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New report on human rights violations linked to REDD in Acre, Brazil

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As officials from California EPA and members of the California Air Resources Board attend the United Nations Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru this week, they should consider the negative social and economic impacts of linking California’s carbon markets with forest protection efforts in Acre, Brazil, suggests a new report from the Brazilian Platform for Human, Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights.

Since 2010, California has been negotiating with the Amazonian state of Acre to eventually supply California with international forest offsets, also known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) credits, for its statewide cap-and-trade program.

The report, The Green Economy, Forest Peoples and Territories: Rights Violations in the State of Acre, is the result of three-months of field visits to forest communities in Acre, Brazil. It reveals that Acre’s green economy policies, including both private REDD programs and state-run programs based on similar economic incentives, have tended to exacerbate historical inequities and have in some cases led to violations of the rights of forest-dwelling communities, including both indigenous peoples and traditional communities who make their living harvesting natural latex (known as seringeiros, or “rubber-tappers”).

Dercy Teles de Carvalho Cunha, president of the Rural Workers Union of Xapuri – the union made famous in Brazil when its founder, Chico Mendes, was murdered in 1988 – described the impact of one state-run program, the “Bolsa Verde” initiative, that pays forest dwellers a small monthly stipend in exchange for a commitment not to damage the forest through subsistence activities: “The primary impact of these projects is the loss of all rights that people have as citizens,” said Teles de Carvalho Cunha. “They lose all control of their lands, they can no longer practice traditional agriculture, and they can no longer engage in their everyday activities.”

The report – a 26 page summary of a much larger set of findings to be published in 2015 – finds that REDD projects and similar Payment for Environmental Services (PES) schemes have affected communities’ ability to sustain their livelihoods; have failed to resolve territorial conflicts; and have violated numerous international human rights conventions, such as Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, which Brazil has ratified; as well as national policies such as Brazil’s National Policy for the Sustainable Development of Traditional Peoples and Communities.

In addition, groups that support the demarcation of indigenous territories, but who are critical of Acre’s REDD and PES programs, have been targeted with vandalism and theft  that may be exacerbated by the state’s failure to take protective action. If these acts were related to the groups’ advocacy efforts, the report notes, they indicate a failure of the state to respect and protect political and civil rights.

“Given the serious concerns that have been raised in this report, and by indigenous and peasant organizations in Acre, California should abandon its efforts to source international forest offsets,” said Friends of the Earth U.S. Senior International Forests Campaigner Jeff Conant. “Californians expect our global warming law to reduce carbon pollution at home, not encourage human rights violations abroad.”

The report will be launched at COP20 and the People’s Climate Summit  by representatives of the Indigenous Missionary Council, Friends of the Earth Brazil and World Rainforest Movement, accompanied by Indigenous Apolima-Arara and Jaminawa people who will testify  about the impacts of green economy policy in their ancestral territories.

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South American Contact: Anderson Moreira, Communications Advisor to the Human Rights Platform, (41) 3232-4660, 8411-1879; comunicacao@plataformadh.org.br
U.S. Contact: Jeff Conant, Senior International Forest Campaigner, Friends of the Earth U.S., (510) 900-0016, jconant@foe.org

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