Forest peoples’ rights key to reducing emissions

Unless based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and forest communities, efforts by rich countries to combat climate change by funding reductions in deforestation in developing countries will fail, and could even unleash a devastating wave of forest loss, cultural destruction and civil conflict, publication Science Letter reports.

Leading forestry and development experts gathered in Oslo with policymakers and community leaders for a conference on rights, forests and climate change. The conference was organized by two non-profits, Rainforest Foundation Norway and the US-based Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).

Speaking at the meeting, Norway’s Minister of Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim, said efforts towards reduced emissions from deforestation in developing countries needed to be based on the rights of indigenous peoples to the forests they depend on for their livelihoods, and provide tangible benefits consistent with their essential role in sustainable forest management.

“In addition to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, early action, pilot projects and demonstrations should safeguard biodiversity, contribute to poverty reduction and secure the rights of forest dependent communities in order to achieve any degree of permanence, legitimacy and effectiveness,” said Mr Solheim.

Deforestation is responsible for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing it is seen as one of the quickest and cheapest ways of cutting emissions.

“Moves to finance reductions in tropical deforestation and forest degradation are necessary and welcome,” said Andy White, Coordinator of RRI.

“But on their own they won’t solve the problem. Poorly devised, they could even make it worse. If such initiatives are well designed they can not only secure carbon but present a global opportunity to address the underlying causes of poverty and conflict in many developing countries.”

Globally, climate change negotiators are considering the introduction of a new financial mechanism, known as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), that could generate billions of dollars for reducing forest loss in the tropics.

Meanwhile, Norway’s government has already pledged up to 3bn Norwegian kroner annually (US$500m/£250m) to cut emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in tropical countries.

“To achieve long-term reductions in deforestation and forest degradation, it is absolutely necessary to respect and strengthen the rights of indigenous and other forest dependent communities,” said Lars Lovold, director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

“Many of these schemes are still being developed, and major decisions on how to spend the money will be made in the next few years. For us, the question is whether this money will result in a great deal of good or a great deal of harm to the environment and forest communities.”

Previous attempts to reduce deforestation and forest degradation have largely failed, often due to a lack of attention to human rights, property rights and transparency.

Source: Science Letter

Date: 28/10/2008

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UPDATED ON 27 OCTOBER, 2008

Luke from Rights and Resources Initiative has kindly highlighted that the Oslo conference was covered on the Rights, Forests and Climate Change site.  It is packed with more details and outcomes from the week-long gathering, so please do take a moment to visit the site.

Thanks, Take Cover team

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2 Responses

  1. Hello,

    Rights and Resources and Rainforest Foundation Norway have a blog devoted to the this conference on Rights, Forests and Climate Change and surrounding issues. Please come check us out at:

    http://rightsandclimate.org/

    Thanks,

    Luke Bailey
    Rights and Resources

  2. Thanks Luke — we’ll add an update at the bottom of the story.

    Regards

    Take Cover team

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