The REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) mechanism and its subsequent expanded version, REDD+, which encompasses monoculture tree plantations, form part of the “market-based” strategies for confronting climate change that we consider to be false solutions, since they do not address the true causes of the problem. The basic concept behind REDD is that governments, or the owners or concession-holders (companies, big NGOs) of forests in the South, should be compensated for keeping the forests standing, instead of cutting the trees down. This mechanism, in addition to converting carbon into a commodity, has a series of connotations with regard to the rights of indigenous peoples and other local communities over the forests, as well as their access to them.
In spite of this, REDD+ projects continue to move forwards, with a great deal of money involved. Part of the process for participating in REDD is the formulation of a Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP). This is a document in which countries outline the framework of actions (types of studies and preparations, their implementation, terms of reference or work) which will allow them to be “ready” to participate in REDD+ financial incentive schemes. The guidelines for R-PP documents were developed by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), which is implemented by the World Bank to promote REDD+ projects. Once again, the World Bank is playing an active role in the growing commodification of nature, in this case the climate, by facilitating the mobilization of large sums of money and enabling financial investments and stock market transactions.
In El Salvador, the government has submitted a REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal to the FCPF, meeting opposition from Salvadoran social organizations and academics, who publicly outlined their arguments against the R-PP.
In a report entitled “Los esquemas de REDD-plus en El Salvador: Perfil bajo, disfraces benevolentes y mercantilización de ecosistemas y territorios” (REDD-plus schemes in El Salvador: Low profile, benevolent disguises and commodification of ecosystems and territories) (1), researchers Yvette Aguilar, Maritza Erazo and Francisco Soto – who have been monitoring the Salvadoran government’s participation in the REDD+ mechanism – explain that this mechanism will enable “the buying and selling of carbon bonds directly on the carbon markets or through intermediary funds, such as the FCPF Carbon Fund, to offset emissions in developed countries. This approach is aimed at the commodification of nature through the commercialization of the carbon stored in ecosystems and territories on which indigenous, rural and peasant farmer communities depend for their survival.”
The report states that the proposal contains serious conceptual errors and technical-scientific flaws that are unacceptable even under the lax criteria of the FCPF, as a result of which the REDD+ proposal would make the country even more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
On May 15, a number of social organizations sent an open letter to the FCPF coordinator (2) in which they expressed their concern over and opposition to the R-PP, requesting that it not be approved, in view of the fact that El Salvador has established “neither a National Climate Change Strategy nor an open, transparent and participatory official process.” They further denounce that the R-PP has serious conceptual and methodological flaws, and that if it were approved by the FCPF, it would have negative impacts on the Salvadoran population, increasing their vulnerability to and the frequency of natural disasters, while delaying the fulfilment of urgent national and international commitments to combat climate change.
The organizations also demanded “that any consultation process that takes place in our country around REDD must be organized and promoted so as to be transparent, informed and genuinely participatory, based on the best knowledge available and any international commitments assumed.” This demand responds to the fact that the process for the design and drafting of the R-PP was carried out by the authorities behind closed doors, with little transparency and without consulting “the relevant actors and sectors, some of which have already put forward proposals for policies and measures to confront climate change.”
The Salvadoran civil society organizations signing the letter expressed their outright rejection of the R-PP and the process through which it was formulated, and stressed that it has “neither the scientific-technical backing nor the social legitimacy to guarantee its acceptance and successful implementation by the relevant actors, and particularly the populations most vulnerable to climate change and climate variability, among which indigenous communities, peasant farming communities, communities that depend on forest systems, economically disadvantaged women and marginalized rural and urban populations play a predominant role.”
In addition, the 23 indigenous organizations and communities that make up the Salvadoran National Indigenous Coordinating Council (CCNIS) also sent an open letter to the FCPF (3) to express their support for the civil society organizations and their shared opposition to the government’s proposal. The letter states that the R-PP “does not consider or incorporate the concerns or needs of the indigenous peoples of El Salvador in terms of climate change impacts and adaptation, and the process for its drafting lacked the prior, free and informed consultation with these peoples required by international law on indigenous rights. Although the R-PP submitted by the MARN (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources) includes a section on the indigenous peoples of El Salvador, its content disregards the progress made in international law on indigenous rights and the commitments that this entails for national governments.”
The CCNIS further warns that “the negative impacts of climate change in El Salvador are increasing and causing damages and losses in our indigenous communities, whose homes, crops and means of livelihood have been reduced, deteriorated or destroyed, and negative effects on health, food security and income can already be observed. Climate change is even further limiting their rights in terms of access and use of the land in the territories where they live and carry out their livelihood, spiritual and cultural activities. The R-PP proposal does not consider these negative impacts in any way, nor does it consider the proposals that we as indigenous peoples can contribute to the country for the formulation of a National Climate Change Strategy and Plan and a National Adaptation Plan.”
The CCNIS letter stresses that “many of the policies and measures adopted for the mitigation of the causes of climate change constitute threats to indigenous peoples and could increase their vulnerability and lessen their possibilities for adaptation. Like biofuels, REDD-plus schemes have been seriously questioned by our indigenous peoples, because of the serious negative impacts they could have on us, particularly by increasing restrictions on access to the land and its resources, and facilitating the large-scale plunder of our indigenous territories. In order to prevent these impacts, indigenous peoples have fought for the incorporation of specific safeguards in all policies, programmes, regulations and agreements that affect us, so as to ensure respect for our specific rights.”
The government of El Salvador has not ratified Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, which is for now the only international legal instrument that grants indigenous peoples the internationally validated right to their own territory, culture and language. Even so, it could receive funding to implement a REDD project which would involve forest communities so directly that it would clearly expose the lack of guarantees for the respect of their rights in these transactions.
For more information see http://wrm.org.uy/countries/ElSalvador.html#info
This article is based on:
(1) “Los esquemas de REDD-plus en El Salvador: Perfil bajo, disfraces benevolentes y mercantilización de ecosistemas y territorios”, Yvette Aguilar, email:firstname.lastname@example.org, Maritza Erazo, email: email@example.com, Francisco Soto, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, San Salvador, El Salvador, July 17, 2012, sent by Francisco Soto.
(2) Letter from Salvadoran civil society organizations to the World Bank FCPF, available at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/paises/ElSalvador/Carta_FCPF-RPP-SLV-15May2012.pdf
(3) Letter from the Salvadoran National Indigenous Coordinating Council (CCNIS) to the World Bank FCPF, available at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/paises/ElSalvador/