COP15 – Puzzling Thoughts – 2/4 – REDD and Indigenous People

Yesterday, Dec 11, I attended various side-events to COP15, and I am left with some puzzle pieces of thoughts.

 (2) The idea of REDD is to reduce GHG emissions from deforestation and forest degradation – a plan with enormous implications for the vast rainforests in Latin America and Africa. A side-event organized by COICA, the Coordinadora de las organizaciones indigenas de la Cuenca amazonica, illustrated the complexities of REDD in the face of the indigenous people in the Amazon region. The tone was aggressive and passionate: among the indigenous people, the fear exists – and I can understand them when I see how the whole COP15 focuses on economic and market solutions to the climate change crisis – that this will lead to mercantilise the rain forests. They fear that forests will be turned into plantations, in the hands of industrial interests and aimed at maximizing financial gain. But, plantations are not an alternative to forests, their significance and the special care that indigenous people have for them and for the biodiversity they harbor, necessary to life on earth. Plantations reflect an economic market logic, that does not reflect the real life of a forest, but takes it on as a consumer object. The indigenous people from the Amazon region also fear, that in this market process, their human rights will not be respected, as is already the case – people have been killed for defending the forests against logging. The deepest lack of respect for the human rights of the indigenous people lies in the fact that they are turned into mere economic actors in a market that stimulates greed and murderous competition. REDD, therefore, is linked to indigenous human rights as it is linked to biodiversity.

These passionate discussions pose the issue of the place of economic measures in addressing the global climate change crisis. I was thinking how, in the crisis situation born out of cruel world wars, the European Union has been constructed by building up a common market, by an economic strategy. However, this economic strategy was combined with a strong emphasis on values, particularly on the value of solidarity. Precisely, in Europe today the debate on values has become crucial, since the market logic seems to tempt people away from the important values that should frame economic and market logic. The indigenous people of the Amazon region offer us a plea for a set of values: the value of forests and the special care for them, the value of biodiversity, the values of human rights, … Economic and political strategies should not be blind and they need a framework of values to do their work in a constructive and positive way – a fact of which religion reminds us. It is, therefore, frightening that religions are present only on the fringes of COP15: it is high time to ask decision-makers for the motivations, values and beliefs they hold dear and want to turn into decisions for our planet. Yesterday, Rowan Williams in a sermon reminded us precisely of this: religion is not some eccentricity or oddity with regard to politics – it touches the core of what it means to be a politician.


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