Document published in "Leyes, políticas y economía verde al servicio del despojo de los pueblos" (Laws, policies and green economy at the expense of communities dispossession) special compendium of the "Biodiversidad sustento y culturas" (Biodiversity livelihoods and cultures) magazine carried out jointly by Alianza Biodiversidad, World Rainforest Movement (WRM) and Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC) in December 2013.
REDD, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, is the most recent proposal advanced by governments and conservation groups as well as many companies, to supposedly halt forest loss and contribute to avoiding runaway climate change. In many places where REDD projects have appeared, traditional forest use practises have been vilified while the drivers of large-scale deforestation remain unaddressed. Communities have seen access to forests they traditionally use restricted and benefits promised to communities have turned out to be empty promises.
This article looks at one particular forest offset project in the south of Bahia, Brazil, that has been marketed as a pilot project for financing restoration of ‘degraded’ forest through the sale of carbon credits. In addition to the project restoring degraded forest areas, communities in the project region were promised social benefits from the project. The research showed that few of the promised community benefits materialised and ever fewer lasted. In addition, the project ran into difficulties when the national forest law was changed in 2012, reducing restoration obligations on private land owners. As a result, land owners lost interest in providing their land for restoration to the offset project. But the project proponents had already signed an agreement to deliver carbon credits to a cosmetics company based on the assumption that land owners would respond to the incentive the carbon offset project was offering: the project pays private land owners so they will comply with the legal obligation to maintain or restore a certain portion of their land as intact forest. With legal requirements for forest restoration reduced, the carbon project has been unable to find the land needed for generating the offset credits promised in the carbon contract.