Climate pact should help rather than hurt people of tropical forests

Monday, December 13, 2010; 8:45 PM

The Dec. 8 news story "Pact could be near to save tropical forests" overlooked critical issues with respect to Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), the global mechanism being developed by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to allow countries to protect forests by selling carbon credits.

The rules could offer significant benefits for indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities. However, such investments could also do substantial harm by threatening to cut off communities from their traditional homes, livelihoods and ways of life. Negotiators in Cancun have been so focused on their ability to secure cheap sources of carbon credits that they have failed to ensure even the most basic social and environmental standards in the U.N. agreement on REDD+.

The Rimba Raya project mentioned in the article, far from being a model project, will provide a windfall for some of the world's largest polluters. With a conservative carbon price of $10 per ton, the project is expected to generate carbon credits worth $750 million for Shell and Gazprom, the Russian oil giant. Only $25 million, 3 percent of the project benefits, will be placed in an endowment fund for local communities. This hardly counts as a benefit to those who have historically protected forests.

Kate Horner, Washington

The writer is a policy analyst at the Friends of the Earth US.

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