Indigenous people fear double climate hit
By Emma Graham-Harrison
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Indigenous people already struggling to cope with a warming world risk losing their homes under rich-world schemes to tackle climate change by using forests as carbon sinks, activists said on Thursday.
Groups that have been custodians of forests for generations fear projects will undermine their ownership of traditional areas, enforce land-grabs by corrupt regimes, encourage more theft, undermine biodiversity and exclude them from management.
And with U.N. talks in Bali close to agreeing guidelines for a pay-and-preserve scheme to tackle deforestation, they warned they are not strong enough to fight the financial interests of the multi-billion dollar carbon trading industry.
"There is concern about the developed world stealing our forests," Fiu Elisana Mata'ese, head of Samoan group the O'le Siosiomaga Society, told Reuters.
"This is an attempt to globally own the resources that are ours. We are concerned indigenous people who have managed forests for generations will not have a say in how they are run."
Under the scheme, called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries (REDD), preservation of forests could become a tradable commodity with the potential to earn poor nations billions of dollars from trading carbon credits.
Scientists say deforestation in the tropics and sub-tropics is responsible for about 20 percent of all man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and preserving what is left of them is crucial because they soak up enormous amounts of the gas.
Many environmentalists hope it could also create refuges for threatened animals and plants. But indigenous groups fear that they will be shut out from ancestral lands by the strict regulations and monitoring needed to earn credits.
Simone Lovera, managing coordinator of Global Forest Coalition, said small projects following a similar model to generate credits for people and firms looking to voluntarily offset emissions have already highlighted problems.
They have cemented indigenous groups' exclusion from the lands taken by force and sold on for REDD programs, she said.
They have also encouraged new land grabs by groups looking to cash in on healthy forests and hit diversity because companies wanting a quick buck create vast single-species plantations of fast-growing trees.
"Indigenous people are victims of climate change and now they are going to become victims of climate change mitigation," she said.
WORLD BANK CONCERNS
The World Bank on Tuesday launched plans for a $300 million fund to help create pilot projects for a wider REDD scheme.
But Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, told the ceremony that indigenous people who had fought to protect the Amazon from ranchers, the Congo Basin from loggers and Indonesian forests from oil palm plantations, had to be included in the process and were still waiting for guarantees they would be.
"We, the indigenous peoples, are the ones who sacrificed life and limb to save these forests that are vital for our survival as distinct peoples and cultures," she said.
"There is a moral and legal imperative that indigenous peoples be truly involved in designing, implementing and evaluating initiatives," she added.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick defended the bank's record, as the noise of protestors outside briefly broke through to the secluded hall, and said the urgent challenge of climate change meant it was important to launch the project now.
(Editing by Alex Richardson)