‘Carbon Pirates’ Preying on Indigenous Communities in the Amazon | carbon offset

a A number of indigenous communities in the Amazon say “carbon pirates” have become a threat to their way of life as Western companies seek to secure deals in their lands to offset the projects.

Across the world’s largest rainforest, indigenous leaders say carbon offset companies do business with them and promise big financial benefits from selling carbon credits if they set up new projects on their lands, with the $2bn (£1.6bn) market booming with net zero. Commitments from companies in Europe and North America.

The massive global expansion of protected areas this decade was agreed upon by governments at the Cop15 Biodiversity Summit last month with the goal of protecting 30% of land and sea by 2030. The agreement puts respect for indigenous and land rights at its heart amid fears of land grabs.

Proponents of carbon markets, especially those aimed at protecting rainforests, say carbon credits are a good way to fund new areas and pay indigenous communities to care for their lands, as they have been shown to be the best custodians of forests and land. vital ecosystems. The resulting credits can then be used for climate commitments by Western companies.

Many believe that while carbon credits are not perfect, they can provide the vital funding these projects need. Johan Rockström, chief scientist at Conservation International, which runs a number of carbon offset projects, told The Guardian: “On the one hand, carbon offsets are essential, and have positive potential to provide incentives and thus generate much-needed investment, for example in climate solutions.” nature [such as forests]. On the other hand, he says, there are risks that people will no longer make the necessary reductions in their emissions.

The Guardian has interviewed indigenous leaders from across Latin America as part of its investigation into forest-based carbon offsetting, speaking to representatives at Cop27, Cop15, the Amazon Indigenous Leaders Summit in September and during visits to communities in Peru.

A leader from the Quechua community, claims they were forced off their land and received nothing despite the $87 million carbon deal. Photograph: Angela Ponce/The Guardian

While some leaders have recognized the potential benefits of well-designed carbon markets, they warn that Indigenous communities are being exploited in the unregulated sector, with opaque carbon rights deals that can last up to a century, long contracts written in English, and communities being driven off their lands. for projects.

A case in point is Peru’s largest-ever carbon deal involving an unidentified extraction company, with the Kichwa community claiming they were forced off their land in the Cordillera Azul National Park and received nothing from the $87 million agreement. Park authorities say everything has been done in “strict compliance with current legal regulations and with special respect for the rights of indigenous people”.

Many Indigenous communities have spoken of training themselves to regulate the carbon market and to organize global exchanges to help others avoid falling victim to “carbon pirates”.

Fanny Quiro Castro, a native of Yototo
Carbon offsetting affects almost every community across the Amazon basin, says Fanny Quiro Castro, an indigenous leader of the Oitoto people. Photograph: Angela Ponce/The Guardian

Fanny Quiro Castro, an indigenous chief in the Colombian Amazon, says the problem affects nearly every community across the Amazon River Basin.

“When I visit other areas, almost all of them are in contact with a carbon-related company. They usually arrive with the promise of big money if the community agrees to set up a project. Sometimes they don’t allow the communities access to their land as part of the agreement but we live from hunting and fishing. For me It’s dangerous.” “The cruelest thing is that they arrive at communities with long legal documents in English and don’t explain what’s in them. Many Aboriginal communities don’t read or have low literacy, so they don’t understand what they’re agreeing to.”

Wilfredo Tzamash, from the Oagon community
Wilfredo Tzamash, of the Awajón community in northern Peru, opposes allowing extraction companies to buy carbon credits. Photograph: Angela Ponce/The Guardian

Organizations teach themselves to understand the mechanics of carbon markets so they don’t get deal-robbed, says Wilfredo Tsamache, of the Awajun community in northern Peru, and says he doesn’t think extractive companies should be able to buy credits because of their role in global warming.

They are trying to divide us. Carbon hackers enter societies but often we don’t know where they come from, how they work or who they are,” he says. “It’s a big issue. Some of these NGOs are ghosts working in the background. I don’t think we should sell loans to oil companies or mining companies. They are the ones doing the damage.”

Levi Sucre Romero speaking at Cop15
Levi Sucre Romero speaking at Cop15. A Costa Rican from the Bribri community, who is an advocate for indigenous rights. Photo: Andrei Ivanov/AFP/Getty Images

Levi Sucre Romero, a Costa Rican Bribri community leader, said in a recent interview with Yale e360 that he believes expanding the protected areas agreed upon at Cop15 could be a huge opportunity for indigenous communities. But he told the Guardian that respect for indigenous lands and a share of the benefits of carbon deals should be part of any market.

“We are organizing ourselves on a global scale, from the Congo to the Amazon. The first thing that needs to be recognized is the right to the land, our right to be consulted, not only at the central level but locally. We also need political representation that we are the ones who take care of the forests. Where there are forests, indigenous communities exist.”

Indigenous communities make up about 5% of the world’s population but take care of 80% of its biodiversity. However, communities are often subject to rights violations and attacks, often by illegal miners, loggers, and drug dealers.

Shipibo leader Julio Kosorichi
Shipibo leader Julio Cusurichi, from Peru, wants money from selling carbon credits to pay for education and improved healthcare for his people. Photograph: Angela Ponce/The Guardian

Money from carbon credits can help pay for education and improved sanitation through careful planning, says Julio Cusurichi, a Shipibo indigenous leader from Peru’s Madre de Dios region who won a Goldman Prize in 2007, but often, It does not happen.

“It is important to strengthen the structures of indigenous communities [as part of these offsetting projects]. This case of the Carbon Pirates is happening across the Amazon. They can be 30-, 40- and 100-year projects. He who has the money, has the power,” he says.

Find more Age of Extinction coverage here, and follow our Biodiversity Reporters Phoebe Weston And Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for the latest news and features

Leave a Comment