California's global warming trading scheme endangers indigenous peoples

California’s global warming trading scheme could endanger indigenous forest peoples

International delegation warns against carbon offsets rejected by other global governments

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 17 – Leaders of indigenous forest peoples warned today that California’s proposed carbon credits trading scheme – intended to help reduce global warming – could in fact threaten the survival of those who live there.

At issue are so-called REDD credits that may be part of the state’s cap-and-trade carbon market. These credits would allow California polluters to meet limits on greenhouse gas emissions by buying carbon offset credits from international initiatives intended to prevent destruction of tropical rainforests.

“In Acre, the demarcation of indigenous territories is paralyzed because they want to take our lands to make profits from environmental services, through programs like REDD,” said José Carmelio Alberto Nunes, known as Ninawá, the president of the Federation of the Huni Kui people of Acre, Brazil. “We will not and cannot trade our hunting, our fishing, and our lives for pollution. You cannot trade pollution for nature. We are for life — therefore we are against REDD.”

Ninawá is among a delegation of indigenous leaders from Mexico, Brazil and Ecuador who are traveling to Sacramento this week to testify before the state Air Resources Board and meet with officials from Gov. Jerry Brown’s office and Cal-EPA.

“We support California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Minnesota-based Indigenous Environmental Network. “But REDD amounts to nothing more than a plan to grab the lands that our indigenous peoples have always cared for, in exchange for permits that let industries continue to pollute.”

“REDD plus indigenous peoples equals genocide,” Goldtooth said.

Although the Air Resources Board has yet to issue a draft rule to accept REDD credits into its carbon trading system, the state has been actively exploring the option through initiatives such as the Governors Forests and Climate Task Force. The task force is an initiative started by California in 2008 to create a supply of REDD credits for California’s carbon market. Under a 2010 agreement, Chiapas, Mexico and Acre, Brazil are the two states that will be the first to potentially supply California with REDD credits.

The Task Force held its annual meeting last month in Chiapas, Mexico, where the meeting was met with public protests.

Rosario Aguilar, a health promoter from the region and a member of the delegation to California, said, “Even before California has established its market, the REDD+ project being implemented in our communities is causing conflict and displacement.  As part of their plan to move indigenous people off the land, the government cut off medical services to the village of Amador Hernández in the Lacandon Jungle. This is why we say that REDD is promoting death, not life.”

Opposition to REDD credits is also building within California. In July, over 30 California groups, including Friends of the Earth, Communities for a Better Environment, the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment and Greenpeace wrote to Governor Brown, urging him to reject REDD credits from California’s cap and trade system. The groups pointed out that because REDD credits lack environmental integrity and pose unacceptably high social risks, “to date no regulatory carbon market in the world has allowed the use of sub-national forest offsets for compliance.”

“While Chevron explodes in Richmond and causes over 15,000 people to be hospitalized, it’s clear that we need real climate solutions to address greenhouse gases and toxic pollution in California,” said Nile Malloy, Northern California program director at Communities for a Better Environment. “REDD is not the solution. We need equitable, renewable and just solutions to solve the climate crisis at home and not negatively impact the Global South and other communities in the process.”

The following members of the delegation are available for interviews:

  • Rosario Aguilar, a health promoter and social anthropologist from the town of Las Margaritas in Chiapas, Mexico.
  • José Carmelio Alberto Nunes (Ninawá), president of the Federation of the Huni Kui people of Acre, Brazil.
  • Berenice Sanchez Lozada, a Nahua from Mexico, one of the founding members of the Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Against REDD and for Life.
  • Marlon Santi, a Kichwa from Ecuador and leader of Ecuador’s indigenous movement.
  • Tom Goldtooth, a Dakota/Dine, and executive director of the Minnesota-based Indigenous Environmental Network.
  • Gloria Ushigua, is a member of the Association of Zápara women, Ecuador, and a vocal critic of both conventional extractive industries and REDD-type programs as they are being implemented in Ecuador.

Michelle Chan, Friends of the Earth, 202 427 3000

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