Chiapas cancels carbon deal with California

The state government of Chiapas, Mexico, has cancelled a controversial forest protection plan that critics said failed to address the root causes of deforestation and could endanger the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples. The program is linked to California’s cap-and-trade program through a complex “carbon offset” scheme that has yet to see the light of day. Carlos Morales Vázquez, the state’s environment secretary, on July 8 told the Chiapas daily El Heraldo that the UN initiative that provided the model for the pact, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), “was an utter failure, and the program is cancelled.”

The program, instituted in 2011 after Chiapas signed an agreement with California as part of the US state’s Global Warming Solutions Act or AB32, has been widely criticized by civil society groups for its lack of clear objectives, and failure to engage indigenous people’s organizations or take into account historic tension over land rights in the region.

Europe’s emissions trading system, the largest carbon market in the world, does not accept REDD credits. The EU maintains that reductions in carbon emissions from forest preservation are impossible to verify accurately, that preserving one forest in one place may only drive deforestation to another area, and that industrial pollution remains in the atmosphere for centuries while forests are more vulnerable to short-term changes.

“The idea that California could reduce its climate emissions by asking the state of Chiapas to preserve its forests was absurd from the beginning,” said Jeff Conant, international forests campaigner with Friends of the Earth-US. “The suspension of the program can only be seen as recognition that there are better ways to meet our goals of preserving ecosystems, supporting indigenous peoples’ rights, and defusing the climate crisis.”

Friends of the Earth-Mexico, also known as Otros Mundos, called the REDD+ program in Chiapas “a chronicle of a disaster foreseen.”

“The failure of the REDD+ program shows why projects that attempt to commercialize nature can’t work in Chiapas,” said Claudia Ramos-Guillén of Otros Mundos. “This project has had tremendous costs for the indigenous and peasant communities of the state. Programs by which the tropical nations of the global South are paid to absorb the climate pollution of the industrial North are destined to fail as long as real solutions to the climate crisis are not put into practice.”

Morales, the Chiapas environment secretary, told El Heraldo that the program “didn’t have the results that were announced. I believe that environmental problems need to be addressed with real strategies, not just as casual occurrences.”

This spring, draft recommendations for moving the agreement between California, Chiapas and the Brazilian state of Acre generated a storm of criticism. Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace International, Global Justice Ecology Project, the Indigenous Environmental Network and dozens of other groups sent a letter to California’s Governor Jerry Brown asking him to reject the plan, saying: “[The] proposal is not only unlikely to deliver real, additional and permanent emission reductions, but it would also prevent Californians from getting the benefits of AB 32 at home.” Groups in Chiapas and Brazil also sent letters to California authorities denouncing the effort.

Despite the news that the REDD program in Chiapas is suspended, the Action Program on Climate Change in Chiapas continues to refer to REDD as a keystone of the state’s climate change strategy, indicating that the project could be moved to other areas. (Friends of the Earth, July 18)

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  1. Is Chiapas carbon deal cancelled?
    Ecosystem Markplace on July 19 reported that the Chiapas REDD project has not been cancelled, but is being reconfigured to conform to the recommendations of an advisory panel established for the project called the REDD Offsets Working Group (ROW).