EDF Talks Global Climate

New report shows landscape of finance for REDD+ and climate action in forests


A new report from Environmental Defense Fund and Forest Trends identifies the sources of funding currently available for REDD+ and climate action in forests, and analyzes the challenges and opportunities for accessing and coordinating this finance. Designed to serve as a resource for negotiators, policymakers, practitioners, NGOs, and others involved with the implementation of REDD+ and climate action in forests, the report aims to contribute to scaling up, coordinating, and allocating funding in a timely, efficient, and effective manner.

The report, “Mapping Forest Finance: A Landscape of Available Sources of Finance for REDD+ and Climate Action in Forests”:

    • Describes the sources of finance available for each phase of REDD+ —Readiness (Phase 1), Implementation (Phase 2), and Results-based Finance (Phase 3) – and related climate action in forests by detailing each finance source’s: type, mechanism, eligibility requirements, scale, access process, scope, and challenges.
    • Presents information that is both historical and forward looking so as to provide context and inform future decisions when it comes to planning REDD+ implementation and supporting financial strategies combining a diversity of funding sources. The Green Climate Fund, for example, recently announced a pilot program for forest sector results-based payments. Additionally, while not yet an available source of results-based finance, transfer-based payments (TBPs) are a potential source of viable funding for performance based results. Parties in the UNFCCC are currently negotiating internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs) as a part of Article 6.2, which will determine the exact nature of TBPs in relation to REDD+.
    • Reveals many challenges with and opportunities for accessing and coordinating finance for REDD+ and climate action in forests at the international and national level. Key challenges identified include minimizing the gap between what is available and what is needed for each REDD+ phase; developing cohesive national visions that can be translated into usable investment plans; allocating funding appropriately according to cross-sectoral and coherent national finance strategies; and aligning requirements and criteria under funding sources for consistency and coherency of requirement processes so to facilitate access and disbursements.
    • Highlights challenges specific to forest landscape restoration (FLR), such as the high costs associated with addressing degradation and promoting sustainable management of forest landscapes, when compared to activities for reducing emissions from avoided deforestation. This challenge creates the need for more comprehensive national REDD+ visions that include activities to address the barriers for sustainable management of forests and enhancement of carbon stocks; and
    • Describes the opportunities for both accessing and coordinating finance, which range from exploring viable, complementary sources of market-based REDD+ finance for Phase 3 to redirecting sources of funding for agriculture, for example, to finance REDD+ activities.

The report also reflects how many finance sources are able to fund multiple phases of REDD+, considering that REDD+ phases often overlap and operate simultaneously, as seen in the infographic below which shows the sources of finance and funding mechanisms for the three phases of REDD+. Such a comprehensive landscape of complementary and/or synergistic sources of funding can contribute to defining efficient and coherent financial strategies for REDD+ design and implementation.

The report, produced with support from IUCN as part of ongoing efforts to accelerate action on REDD+ through forest landscape restoration, is timely as the coordination of financial support for REDD+ and climate action in forests will continue to be a top agenda item at the upcoming Bonn intersessional, having featured prominently during COP 23. During the COP, country negotiators – as a continuation of REDD+ focal point meetings held since COP19 – resumed discussions on the coordination of support for the implementation of activities in relation to mitigation actions in the forest sector by developing countries, including institutional and financial arrangements. Negotiators debated the potential need for additional governance arrangements for improving the coordination of support for REDD+ funding and implementation. Additionally, side event and panel participants, country representatives, and others involved with REDD+ and climate action in forests expressed concerns over the availability, sustainability, and coordination of funding for results. Yet, negotiators could not agree on a decision and the co-chairs decided to continue negotiations during the next meetings to be held in May 2018.

The report aims to contribute not only to upcoming UNFCCC conversations pertaining to improving access to and coordination of finance for REDD+ and mitigation actions in the forest sector but, by clarifying the challenges with and opportunities for adequately accessing and coordinating funding for REDD+ and climate action in forests, will also contribute to ensuring that funding is made available and disbursed in a timely, efficient, and effective manner.

View the report at edf.org/mappingforestfinance.

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Shoddy CIFOR publication on indigenous peoples’ rights abuses gets the facts wrong

Indigenous People Day at COP23 | Photo by UNClimateChange

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) held a press conference during COP 23 in Bonn to launch a new publication, “Rights abuse allegations in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation.”

But the research underlying this sensationalistic headline is fundamentally flawed. Not only is their publication factually wrong in many places, but the peer-review process failed to identify numerous weaknesses in the analysis. A rights-based approach for REDD+ was already enshrined in the UNFCCC COP 19’s decision on the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ in 2013. One could argue that it actually goes even further back to the Cancun Safeguard decision at COP 16 in 2010.

Below are the five primary issues in the report. (Note: The rest of this piece assumes readers are generally familiar with the points made in the CIFOR publication and very familiar with REDD+ within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC.)

  1. The mafia, not REDD+ supporters, are killing indigenous and community leaders

The biggest problem with CIFOR’s publication is they fail to identify who is murdering indigenous and community leaders trying to protect their rights and forests, which gives the impression that it’s people connected to REDD+.

But the researchers say in footnote 2 they did not attempt to investigate the veracity of the allegations:

“As this review refers only to published sources, it does not include more recent allegations or attempts to evaluate the veracity or present status of each case (including whether corrective measures have since been taken), …”

If they would have done more research, they would have found that the majority did not have anything to do with a REDD+ process or rise to an actual “rights abuse” definition. Global Witness documented 200 killings in 2016, and 97 so far in 2017, and identified the biggest violators as mafias involved in illegal logging, mining, and agribusiness – not REDD+ proponents murdering indigenous and community activists.

  1. CIFOR’s publication relies on unreliable sources

Some of CIFOR’s sourcing for its publication is untrustworthy. For example, REDD-Monitor.com has a clear anti-REDD+ agenda and its funders include a who’s who list of groups with strong anti-REDD+ positions. Its About page calls REDD+ a “hairbrained scheme to allow continued greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels by offsetting these emissions against ‘avoided deforestation’ in the Global South.”

  1. CIFOR’s article’s peer-review is weak

While many of the reviewers are knowledgeable about rights and the REDD+ field, they are not the people who are most well-acquainted with UNFCCC REDD+ decisions.

  1. UNFCCC REDD+ uses a rights-based approach

REDD+ negotiators, indigenous peoples representatives, and civil society organizations spent eight years creating comprehensive guidance for REDD+, called the Warsaw Framework for REDD+.

The Warsaw Framework includes the “Cancun Safeguards” and also mandates reporting on how the safeguards are addressed and respected. The Cancun Safeguards were agreed to in 2010 and were one of the first REDD+ decisions that guided all subsequent decisions.

The Cancun Safeguards was one of the first decisions to reference the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (also known as “UNDRIP”) in an international agreement. Nearly all of the world’s countries approved the decision and the insertion of a reference to UNDRIP forced many countries who had not previously acknowledged the Declaration to do as much.

  1. The Warsaw Framework for REDD+ does not include project-based REDD+

A significant part of the “allegations” and “potential” negative examples explored in the article are linked to REDD+ projects, which again, are not covered by the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. But do a simple word search for “projects” in all of the UNFCCC REDD+ decisions and you’ll see the word does not appear once. That’s because implicitly, UNFCCC REDD+ is meant for jurisdictional REDD+ programs – not one-off REDD+ projects.

Suggestions for moving forward

CIFOR and the REDD+ community should consider a few steps to make amends for their inaccurate publication.

  • CIFOR should consider writing its own research paper on the dozens, if not hundreds, of indigenous leaders and forest activists that are murdered every year defending their rights and the forests.
  • CIFOR should not treat REDD Monitor as a legitimate resource for academic research.
  • CIFOR should improve its “peer-review” process and ensure information is, per its tagline, “accurate.”

Vigilance will always be needed to ensure that no abuses of indigenous rights occur in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation. One such violation is one too many.

However, such risks have long been identified and are already being addressed, not least because indigenous groups have effectively used national and international REDD+ processes to advance recognition of their rights.

Sensationalized publications based on unsubstantiated allegations do nobody any good, and divert attention from documented rights violations and murders committed by actors seeking to destroy forests – not by REDD+ proponents who are eager to work with indigenous leaders to protect them.

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Part II:  Amazon Hydroelectrics, the UN Climate Treaty and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – will greed and corruption derail the international climate negotiations?

Santo Antônio Dam under construction in the state of Rondônia, Brazil, 2009 | Photo: Wiki Commons

Brazil’s climate change negotiators are trying to throw the best hope for at-scale finance for stopping deforestation under the bus to ensure a big payday for bogus carbon credits from Amazon dams and other Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects  — benefitting the scandal-plagued national power company Eletrobrás at the expense of the Amazon. (See EDF and Brazilian partners report.) There are far better ways to combat climate change.

A Better Mousetrap

One of the best examples of how to do it, ironically, is what Brazil and Amazon states have actually done in reducing Amazon deforestation since 2004. Government ramped up enforcement, recognized indigenous territories and protected forests for other communities, and consumer goods companies like Walmart told their suppliers they needed zero-deforestation commodities. The result was a 70% reduction in deforestation by 2016 that kept 3.65 billion tons CO₂ out of the atmosphere – on the order of what the European Union achieved, only in one developing country. But positive incentives for forest protection called for repeatedly in legislation never materialized, so pushback from the big ranchers’ and farmers’ caucus in the Congress has put all of these gains at serious risk, and deforestation started to tick up again.

There is a lot at stake here, for the atmosphere as well as the forest. New research shows that much more cost effective climate change mitigation than anyone suspected – 11 billion tons of CO2 per year till 2030 — can come from “natural climate solutions”, mostly from stopping tropical deforestation and forest degradation. This is almost 40% of the mitigation needed by 2030 to have a 66% or better chance of keeping warming below 2°C, according to the authors.

Bringing jurisdictional reductions in deforestation and forest degradation into carbon markets could generate the funds that Brazil needs to end Amazon deforestation and effect the transformation to low-carbon sustainable agriculture. 

Reducing and ultimately stopping large-scale deforestation is fully feasible. We know this because Brazil and the Amazon states have done it. They have taken reductions targets below historical levels, and made world-leading reductions while increasing cattle and soy production – historically the major drivers of deforestation (Figure 1).  Making emissions reductions at the scale of a state or region or country is much more like the EU or California cap-and-trade systems than an offset project. It’s actually systemic climate change mitigation. Bringing jurisdictional reductions in deforestation and forest degradation into carbon markets could generate the funds that Brazil needs to end Amazon deforestation and effect the transformation to low-carbon sustainable agriculture. Transparent accounting, rigorous double-entry bookkeeping to avoid double counting, and fair benefit sharing will be critical to making it work, but are also completely feasible. Doing sustained, large-scale deforestation reduction would also allow Brazil to call for more ambitious goals for other big emitter countries, and create cost-effective opportunities to make that happen. A revamped CDM could then channel funds to the least developed countries that most need them.

Figure 1. Brazil annual Amazon deforestation, soy and cattle production 1996 – 2016 (source: Stabile, M. 2017. Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM); Brazil National Space Research Institute – INPE/PRODES; Brazilian Geographical and Statistical Institute – IBGE PPM and PAM, Amazon Fund.

Operation Car Wash and Chico Mendes

So why wouldn’t any country with a lot of forest to protect, and potentially a lot to gain from it, want to continue a winning streak? Well, as Brazil’s experience shows, there’s a lot less opportunity for corruption in reducing deforestation than there is in, say, building dams. Carbon credit for Amazon dams fits right in with the massive corruption, “Operation Car Wash”, super-sketchy side of Brazil. World-leading emissions reductions from controlling Amazon deforestation are an example what we could call the Chico Mendes side of the country. Brazil has always had these two sides. Corruption is endemic but so is innovative public policy. Brazil’s world-class AIDs program, which has kept infection rates far below other early hotspots; the sugar cane ethanol program that gave Brazil the biggest flex-fuel automotive fleet in the world; internationally recognized high-tech remote sensing monitoring of deforestation; and former President Lula’s poverty reduction programs are all examples.

Brazil has an exceptional opportunity to become an economic/environmental innovator and global leader of truly transformative impact – a 21st century environmental/economic superpower — if it succeeds in creating real economic value for living forests. What Acre Governor Tião Viana calls “the low-carbon, high social equity economy” shows the way to zero deforestation, sustainable commodity and family farmer agriculture, and sustainable, prosperous forest communities.

Which side of Brazil’s Jekyll-Hyde political character will win? When Chico Mendes was alive, most people would have probably picked the Car Wash side. Along with ever-increasing numbers of Brazilians, I’d pick Chico’s side.

Both sides are on display at the international climate negotiations, where Brazilian negotiators are pushing hard for deeply flawed CDM projects including Eletrobrás’s Amazon dam boondoggles. Which side wins won’t only affect Brazilians. It will make a real difference to the atmosphere, and to us.

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Amazon Hydroelectrics, the UN Climate Treaty and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – will greed and corruption derail the international climate negotiations?

Belo Monte Dam under construction on the Xingu River in the state of Pará, Brazil in 2013 | Photo credit: Letícia Leite-ISA

Brazil’s climate policy theater: Brazil climate negotiators fight for carbon credit payout for scandal-plagued national power company Eletrobrás and Amazon mega-hydroelectrics, block carbon finance for ending Amazon deforestation.     

Behind the headline-grabbing news about Brazilian political corruption, Brazilian climate change negotiators are busy pushing proposals that could seriously damage important new climate change agreements – and shut the door on much-needed finance for stopping deforestation.

New market mechanisms in the UN Paris Agreement and in the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for Civil Aviation (CORSIA) could provide money Brazil needs to protect its rainforest, including protecting heavily threatened indigenous territories twice the size of California. The new mechanisms could also help other tropical countries stop deforestation. That would be great news for the global atmosphere and for the people who live in the forests.

But Brazil’s negotiators are dead set against it. Instead, they’re fighting hard to preserve the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a relic of the Kyoto Protocol. Global climate change champions California and the European Union have largely or entirely shut the CDM out of their markets because they’ve concluded, rightfully, that its claims to environmental integrity have lost credibility.

Brazilian negotiators say the CDM is the gold standard for environmental quality, and reducing deforestation is too risky for carbon credit. A new report by EDF and Brazilian partners – along with a plethora of other analyses — reaches a different conclusion.

Bogus Carbon Credit for Amazon dams

The CDM was created in 1997 by the Kyoto Protocol to allow emissions reductions projects in developing countries to generate tradeable carbon credits, called “Certified Emissions Reductions” (CERs), which, the Protocol specifies, could be used by industrialized countries to help meet their emissions targetsduring the years 2008-2012. But since new targets for these countries didn’t take effect under the Kyoto Protocol, CER prices plummeted for lack of buyers. Brazil has a big portfolio of projects that are generating currently zero-value CERs that could turn into real money if the new market mechanisms of the Paris Agreement and CORSIA accept CDM credits. No wonder they like the CDM.

Three Amazon dams – Santo Antônio, Jirau and Teles Pires – are Brazil’s biggest CDM projects, and say a lot about what’s wrong with the mechanism.

Starting in 2012 affiliates of Brazil’s state power company, Eletrobrás, registered the mega-hydroelectric dams in the Amazon as CDM projects. They said that the dams would reduce greenhouse gas emissions that would have otherwise happened, and that since they were big, risky projects, they wouldn’t be financially viable unless they got the carbon credit. The CDM approved the dams, issued millions of CERs for them, and stands ready to issue hundreds of millions more.

Carbon Credit for Corruption?

But, a little later, these dams were implicated in the “Operation Car Wash” investigation, probably the largest corruption investigation in the world. The investigation first uncovered bid rigging, bribery and kickbacks worth billions of dollars in state oil company Petrobrás. It has now convicted scores of politicians and top executives at Brazil’s biggest companies. Eletrobrás executives engaged in exactly the same schemes in the three Amazon dams and other projects, according to whistleblowers. One former officer of an Eletrobrás subsidiary has been sentenced to more than forty years in prison for bribery, money laundering, obstruction of justice, tax evasion, and participation in a criminal organization, and similar charges are pending against others.

Eletrobrás’s stock price crashed as a result. US investors brought suit against the company, now pending in federal court in New York. They allege that Eletrobrás publicly claimed it was keeping clean books and building legitimate energy projects, while in fact concealing massive corruption and kickbacks. The dams ran up billions in cost overruns (allegedly to pay the bribes and kickbacks) at the investors’ expense.

Meanwhile, while it told the CDM that carbon finance was crucial for the dams to go forward, the company went ahead and built the dams.

Certified Emission Reductions market price crashed after the end of 2012 | Source: eex.com

The dams are operating today with basically zero carbon finance, because the CERs became virtually worthless after the end-of-2012 the price crash. If the dams in fact caused any emissions reductions, they did it without money from the CERs – so they  would have happened anyway. But, in fact the dams never caused any emissions reductions – the decision to build them was political, not economic. Opportunities for bribes and kickbacks were by all indications a key factor. It’s not surprising Eletrobrás and affiliates never told its investors that it needed carbon credit for the dams to pay off – the credits were just icing on the cake.

In 2016, KLP, one of the world’s largest investment funds, managing over $36 billion in pension funds in Norway, decided to exclude investments in Eletrobrás, citing “unacceptable risk of gross corruption. According to the company's financial reports to US authorities, Eletrobrás contracts with suppliers have been overbilled during a period of almost seven years, with the excess funds paid out to Brazilian politicians, political parties and company executives.”

That the CDM approved the dam projects at all is a serious indictment of its rules. Lots of other analyses have concluded that this mechanism needs serious overhaul or phase-out. See my next post for a better approach to international collaboration on climate change mitigation.

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How will forests be on the “menu” at UN Bonn climate talks?

The 2017 UN climate talks will take place from November 6 to 17 in Bonn, Germany | Photo: Pixabay

This year’s global climate conference (COP23) is upon us and will be an interesting mix of Fijian diplomacy and Kölsch beer. As I do every year, in this year’s pre-COP blog I lay out what will be happening during the COP related to REDD+ in the negotiations and what I hope to hear about in the hallways and many side events.

The COP23 conference is expected to be a working COP as parties make the necessary progress in rule writing to meet the 2018 deadline of a final rulebook. There will also be a lot of news about non-state actors – the private sector, states like California, and other non-federal entities – being discussed as a reaction to Trump’s reckless decision to leave the Paris Agreement.

For a good overview of how we are doing in with respect to the climate change and forest sector, I suggest reading this year’s New York Declaration on Forests report. It includes a good review on progress in the private sector (or lack thereof) and funding for forest conservation – and activities causing deforestation.

But, back to the UNFCCC …

REDD+ in the negotiation agenda

After a year’s hiatus from the COP agenda, REDD+ will make an expected brief appearance in the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) agenda the first week during discussions about the “coordination of REDD+ finance”. This is a leftover item from the Warsaw REDD+ Framework decision, when parties agreed to not create a “REDD+ Committee” to coordinate REDD+ finance as some parties wished, but rather annual informal and voluntary meetings during the mid-year subsidiary body negotiations (SBs) for 4 years to share experiences about REDD+ financing. Many of the attendees from parties to observers would agree that these informal meetings were of little value.

In this COP, negotiators are scheduled to reevaluate whether to continue the SBs or create the REDD+ Committee. I doubt there will be interest in either of them. However, the agenda item could be used as an opening to push a party’s or coalition’s not completely related proposal for financing REDD+, such as a centralized registry for REDD+ transactions.

REDD+ related negotiation items: transparency, NDCs and market

Much of the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ addressed transparency. After following initial discussions in the broader transparency agenda item that is part of the APA, many parties and negotiators are worried that those negotiations might dilute what was achieved for REDD+. Transparency in REDD+ thus far includes the Lima REDD+ Information Hub where countries submit their National REDD+ Strategies, Reference Emission Level (REL) submissions, Safeguard Information System summaries, and results. The process established for reviewing the RELs, which includes a technical assessment and publication of that assessment, is very important. The fact that the new US negotiator for transparency is the former REDD+ negotiator for the US, however, could be very helpful to ensure no dilution occurs.

Many of the party submissions on producing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) mentioned the land use sector explicitly, and REDD+ implicitly. The more detail related to the inclusion of the land use sector in NDCs the better, but it might be hard for negotiators to come to agreement on the extent or nature of those details.

The market negotiations under the SBSTA will continue; those on Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement and Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs) are particularly relevant. More explicit guidance on no double counting/claiming is needed to ensure environmental integrity for REDD+ and ITMOs that might come from any other sector or project. REDD+ in itself, however, does not need explicit language in Article 6.2.

Other noticeable REDD+ financing developments

The Green Climate Fund recently approved guidance and $500 million for REDD+ results based payments, which I expect to be discussed substantially during the COP. Although the amount is not sufficient, the methodologies the GCF agreed upon will be relevant to other REDD+ finance decisions in the future.

Private finance for advancing deforestation free commodities is another hot topic and I expect to learn more concrete details about the andgreen.fund that was announced earlier in the year. Specifically, I’d like more clarity on how they will be defining jurisdictions advancing in becoming deforestation free, which is a requirement of the fund to determine what private sector actors will be funded.

This year’s report on New York Declaration on Forests provides extensive insight on the current state of forest finance. The report reviews the billions of pledges, commitments, and amounts spent to advance REDD+. More interesting is the amount of “grey” funding available from public subsidies and private sector investment for the land sector. The amount of “grey” funding greatly exceeds direct REDD+ funding and needs to be changed or channeled to activities that support forest conservation.

Indigenous Peoples in the negotiations

Indigenous territories have rates of deforestation eight times less than external forests.

Indigenous Peoples are hoping for a decision on the Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge platform that will support the inclusion of them and their solutions to mitigating and adapting to climate change. A number of parties from Ecuador to Canada are prioritizing and supporting this platform. While interested in all agenda items, Indigenous Peoples will also probably focus on the NDC negotiation to ensure that the need to include them in the development and revision of the NDCs is explicitly mentioned. Many party submissions on the topic included the need for NDCs to discuss how they consulted Indigenous Peoples and other groups in their development.

Indigenous leaders from the Amazon basin will be promoting a new scientific analysis which found, that from a regional level, indigenous territories have rates of deforestation eight times less than external forests. Hopefully, parties will take note of this and include more overt references to the importance of supporting and including Indigenous Peoples in decisions.

Reporting on progress by countries implementing REDD+

While not formally on the negotiation agenda, I expect a number of countries at their pavilions or in other events to present the final versions of their National REDD+ Strategies. Parties have already submitted 25 Reference Emission Levels (REL) and I expect a few more to arrive during the COP or before the end of the year. Discussions around best practices in REL construction and lessons learned will be a popular topic – amongst the technical people at least.

The richest presentations and discussions related to REDD+ will likely happen on November 12th during a set of panels on forests as part of the Action Agenda, now called the Marrakech Partnership for Climate Action. During this event, I hope to hear more about how the private sector is implementing the 700+ deforestation-free related commitments they’ve taken, but largely have yet to implement.

A “working” COP

Many expect no big decisions on forests – like a Warsaw Framework for REDD+ – to be agreed upon at this COP. However, I would like to see a decision on the platform for Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge, which would be helpful for REDD+.

The parties should make progress on advancing the markets, NDC, and transparency negotiations that are indirectly related, but no less important, to REDD+. Decisions on those topics at the COP next year, as mandated in the Paris Agreement, are essential for continuing the implementation of REDD+ and unlocking necessary finance.

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Temer’s rollback of Brazil’s environmental and indigenous protections threatens livelihoods and world’s climate goals

Guest authors: Juliana Splendore, EDF climate change and indigenous issues consultant in Brazil, and Joelson Felix, Communications Officer of COIAB – a Brazilian indigenous organization representing indigenous peoples in the Brazilian Amazon

An aerial view of the Brazilian Amazon under a pouring rain | Photo by Juliana Splendore

One year into his presidency, Brazilian President Temer is leading a dismantling of crucial protections for Brazil’s indigenous territories and the environment.

New policies the president recently approved put at risk indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands, and could open the flood gates for Amazon deforestation, which has been rising dramatically in the past few years.

The president’s actions, aimed at winning the favor of the powerful agriculture lobby in Congress, threaten the livelihoods of the indigenous peoples who live in the forests, as well as Brazil’s international climate leadership and the world’s ability to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets agreed to in the Paris Agreement.

One of the world’s largest tropical forest areas, the Brazilian Amazon is home to more than 200 groups of indigenous peoples. Nearly half of the Brazilian Amazon, an area about five times the size of California, is designated as indigenous lands or protected natural areas, and as such is protected from development. These indigenous and protected areas and their indigenous populations were key to Brazil’s decreasing its deforestation by 70% from 2005 to 2014, which has made it the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, these gains are now at risk. Over the last two years, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon nearly doubled from 4,500 km2 in the period of 2011-2012 to 8,000 km2 in the period of 2015-2016, according to the National Institute of Space Research (INPE).

The significant rise in deforestation caused the Norwegian government this year to cut its forest protection payments to the Amazon Fund to about $35 million, $65 million less than in 2016. This cut directly affects the indigenous populations in the Amazon, who are among the main beneficiaries of the Fund.

Rollbacks in indigenous lands and environmental protections

Since he took office August 31, 2016, scandal-plagued Brazilian President Temer approved new measures and federal rules aimed at helping him gain critical support from the advocates of agribusiness and large rural landowners, known as the ruralistas, who make up one of the most powerful caucuses in the National Congress with over 200 seats.

Temer has created a new federal rule to be implemented by Brazilian Administration that can be used to deny many indigenous peoples the right to their lands. It stipulates that indigenous peoples do not have the right to their lands if they were not occupying them in October 1988, when the current constitution came into effect. Essentially, it denies the right of the indigenous peoples who lack sufficient documentation to prove that they were expelled from their lands during that time. As a result, many pending requests by indigenous groups for titles to their traditional territories could be denied because of their earlier expulsions. Another part of the new rule also prohibits the expansion of existing indigenous territories. Finally, the new rule also allows certain types of infrastructure projects to be permitted on their titled territories without any consultation.

A new short-term measure signed by President Temer (MP759) – which can be easily turned into a law – is expected to substantially intensify deforestation in the Amazon region. The new measure facilitates the legalization of public lands that were illegally occupied in the period of 2004 – 2011 and increases the size of land parcels that can be claimed. This measure could result in the loss of millions of hectares in the Amazon to land speculators.

Indigenous peoples in a training organized by ISA (Instituto Socioambiental) | Photo by Juliana Splendore

Need for more international attention and support

Taken together, these developments in Brazil endanger not only the livelihoods of indigenous populations, but also the significant amount of forest carbon stored in indigenous territories in the Brazilian Amazon, threatening the world’s ability to stabilize global climate.

The silver lining here is that the advocacy efforts led by the indigenous movement, environmentalists, Norway, and some international organizations are playing a key role in  mitigating the effects of the policies and guidance approved by Temer.

Now, indigenous peoples need even more support from international actors, in particular from EU governments and international companies committed to reduce deforestation in their supply chains. The governments and business leaders need to tell President Temer to roll back the new rules and measures.

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