Category Archives: Chiapas

BREAKING: Chiapas cancels ‘disastrous’ forest carbon offset plan linked with Calif. cap-and-trade

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project broke the story about the California-Chiapas-Acre REDD Deal and the impacts it would have on the Indigenous populations of the Lacandon jungle in Chiapas, Mexico following a trip taken by then-GJEP Media Coordinator Jeff Conant (quoted below) and GJEP Board Chair and co-founder Orin Langelle to the Indigenous village Amador Hernandez, deep in the heart of the Lacandon jungle in March of 2011.

GJEP, along with Friends of the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network and others have continued to monitor the situation in Chiapas, as well as to actively oppose the inclusion of REDD in the California cap-and-trade program, and to fight against REDD at the UN climate conferences.  While it is surely great news that Chiapas has decided to suspend the disastrous REDD program, we know that the fight is far from over.

To view the photo essay from GJEP’s 2011 trip to Chiapas, click here.  To view the 28 minute film we produced on the topic, click here.

-The GJEP Team

July 18, 2013. Source: Friends of the Earth-U.S.

Image: IEN

Image: IEN

The state government of Chiapas has cancelled a controversial forest protection plan that critics said failed to address the root causes of deforestation and could endanger the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples. The program is linked to California’s cap-and-trade program through a complex “carbon offset” scheme that has yet to see the light of day.

Carlos Morales Vázquez, the Mexican state’s secretary of the environment, on July 8 told the Chiapas daily El Heraldo that the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation program “was an utter failure, and the program is cancelled.”

What the suspension of the program means for California’s agreement with Chiapas remains to be seen. The program, instituted in 2011 after Chiapas signed an agreement with California as part of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32, has been widely criticized by civil society groups for its lack of clear objectives, absence of baseline measures of deforestation, and failure to engage indigenous people’s organizations or take into account historic tension over land rights that plague the region.
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Filed under Chiapas, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, REDD

Debate: Should California cap and trade use forestry offsets?

Note: Jeff Conant is a good friend and former Communications Director at Global Justice Ecology Project.  Global Justice Ecology Project has been tracking the California-Acre-Chiapas REDD deal since it was unveiled at the UN climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico in 2010.

In 2011, GJEP’s Co-Director/Strategist Orin Langelle and Communications Director Jeff Conant travelled to Chiapas, Mexico to the Village of Amador Hernandez, an Indigenous village in the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas threatened with relocation due to the REDD project.  Langelle took hundreds of photos in the community and the region which were assembled into a poignant photo essay.  And GJEP’s work in Chiapas broke the story of and documented the emerging impacts of REDD.  In 2012, GJEP released a short documentary from the trip, A Darker Shade of Green: REDD Alert and the Future of Forestshighlighting the California REDD deal.

-The GJEP Team

By Chris Lang, May 21, 2013. Source: REDD-Monitor

2013-05-21-152400_252x244_scrotThe debate about whether California should allow REDD carbon offsets in its cap and trade scheme (AB 32) continues. Over the weekend, theSacramento Bee published two opinion pieces, one opposing REDD credits and one in favour.

Jeff Conant, International Forests Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, argues against REDD credits. In favour of REDD are Dan Nepstad, director and president of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), and Tony Brunello, the executive director of the Green Technology Leadership Group, partner at California Strategies and former California deputy secretary for climate change and energy.

So far, the discussion in the comments on the Sacramento Bee website following these two articles is dominated by climate sceptics. What follows is a summary of the arguments in the hope of generating a more sensible discussion (either here or on the Sacramento Bee website).

Conant argues that AB 32 is “one of the most forward-thinking pieces of climate legislation in the country”, but one that is already undermined by the inclusion of carbon offsets. It would only be undermined further by the inclusion of REDD credits from a “dubious and untried scheme to protect rain forests in Mexico and Brazil”. Continue reading

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Green Economy, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, REDD

KPFK Sojourner Truth Earth Watch: Jeff Conant on REDD forest offsets and California’s carbon market

Note: Jeff Conant is a good friend and former Communications Director for Global Justice Ecology Project.

-The GJEP Team

kpfk_logoJeff Conant, International Forests Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, discusses the dangers of including REDD forest offsets in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act.  Global Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Pacifica Los Angeles for a weekly Earth Minute each Tuesday and a weekly Earth Watch interview each Thursday.

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Green Economy, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Pollution, REDD

“We reject REDD+ in all its versions” – Letter from Chiapas, Mexico opposing REDD in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32)

By Chris Lang, 30th April 2013.  Source: REDD-Monitor

Organisations based in Chiapas, Mexico have written to California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, to oppose the inclusion of REDD in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32).

Young girls in Amador Hernández   Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Young girls in Amador Hernández Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

In March 2011, Global Justice Ecology Project travelled to Chiapas and documented the problems that REDD and other conservation projects were causing for communities in the Lacandón jungle. Jeff Conant, who was then Communications Director for GJEP, wrote a series of articles based on the visit. The articles are collected on GJEP’s blog, Climate Connections. And Orin Langelle, GJEP’s Board Chair, produced a photo essay about the visit to Chiapas.

GJEP also produced a video about REDD: “A Darker Shade of Green”, which includes interviews with communities in Chiapas (the part about Chiapas starts at 10:45). One of the villagers describes REDD from his perspective:

“They see our Mother Earth as a business, and for us you should never see it like that, it’s our Mother, she can’t be sold. Now they’re developing this REDD Project that’s about carbon capture, it doesn’t serve us. We struggle simply to feed ourselves.”

In December 2012, an article was published in Truthout about the impact of REDD on communities in Chiapas. The title is very appropriate: “Colonialism and the Green Economy: The Hidden Side of Carbon Offsets”. The impacts of carbon offsets on the communities in Chiapas, it seems, remain largely hidden from view in California.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Green Economy, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Pollution, REDD, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Making Contact Radio: Saving or Selling the Planet? REDD, Climate Change and Indigenous Lands | National Radio Project

Note: This episode of Making Contact is based upon the Global Justice Ecology Project DVD “A Darker Shade of Green: REDD Alert and the Future of Forests,” produced earlier this year.

To order a copy of the DVD, which includes two bonus features, email: [email protected]

To listen to the Making Contact episode, click the link below:

making contact

Saving or Selling the Planet? REDD, Climate Change and Indigenous Lands | National Radio Project.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Earth Radio, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, REDD, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Should Chiapas farmers suffer for California’s carbon?

Note: Jeff Conant is the former Communications Director for Global Justice Ecology Project.  In March of 2011, he and Orin Langelle, then Co-Director of GJEP, went to Amador Hernandez in Chiapas, Mexico to investigate the threatened forced relocation of the community and its relation to REDD+ and the California-Chiapas-Acre, Brazil climate deal.

–The GJEP Team

By Jeff Conant, November 13 2012. Source: Yes! Magazine

Photo: Jeff Conant

“We are not responsible for climate change—it’s the big industries that are,” said Abelardo, a young man from the Tseltal Mayan village of Amador Hernández in the Lacandon jungle of Chiapas. “So why should we be held responsible, and even punished for it?”

Abelardo was one of dozens of villagers who had traveled to the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas to protest an international policy meeting on climate change and forest conservation. At a high-end conference center, representatives from the state of California and from states and provinces around the world were working out mechanisms intended to mitigate climate change by protecting tropical forests. The group was called the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), and California’s interest was in using forest preservation in Chiapas as a carbon offset—a means for meeting climate change goals under the state’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act.

Such an agreement among subnational governments is unprecedented, and California officials view it as an important way for the world’s eighth largest economy to help the developing world. But judging from the reaction on the streets of San Cristóbal, Mexican peasants see it differently. The lush, mountainous state of Chiapas has a long history of human rights abuses, and the Mexican government has forcibly evicted indigenous families from their lands in the name of environmental protection. To indigenous peasants in the Lacandon jungle, the pending agreement has all the hallmarks of a land grab.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Green Economy, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, REDD

Mexico can’t see the wood for the trees

Note: This article arose out of the heated debates on REDD (the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation scheme) at the UN Climate Conference in Cancun, Mexico in 2010.  GJEP actively campaigned against REDD there and supported the important work of our Indigenous allies who were there to oppose REDD.  As a result, GJEP is quoted opposing REDD in the article below.

Another outcome of our work against REDD in Cancun is a new video documenting opposition to REDD by Indigenous peoples, forest dependent communities and Northern communities all of whom are negatively impacted by REDD.  This video, “A Darker Shade of Green: REDD Alert and the Future of Forests,” which we co-produced with Global Forest Coalition, will be officially released on the 16th of January.”

–The GJEP Team

Cross-Posted from Le Monde Diplomatique (English Edition)

January 2012 Edition

An indigenous community in Mexico wants to drop protected conservation status for its area because it feels it has lost real control of its land and way of life. Concern about carbon emissions is blinding policy makers to the failures of some of their conservation policies

by Anne Vigna

“That’s the one,” said Arcenio Osorio, pointing at the huge mountain that towers over the village of Santiago Lachiguiri, in Oaxaca state, part of southwestern Mexico’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec. “It provides water to all the towns in the area, and to us, the Zapotec people, it’s sacred. That’s the mountain we wanted official protection for.” Osorio is secretary of the community assembly, a traditional elected body that represents the people of the village. The 8,000 inhabitants of the county have always been involved in the conservation of their mountain, the Cerro de las Flores (“Mountain of the Flowers”). An official from the National Commission for Protected Natural Areas (Conanp) told me it is classed as an area of “exceptionally high biodiversity” due to the “excellent state of preservation of its ecosystem”.

In the valleys at the foot of the mountain, they grow organic coffee. The slopes are covered with little woods and patches of maize, but after several hours of walking and clambering you come to forests of pine trees, under which grow hundreds of species of wild flowers. Because of its altitude (2,200 metres) and the rock it is made of, the mountain acts as a kind of sponge, which stores the greater part of the area’s water supply.

Cerro de las Flores is a textbook case of conservation policy. In August 2003 it became Mexico’s first “voluntary community preserved area”. My source said Conanp defines this as an area protected by a “conservation mechanism put in place at the request of the local community, that protects the area’s natural riches and offers sustainable economic alternatives to its inhabitants”. According to Conanp, 207,887 hectares of land are managed in this way in Mexico. But at the meeting of the community assembly in January 2011, the people of Santiago Lachiguiri voted to drop the area’s “preserved area” status. “The government deceived us,” explained Osorio. “We are still the legitimate owners of the land, but we have lost control of it.”

Osorio was clearly irritated, and with some justification. The village’s land commissioner, Enan Eduardo, explained his choice of words: “We discovered that the certification of the 1,400 hectares of Cerro de las Flores entailed a conservation period of 30 years, rather than the five years we had agreed on when we voted.” Did that imply deception, and loss of control? “The conservation policy means we also have to change our production methods, even if it makes no sense in ecological terms.”

Certifying land involves the establishment of a development plan, preceded by a diagnostic survey; non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government institutions (Mexico’s ecology ministry and Conanp) handle both tasks. The process is supposed to begin with “participatory workshops”, to inform the local inhabitants and allow them to make their opinions heard and take part in decision-making. But in Santiago Lachiguiri this procedure, seen as essential for the success of any conservation initiative, wasn’t followed correctly. Conanp insists the local inhabitants participated and were properly informed. Osorio said: “We went everywhere with them, and answered all their questions. But we had no idea what they were planning.”

Slash and burn

As a result, the conservation area ended up including the flanks of the mountain, where 140 smallholders had been growing maize. A further 517 hectares were included in the “payment for environmental services” programme, under which agricultural activities are forbidden, but the community receives an annual payment of 400 pesos (US$30) per hectare, that is $15,510 a year. It’s not much — and less than they were making from farming the land. The conservation plan also described a range of activities that would supposedly enhance the area’s resources without damaging the environment. The two flagship projects were an ecotourism initiative and a water-bottling plant. Both were abandoned after four years. Two cabins intended to accommodate tourists were never used — this remote area attracts few visitors — and the cost of transporting the bottled water proved prohibitive.

But it was farming that stirred up the most trouble. The local community practised slash-and-burn cultivation (land is cleared, burned and then planted every seven years). The ash serves as a natural fertiliser and the wood is used as cooking fuel. Typical crops are maize, beans, tomatoes and peppers.

Anthropologist Eckart Boege says that, when properly managed, according to strict rules, itinerant cultivation is the best way of farming without destroying the environment; the Mayas were masters of this technique, in both production and reforestation. But Mexican and international institutions have identified this farming method as the latest big threat and they all want a ban on burning, since carbon capture has become the central element of conservation policies. Slash-and-burn has in fact caused environmental damage in Mexico, leading to deforestation, soil impoverishment, water shortages and reduced biodiversity.

But this is not the case with land occupied by indigenous peoples such as the inhabitants of Santiago Lachiguiri, who have established strict community rules (1). “If it’s properly used, the technique can actually increase the biological diversity and mass of the forest. We release CO2 by burning, but we capture more during the regeneration phase,” explained Alvaro Salgado, agronomist and author of a study on slash-and-burn. These facts have been recognised in scientific publications but are denied by Conanp, which is busy imposing another project on the village — agro-forestry, a system that integrates trees into a system of permanent cultivation, in this case apricot trees and maize. The results have failed to convince the locals. In three years, the soil has become impoverished and the trees are scrawny. “Since the maize yields were poor, Conanp advised us very early on to use chemicals to enrich the soil,” said Eduardo. Another result was that most of the 140 smallholders who had lost their land left the village. Some emigrated to the US, some moved to the city, some went to work on a motorway construction site, and the youngest joined the army after a recruitment campaign.

The villagers demanded the removal of the mountain’s protected area status and an end to the payments for environmental services. They also sent two representatives to the Alternative Global Forum that was held at Cancún in December 2010 in parallel with the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 16). Their aim was to denounce the conservation policies that were being imposed. Their testimony was of the highest importance: it was COP 16 that approved the agreement on forest conservation proposed at COP 13, in Bali in 2007 — the REDD (Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Degradation) programme.

Unable to agree on reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the signatories hoped that REDD would kill two birds with one stone, cutting emissions by 15% while preventing deforestation. Diego Rodriguez from the World Bank had no doubts REDD would enable the world to prepare for climate change.

’We want to be able to say no’

Yet REDD shows little concern for the 300 million people across the world who depend on forests for their living. The programme is based on “compensation”: any business enterprise or country that pollutes can compensate for its greenhouse gas emissions (quantified in terms of tons of carbon) by “protecting” a forest. Advocates of REDD claim this approach is scientific but it does not appear to have convinced everyone. Research by Stanford University in California shows that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change overestimated the amount of carbon stocked in a forest in Peru by one-third (2).

Anne Petermann of the NGO Global Justice Ecology Project says the idea that carbon can be stocked implies a ban on the felling of trees. Indigenous groups are opposed to REDD, she says, because they believe it will inevitably displace communities or have a serious impact on their way of life, without doing anything to reduce pollution or climate change. Representatives of indigenous peoples, who came to Cancún in large numbers, hoped to impose a requirement that free, prior and informed consent be obtained before the implementation of any REDD project. “We want to be able to say no if a company wants to use our territory to compensate for carbon emissions,” said Onel Masardule, representative of the Kuna people of Panama.

But REDD’s final text merely refers to “social and environmental safeguards”, which have yet to be defined. It mentions the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (which says that “indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources”), but the declaration isn’t binding. Two recent reports (3) on respect for indigenous peoples in REDD programmes indicate that the land rights of local inhabitants and principles of consultation and information have been systematically flouted.

Over the past six years, a range of projects have been financed by enterprises (Shell and Gazprom in Indonesia, BP in Bolivia, and Rio Tinto in Australia), by countries (Norway in Brazil and Indonesia, France in Mexico) and special funds belonging to international institutions such as the World Bank and UN agencies. The Cancún Agreements did not decide how the REDD programme was to be financed but the idea, still championed by the World Bank, of offering REDD carbon credits on the global emissions market already seems less viable.

It is now accepted that the markets have done nothing to help reduce carbon emissions or to promote the financing of a less polluting economy. Kate Dooley, an expert on forests at the NGO Fern, says carbon trading does not encourage people to use less carbon but gives the illusion that it’s possible to compensate for pollution. She fears that if REDD were to become part of the carbon trading market, there could be a wave of land speculation based on assigning a “carbon value” to forests. But the so-called developed nations, which are historically responsible for climate change, have refused to finance REDD alone. A decision on the issue has therefore been put off until COP 17, to be held in Durban, South Africa, 28 November—9 December 2011.

All the World Bank reports stress that public money will not be enough to finance the establishment of REDD; private funding is also needed — estimates range from $15bn to $50bn per year, but the funds currently available amount to only $2bn. And a question remains: what is to be done about the smallholders who want to continue growing maize while conserving some of their land? At COP 16, Mexico’s president Felipe Calderón declared: “We will pay the smallholders to plant trees instead of maize on the mountain, and live on payments they will receive for environmental services.”

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, REDD, UNFCCC

Amador Hernández Thanks GJEP for Medical Support

Back in November, GJEP received a request from the community of Amador Hernández, Chiapas, to help them collect funds to bring a shipment of supplies from Mexico City. The request came in the wake of our work uncovering the Mexican authorities’ withdrawal of government medical services to the community (documented in this video).
Even with our extremely scarce resources, we were able to mobilize our members and supporters to quickly raise the bulk of the money the community requested. This kind of direct funding support falls outside of the immediate mission of the organization, but well within our values and commitment as participants in social struggle — and so we are pleased and humbled to share the brief letter of appreciation we’ve just received from the community authorities in Amador Hernández.
The letter ends with a phrase in Tzotzil — Te Nix Ya Llil sba Te me Yax Chamotik ta Lucha. For more context, and another look at where that phrase fits in, see Jeff Conant and Orin Langelle’s article in Z magazine, Turning the Lacandon Jungle Over the Carbon Market.
- the GJEP team
Ejido Amador Hernández
01 de Diciembre de 2011
Dear compañeros at GJEP:

By this means we want to extend our most sincere gratitude for the efforts you have made in raising $ 620 to make it possible to transport medicine and medical equipment to our community.

Even though we are still waiting for the funds that were raised, we express that we value immensely the effort, energy and time you have put into working for the benefit of our community. We are very pleased by the support you have given us to strengthen our health and our process of struggle.

Courage and strength in your work and struggle, we appreciate what you do and we will continue just as ready to fight from our territories and we hope to keep walking together.

Francisco Hernández Maldonado
Comisariado Ejidal
Juan Lorenzo Lorenzo
Agente Auxiliar

 Te Nix Ya Llil sba Te me Yax Chamotik ta Lucha 

(Anyway we are going to die in the struggle)
Ejido Amador Hernández
01 de Diciembre del 2011
Estimados compañeros del GJEP:
     Por este medio queremos hacerles llegar nuestros más sinceros agradecimientos por el esfuerzo que han hecho en recaudar 620 dolares para hacer posible transportar medicinas y equipos médicos a nuestra comunidad.
     Aunque quedamos a la espera de los fondos recaudados queremos expresarles que valoramos inmensamente el esfuerzo, la energía y el tiempo que han empleado en trabajar para el beneficio de nuestra comunidad. Estamos muy contentos por el apoyo que nos han brindado para ir fortaleciendo nuestra salud y nuestro proceso de lucha.
     Ánimo y fuerza en su trabaja y lucha, apreciamos lo que hacen y nosotros de igual manera seguiremos en pie de lucha desde nuestros territorios y ojala sigamos caminando juntos.
Francisco Hernádez Maldonado
Comisariado Ejidal
Juan Lorenzo Lorenzo
Agente Auxiliar
Te Nix Ya Llil sba Te me Yax Chamotik ta Lucha
(De todos modos nos moriremos en la lucha)

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Chiapas, Climate Justice, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean