In August 2012, the Bolivian government presented a proposal to the UNFCCC titled “Proposal for the Development of the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Forests”.
Bolivia’s proposal can be downloaded here (pdf file 1.5 MB).
The proposal builds on the 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth that was attended by 30,000 representatives of governments, social, environmental and indigenous peoples’ organisations. The Peoples Agreement of Cochabamba rejects REDD as a carbon trading mechanism:
We condemn market mechanisms such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and its versions + and + +, which are violating the sovereignty of peoples and their right to prior free and informed consent as well as the sovereignty of national States, the customs of Peoples, and the Rights of Nature.
In September 2010, Evo Morales, Bolivia’s president produced a statement saying that, “The nature, forest and indigenous peoples are not for sale.”
Bolivia rejected the Cancun Agreements, opposing “the process of mercantilism of environmental functions, including the REDD+”. During 2011, “extensive consultations with social organizations and community members regarding the construction of an alternative to REDD+” were carried out in Boliva. The result was a proposal for “The Sustainable Life of the Forest”, based on the following principles:
- No mercantilism of the environmental functions of the forest.
- Comprehensive and Sustainable Management of the forest (including land, water and biodiversity) with emphasis on traditional and local practices.
- Promotion of the multiple functions of forest: economic, social, environmental, and cultural.
- Complementarity of rights, obligations and duties for the forest management, emphasizing the rights of indigenous people native peasant and the rights of Mother Earth.
- Recognition of the double role of forest in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
The Bolivian delegation presented this proposal during COP17 in Durban. The most recent proposal aims
to advance effectively in mitigation and adaptation to climate change through integrated management and the sustainable use of forest and the systems of life of Mother Earth, promoting the conservation and restoration of the life systems, the management, conservation and protection of biodiversity, facilitating the transition to more optimal uses of land through the development of more sustainable productive systems in order to reduce deforestation and forestry degradation
The proposal puts forward several processes to be developed, including: Appropriate institutional conditions that ensure safe and clear proprietary rights to the owners of the forest; Approaches to land management dealing with zoning, legal regulation and spatial planning; Coordination of common goals among public and private actors; Articulation of forest with agriculture within the visions of landscape management to promote optimal uses of the land; and so on.
The proposal gives examples of four projects in Bolivia to illustrate the type of forest management it is talking about. Communities involved in the projects produce products such as cocoa, lizard leather, honey, coffee and rubber.
While there is much to be welcomed in Bolivia’s proposal, including the rejection of carbon trading and the focus on the rights of communities and indigenous peoples, there are also concerns. Perhaps the most obvious being the question: Will the proposal actually reduce deforestation?
In September 2010 when President Morales was telling us that Bolivia’s forests are not for sale, large areas of the country’s forests were burning out of control. Deforestation is increasing in Bolivia. There is ongoing tension in the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) over plans to build a road with Brazilian funding. Protests by indigenous peoples stopped the road last year. Meanwhile, coca growers have been accused of backing the road in the hope of occupying areas of TIPNIS to grow coca.
Research by Robert Müller from Göttingen University and his colleagues have analysed the causes of deforestation in lowland Bolivia, by analysing trends in land use change between 1992 and 2004. They found that mechanised agriculture was responsible for 54% of deforestation, small scale agriculture 19% and cattle ranching 27%.
Müller argues that the Bolivian government should prioritise two activities: first reduce the expansion of cattle ranching and enforce existing legislation to protect forests:
“Virtually all existing REDD+ pilot projects globally are targeting smallholders. Moreover, we think that legal enforcement is much more important than the current focus on compensation and payments.”
Müller and his colleagues suggest specific measures for addressing each of the causes of deforestation, rather than one policy to fit all. They summarise “priority measures” to reduce deforestation in the Bolivian lowlands in a table (click on the image for a larger version):
The conclusion of the report is also worth quoting at length:
The Bolivian example suggests that if resources are available for deforestation reduction, within or beyond REDD+, these resources should be used primarily to strengthen institutions that control, monitor, and enforce existing legislation on land use…
Last but not least, tropical deforestation must also be tackled within the global economic context. Not only in Bolivia, but also in other countries with heavy tropical deforestation such as Brazil and Indonesia, the export of agricultural commodities is a major driving force of forest conversion. Therefore, successful deforestation reduction depends strongly on joint efforts on the international level of producers and consumers of products coming from forest clear-cuts.
A combination of the Bolivian government’s rejection of REDD as a carbon trading mechanism with analysis of the causes of deforestation such as that by Müller and colleagues would be a genuine alternative to REDD.