- Created: 18 November 2015
Attac Gabon and GRAIN
As with other mechanisms supported by “world climate governance”, we doubted from the beginning that the Reduction of Emissions caused by Deforestation and the Degradation of Forests (REDD) mechanism would be likely to resolve the global climate crisis, ever since it was introduced in discussions on climate change. Now more than ever, the hidden face of this mechanism is revealed with the new market mechanism that is being devised and that may be adopted at the COP 21 in Paris in December 2015. The ground is a good place to sequester carbon, and speculators, businesses and multinationals see a great opportunity to make money and increase their profits. This time, real damage can be done. Very serious damage, because this time, the stakes are high; agriculture has become another target of the carbon trade.
Agriculture, which has been relegated to a minor role in these negotiations on climate change for some years, has reappeared, obviously not to the advantage of the people but to benefit the carbon trade and the world financial system. A few welcome the renewed focus, but it poses a problem for the rest of us.
The great majority of the preparatory proposal documents for REDD (commonly called R-PP) being worked out in Africa single out agriculture as the principal driver of deforestation, being careful not to point out that it is industrial agriculture with its focus on productivity and intensive use of chemical products which is the cause, to the detriment of small farms which have for decades always known how to respect the climate and protect the environment.
These accusations, which are intended to once again place the responsibility on one sector in order to better apply measures of “sanctification” through carbon trade competition, are simply criminal, all the more so considering the historic role and responsibilities of native peoples in the conservation of ecosystems through their traditional practices that respect the environment.
So the food system that generates between 44% and 57% of greenhouse gases (GHG), and which could be the sector through which we reduce a good part of emissions and cool the planet, becomes the sector through which most business can be done. As we know, farmland has the capacity to store carbon and to contribute to cooling the planet. As a result, it becomes worthy of interest and every effort is now made so that agriculture, long neglected, can be brought back into the negotiations and take its place as a “major contributor” in decreasing emissions.
In Paris, this hostage-taking that results in agriculture finding itself unable to fulfil its role of feeding the planet but instead relegated to a purely commercial role through the carbon trade, will become clearer and the world will legitimize a system that, as we know very well, will not solve the problem of climate change.
REDD will be firmly integrated into the carbon trade, endorsed by all to the detriment of agriculture.
Thanks to the carbon trade and to the new measures which may be implemented, REDD+ will commercialize forest carbon and, henceforth, carbon tenure. This new carbon tenure market, a new market-based mechanism, will accentuate land-grabbing and put communities at risk and drive them into extreme poverty. Just as the carbon trade has never been for the benefit of communities and peoples, this new carbon tenure trade will not be a market to support communities but one to enrich multinationals and elites, including African ones, through speculation, carbon sale, promoting flawed technologies for reducing greenhouse gas, and intellectual property rights.
Speculation has never been in the interest of the people, and we can soon expect to see the damage resulting from the battle that the multinationals will engage in on the African continent. As the African saying goes, “When elephants fight, it’s the grass that pays the price”, and the farmers, herdsmen and other African producers must not be allowed to become the grass trod upon by neoliberal interests.
Another very real fact, and one which clearly shows that REDD+ will not be the solution for communities and the people, is the participation of international financial institutions, led by the World Bank, in virtually all REDD+ pilot projects in Africa at the current time.. These institutions, which are far from being philanthropic, are permanently in attendance and “facilitate” processes. Thus we find the World Bank very much in evidence as project partner for COMIFAC (Commission of Forests of Central Africa) in the Congo Basin, or the French Development Agency (AFD), which, through the Debt Relief and Development Agreement (C2D), a debt refinancing mechanism, provides financial aid to the Ivory Coast, subject to conditions, of course, such as the presence and use of French “expertise”.
REDD+ will therefore not contribute to reducing GHG, because it wavers not only when it comes to institutional decisions, but also where strategy and operational methods are concerned, thus aggravating the basic socio-economic problems of grass-roots communities.
Mainly held at the mercy of ministerial structures lacking real power over crucial issues such as land rights and common law, REDD+ is headed for the wall, for protest from marginalized communities which, instead and in place of being consulted, are invited to informational meetings and confronted with done deals.
It is therefore still an illusion to think that REDD+ can defend the rights of communities and farmers and furnish a real framework for dialog with members of local civil society. Instead, it will reinforce its “marriage” to the private sector and the banks. So it is important to protest against this flawed solution and to establish a balance of power in order to achieve real social justice and put an end to inequality.
Translated by Caty Green, Coorditrad
GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems
 See La Via Campesina and GRAIN, “Food sovereignty: Five steps to cool the planet and feed its people”, December 2014.