyment of the places where they live, work, play and pray. . . . Carbon offsets recreate the injustices that happen on a local level for communities that are overburdened by pollution and puts those, and externalises those costs that are similarly vulnerable outside of California.”
Dr. Henry Clark, of the West County Toxics Coalition, Richmond California adds that,
“From an environmental justice community perpective, we want polluting companies like Chevron here and others in our community to not to produce the pollution in the first place and reduce it.”
UPDATE – 27 January 2012: The video is also available in Spanish: “Un Verde Mas Oscuro: REDD y El Futuro de Los Bosques”. And Michael F. Schmidlehner has translated this post into Portuguese: “REDD Video: Um tom de verde mais escuro”.