Latin America’s Indigenous Reject Market Mechanisms as Solution to Climate Change

(IPS) – Solutions to global warming based on the logic of the market are a threat to the rights and way of life of indigenous peoples, the Latin American Indigenous Forum on Climate Change concluded this week in Costa Rica.

Proposals from governments and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), such as the Clean Development Mechanism and the UN-REDD Programme (United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries), “are new forms of economic geopolitics” that endanger indigenous rights enshrined in treaties, says the final declaration of the forum, which ended Wednesday.

These proposals allow states and transnational corporations to promote dams, agrofuels, oil exploration, tree plantations and monoculture crops, that cause expropriation and destruction of indigenous peoples’ territories and the criminalisation, prosecution and even murder of native people, the document says.

The Forum, which opened Monday, included the Indigenous Council of Central America (CICA), the Meso-American Indigenous Council (CIMA), the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests, the Coordinating Body for the Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), the Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network (IWBN), the South American region of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women (ECMIA), the Intercultural Indigenous University (UII) and the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (IIWF).

Indigenous people and their organisations are putting forward holistic solutions that respect the rights of human beings and of Mother Earth, and that are not limited to Western scientific knowledge but include traditional wisdom, indigenous practices and innovations that have contributed to efforts to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity, the Forum declaration says.

There are some 400 different native groups in Latin America, totalling about 45 million people.

“We discussed indigenous peoples’ strategies and positions with respect to climate change,” the general coordinator of the Guatemala-based Sotz’il – Centre for Maya Research and Development, Ramiro Batzin, told IPS.

Governments talk to each other without taking civil society into account, but indigenous people must be listened to, because they are the most affected by global warming, he said.

Climate change is due to “a model of development that has forced indigenous people into extreme poverty,” he said.

The worst harm they are suffering is lack of food, because of drought and floods, and the loss of their cultural identity.

The UN-REDD Programme provides for rich countries to pay for maintaining tropical forests in the developing world, in compensation for their carbon dioxide emissions, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.

The native peoples say that the great majority of places being proposed by governments and some NGOs to participate in the REDD programme are located in indigenous territories.

This shows that these territories are well preserved, but it is urgent to defend guarantees contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, particularly territorial rights and the right to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent, the forum declaration says.

“States do not want to acknowledge this; their approach is based purely on the bottom line,” said Batzin.

People here pinned their hopes on the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, to be hosted this month by the Bolivian government. The meeting is conceived as an alternative approach to the solutions explored to date by the international community.

Official climate negotiations will be resumed at the next United Nations conference in Mexico in November, after the failure of the Copenhagen meeting last December.

“The failure was to expect an outcome from such a meeting. In the midst of an economic crisis, industrialised countries do not want to sacrifice production,” Pascal Girot, Mesoamerica and Caribbean coordinator for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), told IPS.

The present model “is exterminating Mother Nature,” said Batzin, who criticised the governments of Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala for not protesting against the documents that emerged from Copenhagen, which he said were “not very democratic and lacked transparency.”

Costa Rica, for instance, is planning to be a carbon neutral country by 2021, and to sell greenhouse gas emissions mitigation mechanisms to industrialised countries.

“It’s a licence to pollute. It may be a solution for Costa Rica, taking a very utilitarian view. But it’s the principle that the polluter pays, and that is all we have at the moment,” said Girot.

Mechanisms like the REDD programme must guarantee the long term survival of the world’s large forests. But to achieve that in Central America is very difficult, because of the pressures on forested areas, and because “investors want guarantees that the mechanisms will be measurable,” Girot said.