On the Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP 15)

Position Statement

Amazon Watch

For more information, contact:

Ada Recinos at +1.510.473.7542 or ada@amazonwatch.org

Amazon Watch, an organization dedicated to the protection of Amazonian Indigenous peoples' rights and the Amazon rainforest calls on the Obama Administration, the Annex 1 countries, the Coalition of Rainforest Nations and all other Parties to explicitly recognize Indigenous peoples' rights when designing a new climate change agreement and any respective mitigation measures.

Amazon Watch recognizes the urgent need to stop tropical deforestation. We join many other voices in sounding the alarm and calling on governments to act swiftly to address the underlying causes of deforestation in places such as the Amazon: lack of good governance and mass-scale financial ventures, such as industrial agriculture, extraction of natural resources – oil, gas, minerals, and timber – and the construction of pipelines, roads, dams, and other industrial mega-projects. We highlight warnings from scientists that the accumulative impacts of such activities could potentially push the Amazon eco-system over a "tipping point" into inexorable ecological collapse and generate a significantly higher level of carbon emissions from deforestation with disastrous consequences for the global climate.

Halting tropical deforestation for climate stabilization and the conservation of bio-diversity however, must not be carried out at the expense of the rights of the same Indigenous peoples whose way of life over millennia, and particularly during the past two centuries of industrial development, have helped conserve and preserve the planet's remaining natural forests. Indigenous peoples territories and customary use areas cover a significant portion of the world's remaining natural forests. In the Amazon Basin, nearly a quarter of the forests are located within Indigenous peoples territories.

In the context of the UNFCCC negotiations, Amazon Watch actively supports the position of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC), which is demanding, as a minimum, explicit inclusion of Indigenous rights protections in climate mitigation and adaptation treaty text. Specifically, in Bangkok, the IIPFCC outlined the need for explicit reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the fundamental right of free, prior, and informed consent (not simply consultation), and the recognition of the central role that traditional Indigenous knowledge plays in the design and implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

Without robust Indigenous rights protections in the next climate treaty, proposed mechanisms such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) will exacerbate social conflicts and result in human rights violations in places where customary land rights are not fully recognized or legal frameworks are weak or non-existent.

Amazon Watch believes that any international mechanism to reduce deforestation should be de-linked from emissions offsets and carbon trading. We do not support the concept of 1 to 1 offsets. We consider offsets as an ultimately unreliable scheme, where polluting industries and industrial nations can continue business as usual without making any real reduction in their emissions. Concerning financing mechanism for REDD, we highlight the deep flaws being widely documented in carbon markets where fraud is rampant and actual reductions are exaggerated and often not "additional."

Also, the current proposed definition of natural forests under the REDD mechanism is of serious concern as it would not distinguish between native forests and tree plantations. This means old growth forests could be cut down, replanted with eucalyptus or other exotic species and apply for REDD compensation.

In the new global climate agreement, we urge world leaders to commit to meaningful reduction targets to bring the Earth's total atmospheric carbon concentration to 350 parts per million while moving away from carbon offsets trading. It is also paramount that the new agreement includes explicit language for the protection of Indigenous peoples rights and livelihoods including their right to self-determination and the right to free, prior, and informed consent.

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