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Opposition Mounts to Carbon Compensation Schemes

Franz Chávez

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia, Apr 19 2010 (IPS) - The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which opened Monday in Bolivia, will reflect vigorous resistance to financial compensation for forest conservation in return for permits to emit greenhouse gases, activists told IPS.

The United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) is the main topic at panel number 14, which aims to develop an alternative proposal to strengthen conservation of natural forests while recognising the rights of indigenous communities.

The REDD mechanism proposes that the richest countries pay to maintain forests in tropical regions, as compensation for their emissions of greenhouse gases.

Bolivian indigenous and social organisations, meeting in advance of the Conference, approved a resolution demanding that developed countries drastically reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, responsible for global warming.

The document, which the working group has taken up as a central proposal, calls for the creation of an international body to regulate repayment of the so-called climate debt.

“Copenhagen was a disappointment. The planet is dying,” José Ramírez, a Bolivian who has lived for 43 years in Germany, told IPS emphatically. He was referring to the failure of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held December in the Danish capital, to produce binding results.

Representing International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and a German foreign development agency, Ramírez trusts the emerging strength of social movements to press for these resolutions in favour of forests.

Reducing consumption and living in harmony with the planet according to the Aymara cultural concept of “allin kausaw” (“good living”) will be agreed worldwide, and the participation of civil society will not be without influence, says the doctor, who is in favour of “breaking with the capitalist system.”

Ramírez attended the Copenhagen conference and is now involved in the debates at Cochabamba.

For his part, Guatemalan indigenous leader Felipe Gómez, of the Dutch COMPAS programme (Comparing and Supporting Endogenous Development), told IPS that “policies that promote caring for the forests in return for money are a trap, and represent a huge threat from the governments that support the schemes and from transnational corporations.”

Gómez says that payment of compensations for carbon emissions has unknown implications. “The community will receive the money, but what will be the fate of that community?” he asked.

His fellow delegate and Amerindian Andrea Rocché told IPS: “We learned from our forebears to conserve nature, and with our children we practice love and protection towards wildlife.”

Gómez says he is fearful of the consequences that might arise from “mercantilising the problem.” Faced with climate change, industrialised countries have responded in market terms, he said.

A solution to the environmental crisis, in his view, has to start with a holistic understanding of human beings, recognising that human life depends on the life of the natural world.

“Being cannot be separate from knowing, nor can knowing be separate from doing,” he reflects in a critique of the Western scientific worldview accepted by industrialised countries, which he says must recognise other kinds of knowledge among the world’s peoples about health, economics and politics.

“When the peoples’ own systems are acknowledged, it will be recognised that there is no single science or single culture that defines our thinking and divides us. We have to break with scientific ‘monoculturalism,'” he said.

In Ecuador, the programme “MUYU: Fruta Comida, Semilla Sembrada” (roughly, Eat a fruit, plant the seed) has incorporated tree nurseries and reforestation into school activities. The programme’s creator Hernando Rojas, a Colombian, arrived at the Conference to talk about his work on panel 16, dealing with Action Strategies.

Rojas is the author of the book “¡Pura vida!” (Wonderful Life!), written “to share with nature and with humanity, resisting the system of production, markets and competitive consumption, based on the philosophy of Good Living.”

With respect to campaigns for compensation in return for forest preservation, he told IPS that “the problem will not be solved by negotiating with those who are destroying the planet, generating global warming and engaging in the arms race.

“Unless the people attain power, they will not have the strength to stop those who destroy nature and humanity. That is why Bolivian President Evo Morales’ call for a world referendum on climate change is a priority.”

The strategy to which Rojas subscribes is for people to act at the grassroots level to protect forests and carry out reforestation.

The proposal he is expounding at the Cochabamba Conference is to block the present system of market-based production with resistance measures and promote “Good Living”.

The Colombian activist is calling for clean energy generation without the use of fossil fuels, in a race against transnational corporations which he says are only motivated by profit.

Proposing compensation mechanisms for greenhouse gas emissions is an example of double standards and a way of disguising the real intentions, he said: “It is making a business deal out of the death of the planet, and when it comes to business deals, they have no limits.”

Another Colombian activist, Judith Pineda, who campaigns for the planet based on the word of the Bible, told IPS that carbon emissions “cannot be compensated for because they are, in any case, destructive, and the only valid compensation is to end them.”

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