REDD+ and Indigenous Peoples

Many of my peers here at COP20 have probably heard the various rantings of me and Heather Morrison about REDD+, and why we believe it is wrong and should be taken out of a future Paris agreement. Because the COP is this year located in Peru, it seems that discussions surrounding REDD+ have taken a much larger public presence, because Peru is a country with mining and other extractive industries, and also Peru has in its country and in neighboring countries populations of indigenous peoples that are highly affected by REDD+. In this post, I will discuss REDD+, and the problems surrounding it.


REDD+ is a climate change mitigation solution that mainly focuses on offsetting carbon emissions by sequestering it in trees in reforested areas. It is a way to combat both deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. The idea is that, because climate change has no boundaries, the location where greenhouse gasses are emitted does not really matter, so if you can take up the same amount of carbon in one location that is emitted in another, you can achieve net zero emissions. At the same time, you would be combatting deforestation, because transnational corporations or governments would finance reforestation projects in other parts of the world with deforestation problems.


REDD+ combats two very important problems: climate change and deforestation, and this seems like a great idea at first. But there are problems with how REDD+ is implemented, and many of those problems start with those people living in the areas that are home to REDD+ projects. Indigenous peoples and local communities are very adversely affected by REDD+. First of all, REDD+ has tried to build various safeguards into it, mainly dealing with getting allowing for indigenous participation in REDD+ governance and respecting indigenous peoples’ rights. But these safeguards are generally not well enforced at all, leading to the eviction of many indigenous and local communities off of their traditional lands, and lands that they rely on for agriculture and livelihoods. Most of the time this eviction is quite violent, with houses being burned down and people being murdered or thrown in jail, all in the name of conservation.


But even if it was possible to strictly enforce the REDD+ safeguards, there would still be the problem that these indigenous traditional lands, lands that should be under the ownership of those that live on them and monitor them, are being privatized, and the peoples living on these lands are being told that they can no longer practice their traditional livelihoods, because the land is now being used as a tree plantation for a specific type of tree which maximizes the sequestration of carbon. Biodiversity is reduced in favor of a monoculture of trees, and traditional agricultural practices, or land clearing for local communities is outlawed, as this would reduce the space available for tree space. The framework of REDD+ naturally causes the privatization of traditional lands and the marginalization of those that live on them.


And REDD+ really just allows transnational corporations and national governments to continue polluting. Financing a REDD+ project in a country means that these organizations don’t have to reduce their own emissions, because they are supposedly offsetting the emissions. And even though the idea that emissions are global and not regional is true, those communities living adjacent to huge power plants or extractive industries don’t really care if a company is offsetting their global emissions or not, because regionally the environment is being negatively affected, causing a degradation in the health of populations and their water quality. Just look at the chemical valley in Canada, or Cerro de Pasco, Peru. Even if governments or corporations are offsetting global emissions, they are still having just as much of a negative impact regionally.


REDD+ should be stopped and indigenous peoples given ownership over their traditional lands, and corporations and governments need to be made to reduce emissions and not just try to offset them in another part of the world. REDD+ has good intentions, but it won’t help to allow for the systemic change really needed to combat climate change. Stop REDD+, and change the system, not the climate.

The Climate Alliance: Linking European Municipalities to Indigenous Amazonians

The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997, was an international agreement by sovereign nation states to commit to legally binding emissions reduction targets. While this was a big step forward for climate change governance, it did not bind all countries in the world to reduce their global emissions, only certain developed countries, because it was argued that developing countries were not responsible for the current problem and did not have the infrastructure to implement mitigation efforts. But in recent years, the GHG emissions of developing countries have surpassed those of developed countries. For example, in 2008 China was the top emitter of any country in the world, with India in third. And the US, the most powerful country and the 2nd largest GHG emitter in the world, did not join the Kyoto Protocol and is not bound by it (Global Emissions). Furthermore, nation-states are often limited as to how directly they are able to influence carbon emissions in their country. Much of the time, it is non-state actors, such as multinational corporations or individual consumers, that most directly influence the amount of carbon emissions (Bulkeley and Newell 8).

As people began to realize some of the failures and limitations of the Kyoto Protocol and the UNFCCC, they began to form non-state organizations and networks working across borders to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Municipalities, provinces and corporations formed various transnational governance organizations and networks to try and influence international governance and promote change at the community level (Bulkeley and Newell 54). One of these transnational networks is the Climate Alliance and was actually formed before the Kyoto Protocol went into effect (Bulkeley and Newell 55). The Climate Alliance has been very effective in advancing its objectives and reaching its goals. It has contributed to the exchange of information about local climate policy, coordinated projects devoted to indigenous rights, and has prompted CO2 emissions reductions in numerous European municipalities (Welcome).

The Climate Alliance, officially called The Climate Alliance of European Cities with Indigenous Rainforest Peoples, was created in 1990 and consists of 1,700 cities, municipalities and districts. It is partnered with the Coordinating Body for the Indigenous Peoples Organization of the Amazon Basin (COICA). COICA represents the interests of indigenous peoples in the functions of the climate alliance (Climate Profile).

The Climate Alliance was formed for the main purpose of supporting indigenous peoples and their rights in the Amazon Basin. The organization goes about this is in a variety of ways, one of which is by calling for ratification of ILO Convention No. 169, an international norm put forth by the International Labor Organization guaranteeing the legally binding protection of the basic rights of indigenous peoples. The alliance also participates in the ad-hoc working group formed at the 4th Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity, which addresses issues surrounding the preservation of “traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples”, and “respect[ing], preserv[ing] and maintain[ing] the sustainable use of biological diversity (What is the ILO?, Convention). European members of The Climate Alliance also bind themselves to certain greenhouse gas emissions reductions, support dialogues among indigenous peoples and governments and corporations, and abstain from the municipal procurement of tropical timber derived from destructive logging, and support other policies and measures for the protection of tropical rainforests and biodiversity (Our Objectives). Also, if the association for whatever reason dissolves, the funds, instead of going to states, serve non-profit purposes and goes to support projects in rainforests (Article 2). In the more political sphere, the Climate Alliance represents member European municipalities in events organized by the European Commission, and also influences decisions made by the EU institutions to strengthen the role of local authorities in climate change policy (European Policy).

In action, The Climate Alliance has been very effective in implementing many of its ideals. It has supported a project for the assembly of mobile solar lamps and modules, which will replace petroleum lamps in the Peruvian rainforest. This will not only help to cut down on CO2 emissions and health problems resulting from the petroleum lamps, but also improve the living conditions of indigenous communities and support renewable sources of energy (Solar Partnerships). Other things the climate alliance has done include representing both European municipalities and indigenous organizations in international forums, such as the UNFCCC, and working to secure indigenous rights surrounding such areas as reforestation measures and providing legal aid for indigenous organizations under attack from logging companies and oil corporations (International Policy, Cooperations and Projects). The most obvious instances of this happening are in Sarayaku, Ecuador, when The Climate Alliance provided legal aid and advice to the community after the government attempted to partition the community’s land between various oil companies. Protests and resistance from the community halted drilling, and there are currently ongoing debates over land and mining rights, although in 1998 the constitutional court recognized that “oil exploitation violated the rights of indigenous peoples” (Sarayaku). In the realm of reforestation, The Climate Alliance has raised awareness in indigenous groups, including COICA, about the dangers of these reforestation efforts, and subsequently disseminated information and held seminars for indigenous peoples to prepare for upcoming climate talks about the issue (Indigene Peoples).

The Climate Alliance also provides an information exchange about tools and recommendations for local climate policy through conferences and publications, and also showcases its members’ achievements in various databases (climate alliance activities). In the realm of CO2 emissions in European municipalities, a lot of good progress has been made. Liepzig, Germany has reduced its tons of C02 emission per resident from 11,315 tons in 1990 to 6,150 tons in 2005, a reduction of almost half. Langenegg, Austria is currently meeting the heating demand of municipal buildings 98.5% through renewable resources (Germany). Other municipalities have made great progress also, and all municipalities in the Climate Alliance have pledged to cut their per capita emissions by half by 2030 (Our Objectives).

In the aftermath of the Kyoto Protocol, many transnational organizations and networks, including The Climate Alliance, sprang up in reaction to perceived failure within the Protocol and the UNFCCC. The Climate Alliance, an organization dedicated to the protection of the world’s climate and indigenous rights in the Amazon Basin, has been effective in advancing its objectives and picking up the slack from international climate governance between nation states. It has protected indigenous communities from destruction by oil corporations and loggers and reduced GHG emissions in both Europe and the Amazon, all while promoting information exchange between municipalities about local climate policy. This shows that transnational networks and organization can be very useful in supporting and informing policy at the local level, which is important because this is one of the most important levels for behavior and policy change to happen. If effective climate policies are wanted, community involvement is necessary, because they are able to work on a more manageable scale and are able to understand local circumstances and obstacles to policy change better than a representative working at the national or international level (Bulkeley and Newell 73).



Works Cited

Bulkeley, Harriet, and Peter Newell. Governing Climate Change. London: Routledge, 2010. Print.

The Climate Alliance. “Article 2: The Purpose of the Association.” Statutes. Proc. of Assemble of 30th March, 1992. Frankfurt Am Main: European Secretariat. Statutes. The Climate Alliance. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

“Climate Alliance: European Policy.” The Climate Alliance. The Climate Alliance, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

“Climate Alliance: Our Profile.” The Climate Alliance. The Climate Alliance, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

“Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).” Indigene: Biodiversity. The Climate Alliance, 9 Aug. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

“Cooperations and Projects.” Indigene: Cooperations and Projects. The Climate Alliance, 9 Aug. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

Germany. German Ministry. German Agency for the Environment. Future Café: Milestones in Local Climate Protection. The Climate Alliance. The Climate Alliance. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.

“Global Emissions.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 9 Sept. 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2014.

“Indigenous Peoples in the International Climate Process.” The Climate Alliance. The Climate Alliance, 9 Aug. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

“International Policy.” Climate Alliance:. The Climate Alliance, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.

“Our Objectives.” Climate Alliance: Our Objectives. The Climate Alliance, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

“The Sarayaku Community Needs Juridical Support.” The Climate Alliance. The Climate Alliance, 9 Aug. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

“Solar Partnerships – Solar Lamps in the Peruvian Rainforest.” Indigene: Solar Lamps. The Climate Alliance, 9 Aug. 2014. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.

“Welcome to the Website of Climate Alliance!” Climate Alliance: Home. The Climate Alliance, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

“What Is the ILO?” Indigene: ILO 169. The Climate Alliance, 9 Aug. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.