12 A red card for California REDD

This article is from a blog written about California REDD on 5 July 2013[1]

The state of California, USA, has become the battleground for REDD-type projects. REDD is the acronym for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. While there is no argument against deforestation and forest degradation, many critics and forest-dependent communities literally see red in the practical implications of REDD as a tool to combat global warming.

California is on the verge of allowing carbon credits obtained from forests and tree plantations anywhere in the world to be used as offsets for polluting activities at home. Targeted forests include those in Acre, Brazil as well as in Michigan in the USA.

In bringing up the UN-REDD Framework, the United Nations admitted that REDD could result in the ‘lock-up of forests’, ‘loss of land’ and ‘new risks for the poor.’[2] The No REDD in Africa Network (NRAN) in a recent statement rejected the inclusion of REDD projects in the State of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32. NRAN stated that just as the ‘UN predicted, in Africa, REDD and forest carbon projects are already resulting in ‘loss of land’ in the form of massive evictions, as well as ‘new risks for the poor’ in the form of servitude, slavery, persecutions and killings.’[3]

Indigenous groups in Brazil and Mexico as well as NRAN and Oilwatch International have sent petitions to the Governor of California, the Chairman of California Air Resources Board and other officials of the California Environmental Protection Agency, demanding the exclusion of REDD from California’s climate solutions.

The spread and diversity of the groups standing against California REDD stem from the fact that this may unlock an avalanche of REDD-type projects around the world. These projects would operate both outside and within the UN-REDD system. The implication according to Oilwatch International is that polluting companies such as Shell could continue polluting while imagining that their carbon emissions are offset by the carbon stored in trees in Brazil, Mexico, USA or Nigeria.

Critics see REDD as a dangerous false solution to global warming primarily because it locks in pollution. It also locks out communities from their forests, impacts on their culture and blocks off their sources of livelihood. REDD also does not halt deforestation but at best displaces this objectionable act to another location or merely delays it. Carbon offset projects exploit forests as mere carbon sinks.

Shell oil company recently purchased 500,000 carbon offsets credits from a forestry project on over 200,000 acres in Michigan ‘that not only will grant Shell’s refinery in Martinez, California permission to pollute, but will push the planet further down the road to catastrophic global warming’, according to Oilwatch International.

In Mozambique, La Via Campesina found in a study on the N’hambita REDD project in Mozambique that thousands of farmers were paid meagre amounts for seven years for tending trees. Because the contract is for ninety-nine years, if the farmer dies his or her children and their children must tend the trees without any further pay or compensation.[4] This has been interpreted as a clear case of carbon slavery. Regrettably, the N’hambita project was celebrated by the UN Sustainable Development website.[5]

Violent evictions in Uganda saw over 22,000 farmers with land deeds shoved off their land for a REDD-type project in 2011. In one of the incidents a sick eight-year-old Friday Mukamperezida was killed when his home was razed.[6]

In Nigeria REDD is already raising the spectre of persecution and criminalisation of activists, including in Cross River State, Nigeria where the State of California intends to have REDD projects. The Executive Director of the Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC) in Cross River State, Nigeria, Mr Odey Oyama, had to flee his home for several weeks in January and February 2013 due to harassment and intimidation from state security agents. Odey is one of the vocal opponents of REDD activities aimed at extracting more forest estates from indigenous communities and similar land grab operations.

One of the activities placing me in confrontation with the Cross River State Government of Nigeria is my stand against the REDD programme. My reason for rejecting the REDD programme is because it is geared towards taking over the last vestiges of community forest that exist in Cross River State of Nigeria, declared Mr Oyama.

Land grabbing for plantation agriculture in Ogoni land, already decimated by pollution from the oil industry, has turned violent. The Government of Rivers State of Nigeria forcefully seized and gave away over 2,000 hectares of community farmlands in Tai and Khana Local Government Areas to a Mexican company, Union De Iniciativa S.A. de C.V., for the cultivation of bananas possibly for export. A new report issued by the group Social Action[7] indicates that at least three youths have been killed in relation to this land grab. The project was approved and has commenced without an environmental impact assessment as required by law.

In other parts of Africa, REDD is exacerbating threats to the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. According to ‘The DRC Case Study: The impacts of carbon sinks of Ibi-Batéké Project on the Indigenous Pygmies of the Democratic Republic of Congo’ published by the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests, Batwa Pygmies suffer ‘servitude’[8]on the World Bank’s Ibi-Batéké Carbon Sink Plantation.[9] This REDD-type forest carbon plantation for fuel wood and charcoal is the DRC’s first Clean Development Project and claims to contribute to sustainable development and climate change mitigation.[10] Pygmy leaders object to these projects and have denounced the World Bank for funding deforestation of their ancestral forests that not only releases emissions but also violates their rights, destroys their livelihood and causes social conflict.

In supporting the protest against California REDD from Brazilian organisations, several groups and movements from around the world stated in an open letter ‘We believe that their demand for a meaningful participation in any consultation process in Acre related to legislation or programmes linked to REDD activities that already or potentially affect their way of life is legitimate. Forest-dependent peoples have the right to give or withhold their consent to activities that deeply interfere with their way of living. Decisions regarding REDD legislation or programmes already do and will in future affect forest peoples’ way of life. Given that such meaningful participation was absent from REDD processes in Acre or during the elaboration of recommendations to the government of California in this matter, we urge you not to include REDD offset credits into the California carbon trading scheme.’[11]

That is a real red card for California REDD.


  1. http://nnimmo.blogspot.com/2013/05/red-card-for-california-redd.html and in The Africa Report (08 July 2013) at http://www.theafricareport.com/Columns/big-red-card-for-california-redd.html (accessed 31 May 2016)
  2. Lang, Chris (2013), 'There is no safe REDD': Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on Climate Change against REDD and for Life. http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/10/there-is-no-safe-redd-global-alliance-of-indigenous-peoples-and-local-communities-on-climate-change-against-redd-and-for-life/ (accessed on 31 May 2016)
  3. REDD Monitor. 4 May 2013. No REDD in Africa Network opposes inclusion of REDD offsets on California’s cap-and-trade scheme. http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/04/no-redd-in-africa-network-opposes-inclusion-of-redd-offsets-in-californias-cap-and-trade-scheme/ (accessed 31 May 2016)
  4. Mozambique : Carbon Trading and REDD : farmers ‘grow’ carbon for the benefit of polluters: http://www.viacampesina.org/en/index.php/actions-and-events-mainmenu-26/-climate-change-and-agrofuels-mainmenu-75/1265-mozambique-carbon-trading-and-redd-farmers-grow-carbon-for-the-benefit-of-pollutersaccessed 31 May 2016REDD Monitor Envirotrade’s carbon trading project in Mozambique: 'The N’hambita experiment has failed.' (accessed 31 May 2016)
  5. The N’hambita Community Carbon Project. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?page=view&type=99&nr=32&menu=1449 (accessed 31 May 2016)
  6. The Guardian, (2011) Ugandan farmer: 'My land gave me everything. Now I'm one of the poorest' http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/sep/22/uganda-farmer-land-gave-me-everythingaccessed 31 May 2016New York Times, (2011) In Uganda, Losing Land to Planted Trees – Slide Show http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2011/09/22/world/africa/22uganda-3.htmlaccessed 31 May 2016New York Times, In Scramble for Land, Group Says, Company Pushed Ugandans Out http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/world/africa/in-scramble-for-land-oxfam-says-ugandans-were-pushed-out.html?_r=1 (accessed 31 May 2016); REDD Monitor, Ugandan farmers kicked off their land for New Forests Company’s carbon project http://www.redd-monitor.org/2011/09/23/ugandan-farmers-kicked-off-their-land-for-new-forests-companys-carbon-project/#more-9681 (accessed 31 May 2016)
  7. See Killing for Banana- Government Land Grab, Violence and the Forgotten Rights of Ogoni Farmers. http://saction.org/books/Killing_for_Banana_2013.pdfaccessed 31 May 2016
  8. International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests, 'Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change: Vulnerabilities, Adaptation, and Responses to Mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol' (2007) Makelo, S., 'The DRC Case Study: the impacts of carbon sinks of Ibi-Batéké Project on the indigenous Pygmies of the Democratic Republic of Congo' p.45-74 especially 62-64The human rights violations against Pygmies are grave throughout the country. See 'Pygmies beg UN for aid to save them from Congo cannibals.' See http://www.genocidewatch.org/images/D.R._Congo_23_May_03_Pygmies_beg_UN_for_aid_to_save_them_from_Congo_cannibals.pdf (accessed 31 May 2016)
  9. World Bank 'DRC IbiBateke Carbon Sink Plantation' http://wbcarbonfinance.org/Router.cfm?Page=Projport&ProjID=43647 (accessed 31 May 2016)
  10. Reuters: World Bank to buy carbon credit from Congo Project http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE57409I20090805 (accessed 31 May 2016)
  11. Declaration of solidarity with the letter from Acre, Brazil opposing REDD offset credits in California’s cap-and-trade scheme. http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/05/01/declaration-of-solidarity-with-the-letter-from-acre-brazil-opposing-redd-offset-credits-in-californias-cap-and-trade-scheme/ (accessed 31 May 2016)

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