Climate-watchers alarmed over forest degradation proposals
Climate-watchers have expressed dismay over the Union Government's willingness to actively get involved in the controversial Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) Plus programme sponsored mainly by the developed countries and said it would take away the rights of indigenous and forest dwelling populations gained through the Forest Rights Act of 2006.
REDD Plus programme – one of the most contentious issues in the global climate change debate – envisages providing recognition and financial assistance to developing countries for reducing deforestation.
The 2007 Bali Action Plan of climate negotiations calls for conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.
Civil society groups working with indigenous people around the world are alarmed at the REDD Plus proposals and perceive them as a “ploy for capturing control over forests” by governments and private companies.
One of the disturbing aspects of the programme is the participation of multi-national business giants known for their scant regard for rights of forest people.
Two official negotiators from India took part in the first REDD Plus partnership workshop organised on the margins of the United Nations climate change talks in Bangkok earlier this week.
A major portion of the time at the two-day workshop was spent on organisational and procedural matters and the 51 partner countries were asked to integrate the REDD Plus strategies in their national policy and planning frameworks through budgeting and inter-sectoral linkages.
A three-member delegation of climate activists from Rajasthan which attended the workshop on its opening day on April 10 as an observer group left Bangkok with the impression that the partner countries of REDD Plus, including India, were not willing to pay heed to the serious concerns on the proposed programme raised by indigenous populations from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Public Advocacy Initiatives for Rights and Values in India (PAIRVI) director Ajay K. Jha, one of the members of the delegation, told The Hindu here on Saturday that many countries such as the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia had been strongly opposing any reference to indigenous people's rights in the negotiating text ever since the Poznan Climate Summit of 2008.
While REDD Plus programme is based on the assumption that about 17 per cent of the carbon dioxide emission in the world comes due to deforestation and subsequent release of carbon, India and some other countries want to get afforestation and reforestation incorporated into it.
The 2009 Climate Summit at Copenhagen approved the REDD Plus text without any reference to indigenous people's rights.
The text approved at the Cancun meet last year made a nominal reference to the issue and its annexure stated that the safeguards for indigenous peoples should be “promoted and supported”, without making it obligatory for the countries to comply with the provision.
Mr. Jha affirmed that the surplus and common land in villages and on the outskirt of towns in all States, which was already under a huge pressure, would become the first casualty of the programme as the afforestation and reforestation activities are generally carried out in these areas.
Multi-national companies around the world are already making huge investments in the forest sector without regard to the rights of original inhabitants.