As the World Bank moves forward with plans to pay developing countries to reduce and avoid carbon emissions by preserving forests (REDD+), advocates for local communities and indigenous groups are warning the rules developed to guide payment schemes do not do enough to protect the people who live in or use forests.
Given the lack of legal clarity over land tenure and rights in many countries, the current framework may lead to disputes over who owns the rights to the carbon stored in forests.
“It remains to be seen whether the REDD+ process and the Carbon Fund will turn out to be the biggest forest, carbon, and land heist in history, or whether it will support indigenous and local communities who are alone, without aid, protecting forests and pushing back with great risk to personal life and livelihood against vested interests,” said Penny Davies, program officer at the Ford Foundation and former forestry adviser to the U.K. Department for International Development, during a conference on the issue in Washington, D.C.
During the day-long conference hosted by the Rights and Resources Initiative, World Bank officials, indigenous rights advocates and representatives from civil society discussed the implications of recent international agreements on REDD+ activities, among them the new rules from the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility that outlines how countries should implement REDD+ projects.
This set of rules — known as the “methodological framework” — was approved by the concerned governments in December, after consulting with civil society and the private sector. The framework represents the first time an international organization has told countries how they should design and implement REDD+ programs that can then be sold as credits, unlocking up to $390 million in payments from the Carbon Fund.
While the idea of paying for conservation is not particularly controversial — or new — some advocacy groups think the World Bank could end up creating a “new asset class” and a scramble for forest resources to the detriment of local communities, and the framework will likely be unable to provide the type of safeguards that would ensure local people benefit.
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