Unfortunately, money does not grow on trees.
This is especially important, when you consider that the majority of the world’s remaining forested areas are in developing countries. In fact, in the short term, it would probably cost these countries millions of dollars in losses just to protect these forests for the rest of us.
That is why the latest round of U.N. climate negotiations currently underway in Durban plan to throw heaps of money and roll-out a performance-based market mechanism aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation known as REDD (now known as REDD+) from 2012 onwards.
In other words, the U.N. has decided to help pay developing countries to protect their forests. And Australia has gotten right behind it.
Australia has set up a $200 million International Forest Carbon Initiative to support REDD+ and 2009, Australia pushed the UNFCCC to ensure that REDD+ and similar carbon market mechanisms are included in any post-Kyoto agreement.
This is welcome news but it is becoming clearer that for many of the 90 million indigenous peoples living and depending on forest resources for their livelihood and cultural heritage it is more of a threat than salvation.
Since its integration within the UNFCCC, indigenous organisations such as the Indigenous Environment Network and the Forest Peoples Programme have warned that because of a lack of participation, planning and consultation with and by Indigenous peoples, REDD+ developments have actually disempowered Indigenous peoples around the world.
For many analysts, this disempowerment stems from the institutional construction and multilateral implementation of REDD+. As a UN program, REDD+ largely occurs on a UN-to-country, and country-to-UN funding and feedback basis which largely excludes indigenous representatives.
The two organisations facilitating this program, UN-REDD and the World Bank, have also critically failed to engage indigenous peoples in the designation and development of conservation sites.
Specifically, Forest Peoples Programme have argued that the constitution and design of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility fails to meet even existing standards on indigenous rights, such as those upheld by the Convention on Biological Diversitysigned by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
Even more concerning are the numerous of reports of violent abuses of indigenous land and cultural rights by REDD+ style projects supported by the Australian government and business sector.
In July 2010, two potential REDD+ programs in Papua New Guinea applied for preliminary approval under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, which will be key to REDD+ approval in the future. Since this time, both of these projects have been discredited due to malpractice, a number of government officials involved are currently under investigation, and there have been reports of violence and intimidation used against Indigenous leaders to sign over the carbon rights to forests.
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