Press Release / Nov. 4, 2009

Forest protection still missing in REDD negotiations

31 countries lead by signing Forest Pledge; Maldives Vice President calls for leadership

Barcelona - The potential of REDD to deliver real reductions in emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and to protect the rights of indigenous peoples in their forest homes hangs in the balance as language protecting forests remains missing from negotiating text for a climate change agreement.  In reaction, 20 additional countries, including the Maldives, Ghana, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka have come forward to sign up to the Forest Pledge to protect forest and indigenous rights over the past three days, making a total of 31 nations thus far prepared to make a stand in the REDD negotiations.

Language protecting intact natural forests must be re-inserted into the text in Barcelona, restoring what is popularly understood to be the purpose of REDD.

"REDD as a mechanism needs to prioritize the protection of intact natural forests in order to genuinely make a difference in preventing dangerous climate change," said Peg Putt of The Wilderness Society and the Ecosystems Climate Alliance. "Otherwise REDD will become little more than a logging mechanism and will quickly lose any public support."

The safeguard against the conversion of natural forests to plantations was controversially abandoned in Bangkok three weeks ago and awaits discussion Thursday morning, as does strengthening of safeguards to protect indigenous rights and biodiversity that were weakened at the same time.   As the stakes have risen, however, negotiations have retreated behind closed doors.

Dr. Mohamed Waheed, Vice President of the Maldives, has signed the Forest Pledge and calls for other countries to follow his leadership.  "The protection of the world's intact natural forests and the rights of indigenous communities who live in forests must be upheld in the Copenhagen agreement," said Dr. Waheed.

"Concern that REDD must protect forests and indigenous rights has prompted delegates representing almost one-sixth of all nations to sign up to the pledge to make these the core priorities of REDD," continued Ms. Putt.  "The next two days will likely make or break REDD as a mechanism that protects intact natural forests and genuinely makes a difference to dangerous climate change."
Joseph Ole Simel, the African Indigenous People Focal Point and Indigenous Peoples Caucus Chair on REDD, said: "Any REDD agreement must ensure the rights and dignity of indigenous peoples. The agreement must be legally binding and have a moral, political and social responsibility to ensure that the rights and dignity of indigenous peoples is promoted and protected."

"The World Bank, northern countries and big international NGOs, under the eyes of the United Nations, are creating carbon cowboys that trample over the rights of indigenous peoples, our land and our forests," said Tom Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, an international organizational working with indigenous peoples of the world.  "The trees of the global south are not a commodity to be openly traded on a global carbon market."

"The world's youth are saying to the UN that our future is not negotiable. Without a deal that meaningfully protects intact natural forests, our future is on the chopping block," said Joshua Kahn Russell from the International Youth Delegation and the Rainforest Action Network. "The current text fails to address the drivers of deforestation, and fails to safeguard indigenous rights."

At a colourful action held this morning in the conference venue representatives of indigenous peoples, youth, and environmental groups chanted and cheered as more countries signed the pledge.

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Contact: Don Lehr +34 62 580 5301, + 1 917 304 4058, [email protected]; Peg Putt  +61 418 127 580

The Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA) is an alliance of environment and social NGOs committed to keeping natural terrestrial ecosystems intact and their carbon out of the atmosphere, in an equitable and transparent way that respects the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. ECA comprises Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Global Witness, Humane Society International, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Foundation Norway, The Rainforest Foundation U.K., Wetlands International and The Wilderness Society.