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Two very different views on the Warsaw REDD deal from Indigenous Peoples organisations

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Reactions to the Warsaw REDD deal are still coming in. Here are two very different reactions from two Indigenous Peoples organisations. The first, from the Indigenous Peoples Biocultural Climate Change Assessment Initiative (IPCCA), is critical. The second, from the Tebtebba Foundation, is optimistic.

On its website, IPCCA argues that current mitigation and adaptation measures to climate change do not address the local realities of Indigenous Peoples’ biocultural systems. Although Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge and cultural practice are recognised under the Convention on Biodiversity and the UNFCCC, “frameworks for assessing the impact of climate change on communities and building adaptation strategies do not recognize indigenous worldviews and practice”.

And IPCCA explains that, “The IPCCA has emerged out of the participation of indigenous organisations and leaders in key international processes related to climate change and indigenous peoples such as the UNFCCC and the CBD.”

Here is IPCCA’s response to the REDD decisions that came out of Warsaw:

REDD+ Agreement In Warsaw Threatens Indigenous Livelihoods

 
IPCCA, 3 December 2013
 
Climate negotiators have finished their work last month in Warsaw with minor agreements but no breakthroughs on an agreement that would avert catastrophic climate change.
 
One of the areas of greatest consensus in Warsaw was the agreement reached on the United Nations Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program, aiming to quantify the environmental value of forests, giving forest nations cash credit for preserving the ecosystems that help keep carbon out of the atmosphere.
 
Deforestation causes 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. While forests are obviously vital for a healthy planet, REDD+ may be no more than a hollow solution to deforestation. It also presents a threat to the indigenous forest communities that make up part of IPCCA.
 
In 2011, IPCCA members issued a declaration in opposition to REDD+ and the livelihood threats that its implementation would cause in indigenous communities.
 
REDD+ doesn’t adequately respect the indigenous communities who live and manage the forestland REDD+ is designed to protect. “REDD+ locks up forests, blocking access and customary use of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to their forests,” IPCCA members stated.
 
Moreover, by providing cash credit for preserved forests, it’s likely that REDD+ will sharply increase their market value, amplifying the vulnerability of indigenous communities to land speculators.
 
During the negotiation process, there has been some acknowledgement of these concerns. The result is a proposal for “safeguards,” regulations to prevent the harms associated with REDD+ while maintaining its emissions-reduction potential. These rules include protections for indigenous peoples and local communities, safeguards for biodiversity and improvements in governance.
 
The agreement on REDD+ in Warsaw states that nations must report on how they are meeting safeguards, but doesn’t elaborate on how the reporting will take place. IPCCA argues that such rules will not protect indigenous communities. Governments will ensure that the safeguards simply appear to be followed. As Simone Lovera of the Global Forest Coalition wrote:
 

    “Countries are more or less free to provide any kind of information according to any kind of system they want, with only some vague principles and a rather non-sensical verification system to guide them.”

 
Neither were there any real advances in Warsaw on the non-carbon benefits of forests. Civil society has grown more aware of their importance, but negotiations are still focused on monetizing non-carbon benefits for their incorporation into REDD+.
 
The problems for REDD+ might be even more fundamental, though. Forest conservation is desirable, but not if it’s just an excuse to pollute more elsewhere. According to the declaration: “The drivers of forest loss and forestland grabbing will not be addressed by REDD+. Governments that are elaborating REDD+ policies are also promoting economic sectors such as cattle ranching, bio-energy, mining, oil exploration and agro-industrial monocultures that, ironically, are the main drivers of forest loss.”
 
“REDD+ is a market-based approach through which outside actors try to commodify what is sacred to Indigenous peoples,” the declaration stated. Instead, the global climate regime could stand to learn a thing or two from the non-market approaches of indigenous peoples, who have been effective environmental stewards for centuries. Protecting indigenous territory has been shown to be an effective forest conservation method in itself. IPCCA representatives will continue to educate both parties and observers on the benefits of traditional knowledge and local governance for reducing deforestation and forest degradation when IPCCA members return to negotiations next year in Lima.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is the director of the Tebtebba Foundation, an Indigenous Peoples international research and policy centre, based in the Philippines. She also convenes the Indigenous Peoples Global Network on Climate Change and Forests.

She was part of the Philippine delegation for the REDD negotiations at COP19 in Warsaw. In an interview with RTCC during the negotiations, Tauli-Corpuz responded as follows to a question about the risks of REDD making indigenous peoples’ forests valuable to others:

Yes, in fact that’s precisely the reason why we decided to engage actively in this process, because we feel that with the role that forests will play in climate change, everybody is interested to go into our communities and be the ones who will be receiving such benefits to the detriment of indigenous peoples. And secondly, we also fear that governments will not recognise our rights to our territories and also to carbon. And then we will be deprived of those possibilities to be able to manage and continue using our protection systems over our forests.
 
That is the reason why we wanted to make sure that the REDD agreement will contain references to the need to protect our rights and also our knowledge, as well as to ensure that we benefit from the incentives being provided for REDD plus and that we are also fully participating in any decision-making process that will talk about REDD plus policies and programmes.

In a statement on its website, Tebtebba explains that the Warsaw decisions on Loss and Damage and REDD are “good building blocks to build upon for the coming years”. (The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage is aimed at getting rich countries to provide expertise and perhaps aid to countries impacted by climate change. No one at COP19 committed any money towards loss and damage.)

The following are Tebtebba’s comments about the REDD decisions that came out of Warsaw (the full statement, including comments on loss and damage is available on Tebtebba’s website):

Indigenous Leaders Count Gains from UN Climate Change Meet

 
By Maurice Malanes, Tebtebba, 6 December 2013
 
“Some quarters make doom and gloom predictions every time a COP (Conference of Parties) of the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) takes place. But this time, there were a few good developments,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, executive director of Tebtebba, a global indigenous peoples’ centre based in the Philippines, pushing for indigenous peoples’ rights and climate justice and equity.
 
[ . . . ]
 
A convenor of the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Partnership on Climate Change and Forests, Tauli-Corpuz along with lawyer Alaya de Leon of the Ateneo School of Government (ASOG) and Alejandrino Sibucao, Jr. of the Forest Management Bureau (FMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) were part of the Philippine negotiators who dealt with REDD Plus.
 
REDD Plus refers to “Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries,” one of the UNFCCC’s broad range of actions.
 
[ . . . ]
 
Tauli-Corpuz cited seven decisions on the REDD Plus. One of these includes the work program on “results-based” REDD Plus finance in which the Conference of Parties reaffirmed and recognized the need to provide “adequate and predictable” financial and technology support to developing countries that aim to slow, halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss.
 
This decision agrees that developing country Parties seeking to obtain and receive results-based payments should provide the most recent summary of information on how all the REDD plus safeguards have been addressed and respected before they can receive results-based payments.
 
(What are some common elements that define results-based payments? A few elements: unit is ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, there is a reference level, performance assessed against a baseline with corresponding payment, and a common concept of monitoring, review and verification.)
 
This COP decision also decides that an information hub will be established which will include information on the results of REDD Plus activities and corresponding results-based payments. This hub will include, among others, the assessed forest reference emission levels and/or forest reference levels expressed in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year and a summary of information on how all of the safeguards are being addressed and respected.
 
The decision also recognizes the importance of “incentivising” (or giving incentives to) non-carbon benefits or the multiple functions of forests (ensuring steady supply of water, biodiversity conservation, forest-based livelihoods, poverty alleviation, etc.) for the long term sustainability of REDD Plus. Decisions adopted in the Doha 18th COP called on Parties to make submissions by 2014, which will elaborate on what are non-carbon benefits and how to “incentivise” these and non-market approaches for REDD Plus implementation.
 
Another was the Philippines interpretative statement on the third preambular paragraph on the decision on drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. It clarified that traditional livelihoods of indigenous peoples such as rotational farming do not destroy forests.
 
The Philippines said that many of the remaining tropical forests in the world are found in indigenous communities because they persisted in strengthening and using their “sustainable traditional forest knowledge, management and governance systems.”
 
This interpretative statement clarifying that traditional livelihoods do not drive deforestation and forest degradation was supported by Mexico (on behalf of the Environment Integrity Group), Brazil, The Netherlands (for the European Union) and Australia (for the Umbrella Group).
 
Strongly supporting the statement were indigenous peoples’ organizations under the IIPFCC (International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change) and other NGOs.
 
Tauli-Corpuz cited other decisions such as the “modalities” for measuring, reporting and verifying anthropogenic forest-related emissions by sources and removals by sinks, forest carbon stocks, and forest area changes resulting from REDD Plus implementation. Guidelines on how to make these transparent and consistent over time were included in an Annex.
 
Almost 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, which, scientists say, cause climate change, come from deforestation, forest degradation and conversion of forestlands into other uses, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
 
But all these efforts need money and the 19th Conference of Parties in Warsaw is credited for assuring financing for the REDD Plus program. “It remains to be seen whether these decisions will truly allow REDD Plus to be fully implemented,” said Tauli-Corpuz.
 
She hopes that this package of decisions will finally put a stop to deforestation and forest degradation and she linked this to the recent catastrophe in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan. “If REDD Plus results into the rehabilitation and regeneration of mangrove and coastal forests in an archipelagic country like the Philippines and protect the indigenous peoples and environment from potential REDD Plus-related social and environmental risks, then all those long days and sleepless nights of negotiating this package will be worthwhile,” she said.
 
There could have been better gains in Warsaw for indigenous peoples. “But what can one expect of a global process which needs to accommodate conflicting interests of 193 Parties?” she asked.
 
Still, she said, getting loss and damage and REDD Plus decisions in place, are “good building blocks to build upon for the coming years.”

 

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