Selected category: Indigenous peoples

Is Brazil stepping back from environmental leadership, just when it’s needed the most?

Michel Temer in April 2016. Credit: Fabio Rodrigues-Pozzebom/ Agencia Brasil via Wikimedia Commons.

Every conversation I have with my Brazilian friends and colleagues these days starts off with a discussion of whose political crisis is worse. It’s a hard question. But Brazil’s President Temer has the chance to show a little real leadership June 19th if he decides to veto a blatant giveaway of a large swath of protected Amazon forest to land grabbers and environmental lawbreakers.

U.S. and Brazilian presidents: The 19th-century take on development and the environment

Wildly unpopular U.S. President Trump was elected by maybe a third of eligible voters, with a substantial minority of votes cast. He is doing everything he and his staff can think of to roll back environmental protections in the United States and stymie progress on climate change globally. His ill-conceived scheme to pull the United States out the Paris Agreement would have us abdicate international leadership and surrender the enormous economic opportunity of the new, renewable, energy economy to China and other competitors.

Wildly unpopular Brazilian President Temer was put in power by an even more wildly unpopular Congress in an ultimately failed bid to shut down judicial investigations that are sending herds of them, and their business associates, to jail for massive graft and corruption. He (and his predecessor, who mismanaged the economy into the worst recession in Brazil’s modern history) has totally dropped the ball on controlling Amazon deforestation, which, in the absence of budget for enforcement has increased for two years running for the first time since 2004.

Brazil’s Amazon at risk

Since the weight of corruption scandals Temer is personally implicated in has him clinging to power by his fingernails, the yahoos in the “rural caucus” of the Congress (the voting bloc of big ranchers’ and agribusiness’ representatives) are taking the opportunity to run hog-wild with proposals to gut forest protections and roll back indigenous territories – two of the major reasons why Brazil became the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing deforestation by about 80% from 2004–2014.

By June 19th, Temer has to decide whether to veto measures that would deliver 600,000 hectares in an Amazon protected area to land-grabbers – and rampant deforestation. It's not just 600,000 hectares of forest at stake – caving to a flagrant play to carve up a federal conservation area to benefit slash-and-burn land grabbers is a terrible precedent for all of the Amazon protected areas.

All of this is rapidly eroding Brazil’s international climate leadership, and is bad news for the Paris Agreement. Brazil’s demonstration that a major emerging economy could reduce large-scale emissions while growing its economy and bringing millions out of poverty was a beacon of light in the climate negotiations that is dimming by the moment.

Brazil’s President Temer can show a little real leadership if he vetos a blatant giveaway of a large swath of protected Amazon forest to land grabbers and environmental lawbreakers

The abandonment of Brazil’s successful deforestation control program by President Temer and former President Dilma, if continued, will only hinder Brazil’s economic prospects in the 21st century global economy – like President Trump’s radical misreading (or ignorance) of the economic implications of the Paris Agreement for the United States. Increased deforestation will likely cause Brazil to lose market share as major commodity traders and consumer goods companies that have committed to zero-deforestation beef and soy supply chains curtail market access. Rampant violence and human rights abuses against indigenous peoples and grassroots environmental activists will expose public-facing companies to increasing reputational risk – and send them looking for lower-risk places to source.

On the other hand, support for sustainable development first movers such as Acre state and agriculture powerhouse Mato Grosso could make Brazil the go-to supplier for zero-deforestation commodities worldwide. And, as Amazon states, civil society and green business leaders have consistently advocated, if Brazil opened up to carbon market crediting for reduced deforestation in emerging international markets, it could unlock the finance needed to end deforestation in the Amazon and Brazil’s other mega-diverse biomes; make family and industrial agriculture 100% sustainable; and create sustainable prosperity in the 200 million hectares of indigenous territories and protected areas of the Amazon.

It’s hard to say whose loss is worse under U.S. and Brazil’s lamentable current policies, but maybe even harder to say whose gain would be greater if Trump and Temer would wake up and recognize the real opportunities in the 21st century economy.

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What the Paris Agreement's references to indigenous peoples mean

By: Chris Meyer, Environmental Defense Fund, and Estebancio Castro, Independent Indigenous Leader

paris_indigenous

The Paris Agreement makes five explicit references to indigenous peoples, their rights, and their traditional knowledge. Above: A report launched at a December 2015 press conference in Paris found indigenous territories hold one-fifth of the world’s tropical forest carbon. Credit: Environmental Defense Fund

Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but they can also play a crucial role in stabilizing the climate. Though the 1997 Kyoto Protocol didn’t include a single reference to indigenous peoples, the Paris Agreement– though not perfect – made some great strides.

The Paris Agreement and implementing decisions include:

  • five explicit references to indigenous peoples, their rights, and their traditional knowledge. These appear in the preambles of both the Paris Agreement and the Decision text, and in specific topic areas of the exchange of experiences and adaptation.
  • a reference to a topic important to indigenous peoples, non-carbon benefits in relation to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+).

Importantly, the references to indigenous peoples in the preamble to the Paris Agreement, and repeated in the preamble to the Decision text, say that countries need to respect indigenous peoples’ rights when taking action to address climate change. It’s significant that this rights language is included in the preambles, as it ensures these rights will be part of the framing of the whole agreement and implementing decisions.

The Paris Agreement and its Decision texts contain important references to indigenous peoples' rights that can help drive change at the country levels, where it is most needed.

The other references to indigenous peoples discuss the need to include them in the exchange of knowledge, especially considering the topic of adaptation. As they are one of the more vulnerable groups, they will need access to more western knowledge to support their own indigenous knowledge about how to adapt to climate change and protect their livelihoods. Additionally, the Paris Agreement recognizes indigenous peoples' “traditional knowledge” as an asset for helping themselves – and their neighbors – adapt.

Indigenous peoples for many years advocated strongly for the consideration of non-carbon benefits as a part of REDD+, including through a number of formal submissions to the process. The inclusion of explicit language in the REDD+ article to promote non-carbon benefits reflects their efforts and the importance of the topic.

The Paris Agreement and its Decision text aren’t perfect, and though some may have wished to see a greater number of specific references to these rights in the text, the Paris outcome was kept intentionally broad so it could be applicable to nearly 200 countries.

Regardless, we see important references to indigenous peoples' rights in the Paris Agreement and its Decision texts that, together with other international human rights instruments, can now be leveraged to drive change at the country levels, where it is most needed. That is the challenge in the years to come – to ensure indigenous peoples and their rights are adequately represented and respected in countries’ policies and actions they take to implement the Paris Agreement.

Additional resources:

Also posted in Paris, REDD+| 1 Response

Amazon states, global leaders in emissions reductions

Two states in the Brazilian Amazon — Mato Grosso and Pará emitted more greenhouse gases in 2004 than all but six nations in the world. More climate pollution than Japan. By 2012 they had cut emissions so dramatically, they dropped beneath 37 other countries.

This progress, achieved through reduced deforestation, is a major reason for the 80%  decline in Amazon deforestation between 2005 and 2014.

At the Paris climate conference, these two states rolled out plans for even more ambitious action.

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(source: Observatório de Clima SEEG)

Ambitious forest policy is key to climate progress

Slowing Amazon deforestation has kept over 4 billion tons of CO₂ out of the atmosphere since 2005, several times more than the EU’s emissions reductions from 2005 – 2011. Major causes of the decline include better remote sensing monitoring, ramped-up law enforcement, credit limitations, company commitments to zero-deforestation commodity supply chains, large-scale creation of protected areas and recognition of indigenous territories.

The bad news is that plans positive incentives – payments from polluters to preserve forests — have not materialized.  Consequently, while deforestation dropped to a historic low of 4,500 km² in 2012 (from a peak of 27,000 km² in 2004), it has crept back up to around 5,000 km² in recent years.

Read More »

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3 reasons why the land sector is key to a Paris climate agreement

Trees in a forest

The Paris climate agreement should incorporate the land sector, which includes agriculture and deforestation, in a way that makes best use of its potential for mitigation, adaptation and development. Credit: flickr/final gather

Land use—such as agriculture and forests—accounts for almost a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions on the planet.

It’s obvious that land use will play a major role in curbing the impact of climate change—and  here are three big reasons why the land sector will be key to an agreement made in Paris:

1) The land sector has huge mitigation potential:

The land sector accounts for about 24% of net global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. However, it has huge potential to reduce emissions, as well. Forests alone could absorb up to 11% of emissions. The IPCC also estimates that the land sector could provide 20-60% of cumulative mitigation by 2030. Without significant efforts to reduce emissions and enhance sequestration, it will be very difficult to stabilize warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

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Putting Indigenous Producers on the Map

Juanita crop

Cacao grown by indigenous and community cooperatives has supported the growth of the organic ultra-premium chocolate industry.  Photo Credit: Flickr/USAID Development Credit Authority

Across the Amazon, indigenous peoples have long harvested well-known commodities like cacao, coffee, Brazil nuts, and hearts of palm. Indigenous communities rely on such “non-timber” forest products—which also include traditional crops and less well-known natural products such as sacha inchi and camu camu—for the communities’ own consumption and for sale.

Responsible trade in these products can make a significant contribution to indigenous communities working to conserve their forests and generate alternative sources of income. Because indigenous management of Amazon forests is critical to controlling and reducing carbon emissions in the atmosphere, responsible trade also aligns with the growing body of corporate commitments to deforestation-free sourcing.

Indigenous products and community enterprises, however, face practical, commercial and organizational challenges in getting to market, particularly at scale. Overcoming these obstacles requires a combination of financial expertise, technical assistance and strategic commercial relationships. Read More »

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8 reasons for hope: Our top take-aways from Climate Week

My forecast had been for a Climate Week “on steroids” and that’s exactly what we got.

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(Image: Jane Kratochvil)

We saw the largest climate rally in history draw 400,000 people – up from the 250,000 we had initially hoped for – and then the United Nations Climate Summit, where 125 heads of state joined business and civic leaders to discuss ways to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Another highlight for the week was the growing momentum for putting a price on carbon. More than 1,000 businesses and investors, nearly 100 national, state, province and city governments, and more than 30 non-profit organizations called for expanding emissions trading and other policies that create market incentives for cutting pollution.

Could it be that we’re finally reaching the point of meaningful action on climate change? To find out, I asked colleagues at Environmental Defense Fund who participated in the Climate Summit for their key take-aways from the week.

Here’s their report:

1. PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH

Eric Pooley, Sr. Vice President, Strategy and Communications: This march shot down, once and for all, the old canard that Americans “don't care” about climate change. And it reminded me what an extremely big tent the coalition for climate action really is — with plenty of room for groups with vastly different views.

More than 1,000 EDF members and staff, plus 300 members of the Moms Clean Air Force, were proud to be marching alongside all kinds of people from all kinds of groups from all over the country. To win on climate, we need a strong outside game and a strong inside game. EDF is helping to build both.

2. METHANE EMISSIONS RISE TO THE TOP

Mark Brownstein, Associate Vice President, U.S. Climate and EnergyMethane is becoming a top priority in the fight against climate change. Last week, EDF helped to launch the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Oil & Gas Methane Partnership, which creates a framework for oil and gas companies to measure and reduce methane emissions and report their progress.

At the summit, I watched the chief executive of Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, turn to Fred Krupp to say that his company was interested in joining the six companies that already agreed to sign on. While the ultimate test of the partnership will be the reductions that it achieves, it has gotten off to a promising start.

3. COMMON GROUND ON FORESTS

Stephan Schwartzman, Senior Director, Tropical Forest Policy: One of the high points of the week, no doubt, came when 35 national and state governments, more than 60 non-profits and indigenous organizations, and 34 major corporations pledged to halve deforestation by 2020 – and to completely end the clearing of natural forests by 2030. EDF was proud to be part of the coalition that put the New York Declaration on Forests together.

4. INDIGENOUS PEOPLES GOT THE RECOGNITION THEY DESERVE

Christopher Meyer, Amazon Basin Outreach Manager: Indigenous groups from the major rain forest basins pledged to continue to conserve 400 million hectares under their control. Those 400 million hectares are important for cultural and biodiversity purposes globally, but they also hold an estimated 71 gigatons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 11 years of emissions from the United States.

I was honored to accompany Edwin Vasquez Campos of the Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin, and to watch him deliver a stirring speech to a room that included the leaders of Norway and Indonesia. It was the first time an indigenous leader was given such an opportunity at the U.N.

5. US-CHINA LEADERSHIP ON CLIMATE?

Fred Krupp, EDF President: On September 23, EDF hosted a meeting with Chinese government officials, who reiterated their plans for a national carbon market in China, and said they’re interested in working with the United States to combat climate change. Later that day, I heard President Obama speak at the United Nations General Assembly.

I was encouraged and inspired to hear him say that the U.S. and China, “as the two largest economies and emitters in the world … have a special responsibility to lead.”

6. CLIMATE-SMART AGRICULTURE – NO LONGER JUST A CATCH PHRASE

Richie Ahuja, Regional Director, Asia: After a three-year global effort involving a large number of diverse stakeholders, we finally launched the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture. Its purpose: To help the world figure out how to feed a growing population on a warming planet.

The alliance will use the latest technology and draw on the experience of farmers to improve livelihoods and build resilience – while at the same time cutting greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts. This is climate action that truly counts.

7. CORPORATIONS ARE ON BOARD

Ruben Lubowski, Chief Natural Resource Economist: One thing that made the Climate Summit unique was that it included corporate leaders, not just heads of state. In addition to signing the New York Declaration on Forests, chief executives of major global companies that buy and trade palm oil and other tropical commodities that drive deforestation – companies like Cargill, Unilever, and Wilmar – spoke strongly about their plans to change sourcing practices.

Already, companies accounting for about 60 percent of the world’s palm oil trade have made commitments to eliminate deforestation from their products.

8. CALIFORNIA DOES IT AGAIN

Derek Walker, Associate Vice President, U.S. Climate and Energy: California has served as a proving ground for climate change policies that can be adapted by other jurisdictions, whether in the U.S. and abroad – and there’s more to come. My highlight for the week: when Gov. Jerry Brown said that California will set a post-2020 emissions limit and ratchet up its 33-percent renewable standard – already the nation’s top target.

California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols also told us that the state is preparing to develop rules on how to incorporate forest carbon credits into its carbon market – a key step toward reducing deforestation.

This post originally appeared on EDF Voices on Sept. 29.

Also posted in Agriculture, Brazil, Deforestation, Emissions trading & markets, News, REDD+, United States| Leave a comment
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