Thursday, December 10, 2009

Joint statement on REDD Climate Scheme

We, the undersigned, the people's movements from across India who
are deeply concerned at the manner in which the Government of India
is approaching international climate change negotiations. In particular,
we wish to expose and condemn the attempt of government and
corporate interests to use climate change negotiations to illegally and
unjustly enhance their control over forests and forest dwellers'
resources in this country. This is being done through a new scheme
called REDD: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and
Degradation of Forests.

As people's movements, we condemn the Government of India's
position and call upon it to withdraw its submissions in favour of
REDD and carbon trading in forests. India must not join REDD or
any REDD-type scheme. This scheme merely makes way for the
government and private capital to grab the resources of the
people, without in fact truly addressing climate change.

What is REDD?

Climate change is caused by the release of certain gases especially
carbon dioxide which trap heat, resulting in a gradual warming of the
temperature of the Earth. Gases like these are mainly released when
fuels like coal and petrol are burnt, but they are also released when
forests are felled; estimates say 20% of global emissions result from
deforestation. Standing forests can store carbon dioxide, and growing
trees also absorb it.

Therefore, the World Bank and some other international organisations,
corporations and a few large NGOs are promoting the idea that
protecting forests will reduce climate change. The scheme that is being
negotiated now which is called 'REDD' - says that rich countries and
their companies, instead of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide they
emit, can pay developing countries to preserve forests and capture
carbon in these carbon sinks. Before REDD, large plantations in
various countries were raised ostensibly to mitigate effects of climate
change, and one after another so-called new carbon sinks was
created, destroying precious ecosystems and peoples livelihoods. The
concept was that the carbon supposedly stored in these plantations will
be sold to corporations in the developed Northern countries, who,
instead of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide they emit, can pay
developing countries to preserve forests and capture carbon in these
carbon sinks. This was done both through UN-approved mechanisms
(such as the Clean Development Mechanism) and also through so-
called voluntary offsets, which allows any agency to raise a plantation
somewhere and claim credits for that.

The REDD(Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation)
scheme differs from these earlier schemes mainly in its inclusion of
existing natural forests and the fact that it says conserved forests can
also sell their stored carbon. As in earlier schemes, private companies
will be able to engage in carbon trading, i.e. buying and selling credits
earned by absorbing carbon through forest preservation. Both the UN
and the World Bank strongly support this.

The First Danger: REDD as a Way to Deny People's Rights
One of the many problems with this approach is that forests are not
just trees that can be preserved indefinitely for their carbon
absorption capacity; people use and depend on forests, forest
produce, forest land and other resources for livelihoods. In India, the
government has not recognised most forest dwellers' rights to forest
resources and their common lands. The Forest Rights Act of 2006 is
being violated daily, and in particular its community rights provisions
are not being implemented at all. In such a scenario, if money is
provided for protecting forests, there will clearly be attempts to grab
these lands and forests in order to claim this money.

Moreover, there is no easy or agreed way to measure how much
carbon is actually being absorbed by a forest, and to establish that that
carbon would not have been absorbed without the REDD payments.
As a result as is already happening in carbon forestry projects in
Brazil and other contries the concerned company or agency makes
every effort to preserve every single tree, bush etc. on its land in order
to claim that it has stopped deforestation. In this case, after land
grabbing, we can be sure that REDD forests will be jealously guarded
as financial assets and people's uses entirely stopped.

If the government intended to address these issues, it would have
clearly stated that any REDD program must be subject to people's
rights. But in fact, in all the government's statements on REDD,
there is not a single reference to people's forest rights or the
Forest Rights Act. Even the Technical Paper released by the
Ministry in August entirely ignores people's rights. It is clear that the
government will use REDD as an instrument for maintaining and
intensifying its control over people's forests and lands, and at the
same time for roping in private players in the name of public-
private partnerships.

The Second Danger: Government Promoting Joint Forest
Management Through REDD
Instead of respecting people's legal forest rights, the government is
saying that it will implement REDD through the participatory system of
Joint Forest Management (JFM). But forest staff serve as the
secretaries and joint account holders of JFM committees (known as
Van Suraksha Samitis), making it impossible for the community to have
any control over these bodies and ensuring that only contractors,
traders and others close to the Department become their office

If the government is truly interested in participation, why is it not
respecting people's rights to protect and manage their forests under
the Forest Rights Act? The Act has superseded JFM, which has no
statutory basis. But instead of shutting down JFM and genuinely
respecting forest dwellers' rights and powers, the government is
attempting to expand it on a large scale at precisely the time that
people are claiming rights under the Forest Rights Act. REDD will
become another instrument in this expansion, even as JFM allows the
government to claim abroad that it is implementing REDD in a
participatory fashion. The consequences will be even more intense
resource grabbing.

The Third Danger: REDD and Land Grabbing in the Name of
Unlike many other governments, which want money only for preserving
forests, the Government of India wants REDD payments to include
afforestation and tree planting (a system called REDD plus). Indeed,
aside from resisting Western pressure to undertake emissions cuts, the
Indian government says only one thing in its international statements
on climate change: we in India have already done a great service to
the world by maintaining and expanding our forests, which is our
great contribution to climate change. Environment Minister Jairam
Ramesh informed the visiting US Secretary of State that Sustainable
forestry management is of profound importance to us. We are just
embarking on a close to $ 3 billion programme (and $ 3 billion to begin
with) to regenerate our natural forests that already cover some 165
million acres... It is notable that this was the only national program or
initiative that Ramesh referred to in any detail, with all his other
references being vague. Shortly afterward, the Environment Ministry
released a technical paper claiming that India's forest cover absorbs
more than 11% of our emissions and again referring to the potential
of afforestation. It is plain that the government is riding on forestry
projects as the thrust of its international position.

But the government's plantation programs have often been a
cover for massive land grabbing. Such afforestation programmes
usually take place on forest land classified as degraded forest (or on
revenue wasteland). However, the Forest Department classifies all
land that has less than a certain percentage of tree cover as degraded
forest. Thus:

Plantations frequently take place on common lands and
customary community lands on which people's rights are poorly
recorded. People are displaced from their lands and denied
access to non-timber forest produce, grazing areas and other
livelihood uses.

As the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment
and Forests said in 2008, afforestation ... deprives forest
dwellers and tribals / adivasis of some or all of their lands and
adversely impacts their livelihoods and basic needs for which
they are neither informed, nor consulted, nor compensated.

The Forest Rights Act of 2006 recognises the right and the power
of communities to protect, manage and sustainably use their
customary forests, water bodies, wildlife and biodiversity. As
such, under the law, afforestation should be decided and
controlled by the local community. Till date, India's plantation
programmes do not even provide for consultation let alone
control by the people.

Plantations often destroy grasslands, open scrub jungles and
other natural ecosystems that people rely on for forest produce
and other needs. In the process they cause major environmental
damage, drain groundwater and may even end up releasing extra

Yet none of the plantation guidelines of the Environment Ministry
till date have made any reference to forest rights, despite the
glaring illegality of these actions. Attacks on people and their
livelihoods will greatly increase if there is an additional financial
incentive for grabbing people's lands through plantations.

The Fourth Danger: Bringing in Private Companies
In its submission on REDD1, the Government of India has said
afforestation programmes should be supported by a market based
approach, i.e. carbon trading. Indeed, India's National Action Plan on
the Clean Development Mechanism (2003) estimated that plantations
could take up 5 million tonnes of carbon, earning $125 million in 5

For years, paper/pulp companies have been seeking to get forest land
for afforestation. If this approach is adopted, they will have a perfect
pretext to take over forest land for their own purposes and, indeed,
earn money in the process. The only legal constraint that faces such
projects the legal bar against private afforestation of forest lands,
contained in the Forest (Conservation) Act will almost certainly be
removed immediately. Given that people do not have recorded rights to
their lands and forests, huge areas can easily be handed over to
private companies for these purposes. The plantations programmes
will expand enormously, backed by private speculators aiming to trade
on the carbon markets. The results can only be imagined.

People's Rights vs. Corporate and Government Resource

Thus, the government of India is pushing a regressive, anti-people
and anti-democratic program of resource grabbing in forests,
which will serve neither the people of this country nor the cause
of truly curbing climate change.

The forests and forest lands of this country are not the private property
of the government, to be agreed upon, bought and sold as it wishes.
They are the homelands and territories of adivasis and other forest
dwellers who have, for centuries, lived in and lived with them. We will
not stand by and watch as forests are once again grabbed from us
by the rapacious greed of private capital masquerading as eco-
friendly projects.

In light of the above, we demand the following:

The government of India must withdraw its submissions in
support of REDD, oppose any agreement on REDD and not join
any REDD scheme;

Private companies should be barred from any benefits from
forest protection, and forests and other natural resources should
not be subjected to carbon trading in any form;

The Forest Rights Act must be implemented in full, community
rights and powers recognized and all plantation and other forestry
programmes brought under local community control;

The government must recognise and respect democratic control
over resources, stop facilitating corporate deforestation, and take
steps to reduce emissions from private automobile transport,
excessive electricity consumption, and other genuine sources of
environmental destruction.

Composed of the following State federations of people's organisations:
Jangal Jameen Jan Andolan (Rajasthan)
Adivasi Mahasabha (Andhra Pradesh)
Jangal Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti (Maharashtra)
Jangal Jeevan Adhikar Bachao Andolan (Madhya Pradesh)
Jan Shakti Sanghatan / People's Alliance for Livelihood Rights /
Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Chattisgarh)
Bharat Jan Andolan (Jharkhand)
Adivasi Jangal Janjeevan Andolan (Dadra & Nagar Haveli)
Campaign for Survival and Dignity Orissa / Orissa Jan Adhikar
Morcha (Orissa)
Adivasi Aikya Vedike (Andhra Pradesh)
Campaign for Survival and Dignity Tamil Nadu

Including the following organisations:
Adivasi Banihar Shakti Sangathana (Chhattisgarh)
Nadi Ghati Morcha (Chattisgarh)
Jharkhand Jangal Bachao Andolan (Jharkhand)
Chattisgarh Jan-ban Adhikar Manch
Birsa Munda Vu-adhikar Manch (Madhya Pradesh)
Patta Dalit Adhikar Manch (Uttar Pradesh)
Kaimnoor KShettra Majdoor Sangharsh Samittee,Sonebhadra,UP
Ghad Kshettra Majdoor Sangharsh Samittee,Uttarakhand
National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (North Bengal
Regional Committee)

No comments: