On the need for REDD+ safeguards as carbon credit dealers move into forests and threaten indigenous rights

With the increasing probability of incorporating REDD+ into carbon credit trading schemes and creating a financial value for carbon stored in forests, entrepreneurs and organizations have gone into forests to sign agreements with indigenous groups. However, as governments have been slow to react in passing laws to regulate this emerging market, some unscrupulous individuals have taken advantage of indigenous groups.

This is reported to be the case with David Nilsson, who has been named a ‘carbon cowboy’ by the local press in Peru. Chris Lang of REDD Monitor has been reporting on this Australian businessman’s activities in the past year and Australian TV show 60 Minutes  ran a story on him last week showing  how he ‘brazenly’  took advantage of local indigenous groups in order to gain control of their rainforest land for 200 years and half of all profits.

David Nilsson is accused of tricking these poor and easily manipulated populations by promising hundreds millions of dollars and having them sign documents in English which they could not understand. Their carbon sinks are indeed potentially worth a lot of money, but this ‘deal’ did not appear to favour them in any way.  Moreover, 60 Minutes managed to trick David Nilsson; they caught him on tape claiming he would cut down these rainforests to plant palm oil once the 25 year carbon deals expire.

This example is an extreme one, but clearly demonstrates the necessity for effectively implementing REDD+ safeguards. In particular, it will be critical to ensure the full and effective participation of the relevant stakeholders, such as indigenous peoples groups in any decision.  This would entail ensuring that information is provided through the appropriate channels and that indigenous communities are fully aware of their rights and policies under REDD+.

For more information on ClientEarth’s activities regarding forest governance please click here.

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