International Climate Negotiations Criticized by Indigenous Peoples

  • Published on September 22nd, 2008

1510335931_848c274e01 When the Kyoto Protocol was first introduced back in 1997 it was deemed that forests were not carbon sinks. Whether this was an oversight or a severe lack of scientific knowledge I’m unsure. However with negotiations moving on for a successor to the Protocol, forests are back in for consideration as useful carbon sinks.

As such, indigenous groups from the Americas, Africa and Asia are worried that, if industrialized nations are allowed to purchase carbon rights from their forests, they will lose out, seeing ownership change hands without them even being consulted.

This is not an unlikely event, considering the total lack of room there is for indigenous peoples to have their say at these talks. “When you don’t have recognized status, you’re not existent. You’re not at the table,” said Kanyinke Sena, the Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee’s Eastern Africa representative.

Part of the Bali Roadmap included the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) (PDF). Part of this agreement included first and foremost the acknowledgement that deforestation added to the emissions causing “global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions,” and that said problem “needs to be addressed when reducing emissions from deforestation.”

Thankfully, another aspect of the agreement included “recognizing also that the needs of local and indigenous communities should be addressed when action is taken to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.”

At first many indigenous groups opposed REDD due to their fears that control of the forests that, by all rights, belong to them (as much as any land belongs to anyone, I guess). However climate negotiators were quick to point to the financial reimbursement and awareness that REDD provided indigenous peoples.

Subsequently, indigenous people have been invited to send representatives to the Forest Dialogues, a gathering of various professions forming a joint policy recommendation on REDD. “This is the first time indigenous and non-indigenous groups are meeting at this type of forum,” said Parshuram Tamang, the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of Tropical Forests’ climate negotiations representative and a member of the Tamang ethnic group of Nepal. “This is very important for indigenous people.”

Hopefully, inclusions such as in the Forest Dialogues will provide indigenous groups across the planet with a platform to be heard elsewhere. Because nothing is as expected as the possibility of ignoring those people local to a region that might have some monitory value to some wealthier person or country.

Article inspired by Ben Block’s article at World Watch

credit: angela7dreams at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I work as Associate Editor for the Important Media Network and write for CleanTechnica and Planetsave. I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, Amazing Stories, the Stabley Times and Medium.   I love words with a passion, both creating them and reading them.
  • UN Admits Its Climate Change Program Could Threaten Indigenous Peoples

    Sept. 27, 2008 – On the third day of the General Assembly’s 63rd Session, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Prime Minister of Norway launched the United Nations REDD program, a collaboration of FAO, UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank.

    The inclusion of forests in the carbon market, or REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) has caused anxiety, protest and outrage throughout the world since it was created at the failed climate change negotiations in Bali and funded by the World Bank.

    An estimated 60 million indigenous peoples are completely dependent on forests and are considered the most threatened by REDD. Therefore, indigenous leaders are among its most prominent critics. The International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change declared that: ‘…REDD will steal our land… States and carbontraders will take control over our forests.’

    It is alarming that indigenous peoples’ fears and objectionshave now been confirmed by the UN-REDD Framework Document itself.

    On page 4 and 5 it blatantly states that the program could “deprive communities of their legitimate land-development aspirations, that hard-fought gains in forest management practices might be wasted, that it could cause the lock-up of forests by decoupling conservation from development, or erode culturally rooted not-for-profit conservation values.”

    It is further highlighted that “REDD benefits in some circumstances may have to be traded off against other social, economic orenvironmental benefits.”

    In carefully phrased UN language, the document further acknowledges that REDD could cause severe human rights violations and be disastrous for the poor because it could “marginalize the landless.and those with. communal use-rights”.

    This is tantamount to the UN recognizing that REDD could undermine indigenous peoples and local communities rights to the usage andownership of their lands.

    Could it be that the UN is paving the way for a massive land grab?

    To read UN-REDD Framework Document:

    To see photos from the protest against REDD and the World Bank in Bali:

    To watch the video from the protest against REDD at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues:

  • Thanks a lot I enjoyed reading this.

    I would go a step further than the previous commenter, and say that this whole thing has been set up in order to ensure environmentalists and other activists are confused about their position on land use.

    What use is money to your average indigenous person? Not to mention carbon credits.

    If you want to get really sceptical, I'd love to know your thoughts on this:

    (I would have dismissed this before I read various academics saying very similar things. For some reason they don't get much press. Note also the WWFs role in ecological footprinting, half of which is the carbon footprint. I don't know what to think……………)

  • Yes, as usual the indigenous peoples are being denied their own self-determination process as the UN and other governments from afar decide on issues that will effect their lives. Sad but common.