Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor MindaNews

We would like to respond to Mr. Keith Bacognco’s July 12 article entitled “Lumads hit ‘deception’ in carbon trading and demand ‘climate justice”.

The article highlights a joint statement from a group of indigenous leaders from Mindanao, declaring their opposition to what they call the deceptive nature of treaty-based schemes to reduce carbon emissions responsible for climate change. We are glad that indigenous communities are thinking critically about new and proposed climate mechanisms.  However, it is also important to clarify misunderstandings, particularly regarding Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+).  REDD+ is a mechanism through which developed countries will compensate developing countries that successfully reduce deforestation and forest degradation and sustainably manage and enhance their forests to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Based on initial findings,  it is largely true that afforestation and reforestation projects within the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) have not been successful at stemming climate change, nor in providing biodiversity and social co-benefits. However, the CDM should be differentiated from the emerging REDD+ mechanism.  First, although Mr. Bacongco suggests that REDD+ is already market-linked, the UNFCCC has not decided whether REDD+ payments will be a market or fund-based. Second, REDD+ is part of a national approach to reduce emissions (rather than the CDM project-based approach).  As such, countries like the Philippines will be able to design their own policy reforms, safeguards, consultation and education processes and demonstration activities, allowing greater control over what is/is not allowed within mechanism.  Third, REDD+ is performance-based.  This means that emissions reductions must be measured, reported and externally verified, and that the carbon market could only come into play (if it does at all) after all preparatory systems and activities are compliant with UNFCCC- IPCC good practice guidelines.

Furthermore, Mr. Bacongco’s article states that “REDD+ involves transactions wherein one country would reduce its carbon emissions in order to allow another country to maintain or even increase its own emissions”.  This assessment is not entirely true. Developed nations have commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  Although many have yet to meet their targets, developed nations are not allowed to increase their emissions in any context whatsoever. However, as these countries gradually lower their carbon footprints through policy reforms and new technologies, the climate time bomb is ticking and we are inching closer to the dangerous 2˚C limit where life on this planet may irreversibly change forever.  There is a need to pressure developed countries into complying with their obligations, but also to identify complementary measures such as REDD+.

Although a REDD+mechanism is still under development, it is highly unlikely that developed nations will be allowed to offset a large part of their emissions by funding REDD+ to reduce emissions in other countries.  Large offsets from the forestry sector are not allowed within the existing CDM framework; developed countries can only use afforestation and reforestation projects to offset up to 1% their 1990 emissions levels.  Even so, advocacy remains necessary—we need the strong voice of CSOs and communities to rally on and make sure that developed countries do not rely heavily on the forestry sector of developing countries for their own emissions reductions.  REDD+ must be part of a broader agenda to significantly reduce emissions at source in developed countries.

However, the “climate time bomb” remains, and a REDD+ mechanism offers an important opportunity to reduce emissions.  Land use change, including deforestation, accounts for 20% of the global emissions problem. Why not allow responsibly implemented REDD+ to reverse these trends? In our understanding, REDD+ presents an option for local stakeholders (indigenous peoples and tenured migrants) and national and local governments to be compensated for protecting and sustainably managing the Philippines remaining forests.  This can also be seen as good news—for once, the global community is recognizing that local communities can provide an important service in protecting natural ecosystems functions, including for global climate stability.

However, REDD+ should be implemented within a legal context and enabling environment that recognizes community and indigenous rights and that ensure social and environmental safeguards. In many countries, this is a great struggle, and without policy and reform within government, REDD+ runs high risks of not meeting carbon targets nor delivering social justice.

In the Philippines, however, CSOs have been vigilant and active in ensuring responsible REDD+ development that delivers benefits for community development and biodiversity conservation.  Loosely organized into the CoDe REDD network, civil society has engaged the Philippine government, including the Forest Management Bureau (DENR-FMB) as well as the Climate Change Commission (CCC), to develop the Philippine National REDD+ Strategy (PNRPS) that embodies the ideals of responsible REDD+ and adequate safeguards. Five REDD+ and PNRPS regional consultations have been conducted in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and have engaged indigenous communities, CSOs, academe, research organizations, and local and national governments.

CoDe REDD has also engaged the NCIP to release a memorandum to all Regional Directors (Memo Order OED 84-201), to stop approving private carbon trading projects within ancestral domains until after safeguards are established and communities are oriented on REDD+. CoDe REDD stands with the voice of indigenous communities that, where there are “No Rights”, there should be “No REDD”.  Communities must be allowed genuine “free, prior and informed consent” and full benefits from this mechanism.

We ask all lumads and indigenous peoples from other parts of the country, CSOs and other government entities to get involved in ongoing engagements undertaken by CoDe REDD and the DENR to develop the PNRPS and to conduct policy review and reform, governance enhancement, capacity building and other aspects important for responsible REDD+ implementation nationally and locally.

We ask interested parties to contact Ms. Ester Batangan at NTFP-EP / CoDe REDD for more information on CoDe REDD (ebbgamay@yahoo.com, 09395385862). We ask you to check our website http://ntfp.org/coderedd/ which will be updated by the end of the month.

Crissy Guerrero
CoDe REDD Philippines