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NO REDD in Africa Network opposes inclusion of REDD offsets in California’s cap-and-trade scheme

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On 22 April 2013, the No REDD in Africa Network sent a letter to Jerry Brown, Governor of California, opposing the inclusion of REDD offsets in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB-32.

The No REDD in Africa Network was set up in March 2013 at the World Social Forum in Tunis. The letter focusses on the issue of land grabs for REDD, particularly in Africa. This type of green grabbing was the focus of a recent issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies. The letter comments that,

In Africa, REDD+ is not just a false solution to climate change but is emerging as a new form of colonialism, economic subjugation and a driver of land grabs so massive that they may constitute a continent grab.

The letter also raises the issue that REDD allows oil companies, such as Shell and Chevron, to greenwash their image and avoid making reductions in emissions.

The letter is posted in full below:

NO REDD in Africa Network

Earth Day, April 22, 2013
Maputo, Mozambique

Dear People of the State of California;
Dear Honorable Jerry Brown, Governor of California;
Dear Mary Nichols, Chairman, California Air Resources Board;
Dear Ashley Conrad-Saydah, Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy, California Environmental Protection Agency;
Dear Arsenio Mataka, Subsecretary for Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs, California Environmental Protection Agency;
Dear La Ronda Bowen,Ombudsman, California Environmental Protection Agency;

The No REDD in Africa Network writes you to express our adamant rejection of the inclusion of REDD in the State of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32.

Outraged by the rampant land grabs and neocolonialism of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest degradation), Africans at the World Social Forum in Tunisia on March 28, 2013 took the historic decision to unite against REDD colonialism and to join the global movement against REDD by launching the No REDD in Africa Network.

As you know, REDD+ is a carbon offset mechanism whereby the State of California is already using forests as supposed sponges for its pollution instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at source.

Major California polluters like oil giants Chevron[1] and Shell[2], which have caused horrific destruction in Africa, and in the case of Shell, the ecocide of the Ogoni environment, are already doing REDD to greenwash their image and shirk their responsibility to cut emissions. Despite being renowned for its environmentalism, the State of California, by doing REDD, becomes an accomplice to climate criminals and flagrant violators of human rights like Shell and Chevron.

In Africa, REDD+ is not just a false solution to climate change but is emerging as a new form of colonialism, economic subjugation and a driver of land grabs so massive that they may constitute a continent grab.[3] REDD-type initiatives to try and grab 30% of the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo[4] and almost 20% of the total surface area of Mozambique[5] have been detected. We launched the No REDD in Africa Network to defend the continent from precisely the carbon colonialism that the State of California is proposing.

In the UN-REDD Framework Document, the United Nations itself admits that REDD could result in the “lock-up of forests,” “loss of land” and “new risks for the poor.”[6]

As the UN predicted, in Africa, REDD and forest carbon projects are already resulting in “loss of land” in the form of massive evictions, as well as “new risks for the poor” in the form of servitude, slavery, persecutions and killings.

REDD originally just included forests but its scope has been expanded to include soils and agriculture. Members of the La ViaCampesina, the world’s largest peasant movement, are concerned that REDD projects in Africa could threaten food security and could eventually cause hunger.

A recent Via Campesina study on the N’hambita REDD project in Mozambique found that thousands of farmers were paid meager amounts for seven years for tending trees, but that because the contract is for 99 years, if the farmer dies his or her children and their children must tend the trees for free.[7] This constitutes carbon slavery. Nonetheless, the N’hambita project was celebrated by the UN on the website for Rio+20, the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro last year.[8] The last thing Africa needs is a new form of slavery.

According the The New York Times, over 22,000 farmers with land deeds were violently evicted for a REDD-type project in 2011 and Friday Mukamperezida, an eight-year-old boy was killed when his home was burned to the ground.[9]

REDD is already contributing to the persecution and criminalization of activists, including in Cross River State, Nigeria where the State of California intends to have REDD projects. Odey Oyama, Executive Director of the Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC) in Cross River State, Nigeria suffered police harassment and intimidation and had to flee his home for several weeks in the months of January and February 2013 for opposing REDD activities (aimed at extracting more forest estates from indigenous communities) and other similar land grab operations (e.g. for large scale plantation farming). “One of the activities placing me in confrontation with the Cross River State Government of Nigeria is my stand against the REDD programme. My reason for rejecting the REDD programme is because it is geared towards taking over the last vestiges of community forest that exist in Cross River State of Nigeria,” denounced Mr. Oyama.

In other parts of Africa, REDD is exacerbating threats to the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. Despite Amnesty International’s recommendation to “stop immediately the practice of forced evictions,”[10] as Kenya’s Mau Forest is made “ready” for a UNEP-funded REDD+ project, members of the Ogiek People continue to suffer violent evictions, and Ogiek activists are attacked for protesting land grabs.[11] Minority Rights Group International includes the Ogiek People in their list of “Peoples Under Threat” from genocide, mass killings or violent repression[12] and this latest wave of evictions could threaten the cultural survival of the Ogiek People.

According to “The DRC Case Study: The impacts of carbon sinks of Ibi-Batéké Project on the Indigenous Pygmies of the Democratic Republic of Congo” published by the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests, Batwa Pygmies suffer “servitude”[13] on the World Bank Ibi-Batéké Carbon Sink Plantation.[14] An employee of the project says “this must not be understood…as if it were slavery.”[15] This REDD-type forest carbon plantation for fuel wood and charcoal is the DRC’s first Clean Development Projectand claims to contribute to sustainable[16] development and climate change mitigation. However, Pygmy leaders have repeatedly denounced the World Bank for funding deforestation of their ancestral forests which not only releases emissions but also violates their rights, leads to the destruction of their livelihood and causes social conflict.[17] Furthermore, according to “Advance Guard” published by the United Nations University,[18] “Indigenous Peoples’ rights, experiences, and cultural and spiritual traditions are being ignored. Nothing to ensure the Pygmy’s preliminary consent, which was mandated within the framework of the project, has been done since consultation began.”

The People of Africa appeal to Californians, Governor Jerry Brown and the California Air Resource Board to heed our plead and reject REDD. California, make the historic decision to stop REDD, a false solution to climate change, in in its tracks. Do not let your misguided attempts to cut pollution cause land grabs and human rights violations in Africa. We are counting on you to see the light.

Sincerely,

Nnimmo Bassey
Co-Founder of the No REDD in Africa Network
Alternative Nobel Prize Laureate
Executive Director of HOME, Nigeria
Tel: +234 803 7274395
Email:

Anabela Lemos
Director of JA ! Justiça Ambiental!/Friends of the Earth Mozambique
Rua Marcono 110, 1st floor
Tel : +258 21 496668
Email:

SEND TO
The Honorable Jerry Brown, Governor of California
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
c/o: Clifford Rechtschaffen, Senior Advisor

Mary Nichols
Chairman, California Air Resources Board
1001 I Street, Sacramento, California 95812

Ashley Conrad-Saydah
Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy
California Environmental Protection Agency
1001 I Street, Sacramento, California 95812

ArsenioMataka
Subsecretary for Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs
California Environmental Protection Agency
1001 I Street, Sacramento, California 95812

La Ronda Bowen
Ombudsman
California Environmental Protection Agency
1001 I Street, Sacramento, California 95812

Jason A. Gray
Staff Counsel, California Air Resources Board
1001 I Street, Sacramento, California 95812


[1] PBS/Frontline World, Carbon Watch, Centre for Investigative Journalism http://to.pbs.org/usTcsZ
REDD Monitor, Injustice on the carbon frontier in Guaraqueçaba, Brazil http://bit.ly/2g2Q0L
Mother Jones, GM’s Money Trees http://bit.ly/tqqtSN
National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC, Fall 2011
Conversations with the Earth, http://bit.ly/thxogc
World Rainforest Movement, Forest carbon project in Paraná, Brazil: Reduction of deforestation and persecution of local communities http://bit.ly/YunpvJ

[2] Shell to buy 500,000 California forest carbon credits http://bit.ly/15g0zen
REDD Monitor, (2010) Shell REDD project slammed by Indigenous Environmental Network and Friends of the Earth Nigeria http://bit.ly/bEXM9j

[3] According to Point Carbon, “The mere prospect of deforestation credits being recognized in a new US climate bill has been enough to spark a REDD land grab in Central Africa.” Point Carbon, Firms Targets US Buyers with African REDD credits, 20 July 2009 http://bit.ly/15g0I1v

[4] Democratic Republic of Congo: “Lars Ekman, a senior adviser in NORAD, has spent 10 years in Africa including two years in Kinshasha where he supported and facilitated PwC’s November 2011 corruption report. At a seminar in Norway in 2012, Ekman told the following story to show that “corruption threats are very real” for REDD in DR Congo: “One Sunday morning in Kinshasa, I was asked by a person to come and meet him and pick up a brown envelope. There was no money in there, but a very interesting document that this person wanted to have action upon. It was a draft contract between a known businessman in Kinshasa and the government, the Ministry of Forestry and Environment. The contract proposal was a 25 year monopoly right to market carbon offsets from an area of 50 million hectares, which is about one-third of the forest area of Congo.”’ http://bit.ly/17DdmVS

[5] AlertNet Isilda Nhamtumbo Senior Researcher, Forest Team, Natural Resources Group, September 27, 2011 “REDD+ is now driving a race for land in Mozambique.”

[6] UN-REDD Framework Document, http://bit.ly/13bfylm, p. 4-5
A Poverty Environment Partnership (PEP) Policy Brief, Based on the report “Making REDD Work for the Poor”, (Peskett et al, 2008) http://bit.ly/10bUvvK PEP includes UNDP, UNEP, IUCN, OCI, SIDA, ADB, DFID, WCMC
For footnotes and complete textual citations of UN documents: See Earth Peoples http://bit.ly/109etq6 REDD Brochure

[7] Mozambique: Carbon Trading and REDD+: farmers ‘grow’ carbon for the benefit of polluters: http://bit.ly/137fwfa
REDD Monitor Envirotrade’s carbon trading project in Mozambique: “The N’hambita experiment has failed” http://bit.ly/LeA5zj

[8] Rio+20 United Nations Commission on sustainable Development
http://bit.ly/Yuo3JN

[9] The Guardian, (2011) Ugandan farmer: ‘My land gave me everything. Now I’m one of the poorest’ http://bit.ly/njik1U
The Wall Street Journal, (2011) African Land Acquisitions Comes Under Scrutiny http://on.wsj.com/v022iD
New York Times, (2011) In Uganda, Losing Land to Planted Trees – Slide Show http://nyti.ms/114CXIn
New York Times, In Scramble for Land, Group Says, Company Pushed Ugandans Out http://nyti.ms/ueK00N
REDD Monitor, Ugandan farmers kicked off their land for New Forests Company’s carbon project http://bit.ly/n3AuEM

[10] Amnesty International: Kenya: Nowhere to Go: Forced Evictions in Mau Forest“Incidents of forced evictions have been reported in different areas of the Mau Forest since 2004, affecting thousands of families.” http://bit.ly/18jYpsV

[11] See: International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs (2011), Kenya’s ‘Forest People’ in Bitter Fight for their Ancestral Homes, April 15 2011.
Minority Rights Group International (2011), Minority Rights Group Condemns Targeted Attacks on Ogiek Activists, March 7, 2011.
First Peoples International (2011), In new Kenya, old guard ‘land-grabbers’ attack key leaders -Ogiek land activists survive assaults.
Interim Coordinating Secretariat, Office of the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government of Kenya, Rehabilitation of the Mau Forest Ecosystem.
Los Angeles Times (2010), Kenyan tribe slowly driven off its ancestral lands.
Survival International (2010), Kenyan tribe’s houses torched in Mau Forest eviction 8 April 2010.
REDD Monitor (2009), Ogiek threatened with eviction from Mau Forest. http://bit.ly/3dKQq0

[12] The Standard http://bit.ly/109f0Z9

[13] International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests, “Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change: Vulnerabilities, Adaptation, and Responses to Mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol,” (2007) Makelo, S., “The DRC Case Study: the impacts of carbon sinks of Ibi-Batéké Project on the indigenous Pygmies of the Democratic Republic of Congo” p.45-74 especially 62-64 http://bit.ly/122MHQ9
The human rights violations against Pygmies are grave throughout the country. See “Pygmies beg UN for aid to save them from Congo cannibals” http://thetim.es/114Dqdo

[14] World Bank “DRC IbiBateke Carbon Sink Plantation” http://bit.ly/18Djs7e
World Bank documents claim no Indigenous Peoples affected on pages 4 and 8 http://bit.ly/109fcY6
Four million dollar investment from World Bank Carbon Finance: http://bit.ly/122MUmr
Forest Carbon Inventory Project http://bit.ly/15g1oUx

[15] International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests, “Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change: Vulnerabilities, Adaptation, and Responses to Mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol,” (2007) Makelo, S., “The DRC Case Study: the impacts of carbon sinks of Ibi-Batéké Project on the indigenous Pygmies of the Democratic Republic of Congo” p.64 http://bit.ly/122MHQ9

[16] Reuters: World Bank to buy carbon credit from Congo Project http://reut.rs/16CRZ93

[17] World Bank Inspection Panel – Request for Inspection from Pygmy Organization for harm caused by World Bank funding to forestry sector in DRC http://bit.ly/17DeEjq

[18] McLean, Kristy Gallowy, “Advance Guard, Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, Mitigation and Indigenous Peoples”, p.45 http://bit.ly/15g1uvq

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  1. How surprising that an organization called the “NO REDD in Africa Network” would oppose the inclusion of REDD offsets in California’s climate-change regime. And how surprising as well that they would back their opposition with hearsay, innuendo, and guilt by association.

    First, they bring up that cartoonish and unfounded blab about how “REDD+ is not just a false solution to climate change but is emerging as a new form of colonialism, economic subjugation and a driver of land grabs so massive that they may constitute a continent grab.” And, instead of referencing REDD projects that actually exist, like the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya , they go on about projects that don’t exist or never will.

    The “REDD-type initiatives to try and grab 30% of the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo”, for example, actually referred to an off-the cuff remark by Lars Ekman, who was red-flagging a particularly sleazy pseudo-REDD proposal that was kicking around the DRC. Ekman is the Senior Advisor for Climate, Clean Energy, and Natural Resources at the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), and he was speaking to REDD advocates about what could happen if REDD moves forward without proper safeguards. No one argues against this, because such safeguards are a cornerstone of REDD. The proposal never caught traction among REDD practitioners, and proposals like that never will, because they violate the basic principles of free, prior, and informed consent in which REDD is built. Ekman clarified his position on this site, and anyone who continues to cite his original out-of-context remark is being intellectually dishonest – and intentionally, unforgivably so.

    The same paragraph mentions something about “almost 20% of the total surface area of Mozambique”, but actually links to an editorial – not a research paper nor even a piece of news, but an editorial – that cites what appear to be real abuses by sugar growers and soybean producers, and then extrapolates this to REDD. The author is offering a cautionary tale – one that REDD advocates have long ago taken to heart.

    Indeed, every one of these links in this piece that I followed brings us to a social ill with which REDD has nothing to do, or to which REDD can provide a solution. Take the allegation that New Forests kicked 20,000 farmers off their land. Well, first of all, this wasn’t a REDD project; it was a tree farm. Second, according to the document itself, New Forests didn’t kick anyone off of any land; the government did.

    New Forests itself offers an explanation that seems quite plausible. They say the government was clamping down on farmers who lived elsewhere but were going into forest reserves in Namwasa and Luwunga to chop down trees, graze cattle, and plant crops in unsustainable ways that were degrading the forest. That explanation makes sense, because this dynamic has degraded land across Africa, and the results have been devastating for the local economies. This is a sticky problem, and one that I’m sure the authors know well, given their background and location. (Indeed, WWF and CARE have initiated a promising payments for watershed services program in Kenya that is counteracting this dynamic.) Again, I haven’t investigated the Ugandan case directly, but I have found New Forests to be credible in the past. The company says Oxfam is exaggerating by more than 10,000 the number of squatters who were removed from the forest, and it also says that those farmers who did have legal title to the land got to stay. More importantly, it says that at least 16,000 jobs were created. Finally, New Forests says that its presence made the process of eviction more transparent and consultative than it would have been otherwise – another claim that makes sense, given past evictions in both Kenya and Uganda. By all appearances, what we have here is a good organization trying to offer a viable solution to a difficult problem, and getting taken to task for not performing miracles.

    Obviously, in a perfect world, farmers would be able to chop forests ad infinitum and industry would be able to crank out planes, trains, and automobiles to every heart’s content. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in the real world, and the real world requires real – not perfect – solutions. That’s what REDD offers. Indeed, where REDD has been implemented, it works by providing alternative livelihoods for farmers who would otherwise be chopping down trees. That’s what’s happening in the Kasigua corridor, and it’s what’s happening with scores of other REDD projects that the authors have chosen to ignore in favor of made-up bogeymen that exist only in their imagination.

  2. PS, I started digging into the Ugandan incident above, and learned that the New Forests Company referenced above is based in the United Kingdom and operates in Africa and has no relation to New Forests Pty Ltd (New Forests), which is an Australian company active mostly in Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and the US. The Australian company has done a lot of great work in forest carbon, and I have come to trust them over the years, but am not as familiar with the UK company. The above points still stand — the project was not a REDD project, and the company posted what appears to be a plausible explanation. I will, however, back off of my statement that “I have found New Forests to be credible in the past”, because it is a different company than the one I have dealt with. I don’t know if they are credible or not, but I do know this is not a REDD project.

  3. “The mere prospect of deforestation credits being recognized in a new US climate bill has been enough to spark a REDD land grab in Central Africa.” Point Carbon, Firms Targets US Buyers with African REDD credits, 20 July 2009 http://www.pointcarbon.com/news/1.1166150
    Massive carbon scam alleged in Liberia: “Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf established a commission investigate a proposed forest carbon credit deal between the West African nation’s Forest Development Authority (FDA) and UK-based Carbon Harvesting Corporation, reports Global Witness… which aimed to secure around a fifth of Liberia’s total forest area — 400,000 hectares — in a forest
    carbon concession. Police in London arrested Mike Foster, CEO of Carbon Harvesting Corporation, last week.” http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0610-carbon_scam_liberia.html