LIMA, Peru (29 December 2011)_Periodically we are reviewing the most relevant news articles on forests and climate change in Latin America and the Amazon region. Latin America news digests are compiled by Gabriela Ramirez Galindo, Regional Communications Officer for CIFOR’s Latin America office.
- Negotiators from Latin America at the climate summit in Durban, South Africa, came back to their countries with mixed perceptions and results. Brazil, Argentina and Colombia supported the second period of the Kyoto Protocol, although a condition was attached to their support, namely that a new climate agreement is reached by 2015 and start effectively in 2020. Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Costa Rica agreed and committed to voluntarily reduce their emissions, while members of Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, or Alba, particularly Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua criticized the negotiations for favoring developed countries, reported El Nacional from Venezuela. In next year’s negotiations, it will become clear if the Latin American countries will have to sign an international treaty to reduce their emissions for 2020.
- Also in Durban, Ecuador proposed the creation of a set of alternative funding mechanisms to fight climate change. Ecuador seeks to keep 846 million barrels of oil unexploited from Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini (ITT), under a project called Yasuni-ITT, and asks for an international compensation of US$3.6 billion for the resources valued at US$14 billion at current prices. It also proposed a tax that would be directed at countries with high levels of fuel consumption, reported Telemundo33. Early in December, Ecuador reached a goal to raise US$100 million, which will allow the country to continue with the Yasuni-ITT environmental project, reported Ecuador TV. The donors include Belgium and Germany.
- Representatives of indigenous peoples from Ecuador, Panama, Nicaragua, Peru, India and Samoa issued a statement against REDD after a meeting in Durban, South Africa, reported Indian Country. The declaration, issued by the Indigenous Peoples Biocultural Climate Change Assessment (IPCCA) two days before the start of COP17, called on the global community to take responsibility for reducing emissions and to reject REDD, which in their view was a false solution and a new form of climate racism.
In the climate summit, the Indigenous Peoples of the World to the UNFCCC COP 17 also demanded the adoption of legally binding agreements under the principle of shared but differentiated responsibilities and a definition of alternative models of development, reported the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.
- Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Basin to Combat Climate Change (Pueblos Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica frente al Cambio Climático) announced that new partners have joined the project, including Woods Hole Research Center, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Yale School of Forestry, reported Ecosystem Marketplace. The project will include 50 community-based workshops in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia, participation and networking for the indigenous leaders, and the development of two REDD+ pilot projects. It was developed initially by COICA (Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin), which will lead the work on the ground, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
- Lack of consultation with indigenous communities is causing social conflicts and threatening REDD efforts in the Peruvian Amazon, according to a document released in the first week of COP17 by three organizations based in the country, reported The Guardian. REDD pilot projects are “undermining the rights of indigenous peoples, and are leading to carbon piracy and conflicts over land and resources,” they said. More than 35 projects have been set up in 7 million hectares of rainforests in Peru and communities have been pressured to sign agreements in exchange of promises of millions of dollars, the report said.
- Coolearth reported increased sightings of previously “uncontacted” tribes in Manu National Park and Biosphere Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon. Roger Rumrill, advisor to the Peruvian Ministry of Environment, said the more frequent encounters with voluntarily isolated groups are due to increasing pressure from loggers, gold prospectors, and seismic teams exploring the area for oil and gas in the last decade.
- The Amazon has been selected as one of the new seven wonders of nature. News angles in the media included expressions of joy and pride from governments and citizens as well as voices raising awareness about the problems faced by the region, such as oil explorations in protected areas and indigenous territories, the construction of mega hydroelectric plants to feed electricity to Brazil, or deforestation due to illegal logging and mining, said La voz de la Selva, a regional radio station.
- South America has the highest rates of deforestation due to land use changes, according to a new FAO report. Between 1990 and 2005, the world lost an average of 5 million hectares of forests a year, 80 percent of which occurred in South America. FAO used new satellite technology to get the data, reported the BBC.
- In 30 years, coca plantations have destroyed 800,000 hectares of forests in Colombia, according to a new report by the ONU and the country’s Ministry of Justice, reported Univision. These official data include deforestation rates between 1981 and 2009. Drug cartels’ has had devastating effects on forests due to clearing to plant coca and soil pollution from chemicals used in production process.
- The New Brazilian Forest Code is causing conflicts among farmers and environmentalists, reported Radio Nederland Latin America. The Senate approved the new code with 59 votes in favor and 8 against, according to reports by several media, such as Univision. The Senate passed more than 40 changes in the code, including an amnesty to those who commit to reforestation efforts. This latest version of the code will have to be approved again by the Congress and president Dilma Rousseff next year.
Groups opposing these changes said that the new code would open the door for deforestation by providing amnesty and not making reforestation activities mandatory. Approving the code would be a mortal blow to the Amazon, WWF said, reported Europapress.In Durban climate talks, Marina Silva, the main environmental leader in Brazil, called on the Brazilian president to ban the initiative, reported AFP. Supporters of the amendments said that they would make the Code clearer and easier to enforce.
In the meantime, Rousseff extended by four months a 2008 law that gives farmers who illegally deforested two years to legalize and conduct reforestation efforts. The law, which would have expired on 15 December 2011, will be valid until next April, reported EFE. Greenpeace and WWF have started to campaign against the new Forest Code in international forums like the Durban climate talks, according to Deutsche Welle.
- In Mato Grosso, heavily armed gunmen killed Nisio Gomes, Chief of the Kaiowa-Guarani Indian tribe and defender of indigenous group’s rights, reported The New York Times. The Federal Indigenous Affairs Agency (FUNAI) said the violence in the region is the result of conflicts among farmers, cattle ranchers and indigenous groups claiming rights over the same land.
- Brazil cut its deforestation rates in the Amazon by 11% this year, the lowest level reported since 1988, reported CNN Mexico. Daniel Nepstad, Director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, said in an interview with CIFOR that the country managed to reduce deforestation by two-thirds in the last five years. This decline has been attributed to law enforcements, conservation, sustainable development projects and lower commodity prices.
- Brazil and India are negotiating the use of spatial satellites to survey the Amazon rainforests, reported MSN latino. Monitoring deforestation in the region is becoming more challenging as loggers found new ways to elude government’s control. The Brazilian Ministry of Environment (IBAMA) said that in the last three years, the illegal logging is focused on smaller areas instead of large extents as seen in the past, which makes it more difficult for the National Spatial Research Agency to identify deforested lands of more than 25 hectares.
- Brazil has offered to allocate 20 percent of a US$100 million fund to help stop deforestation in the Amazon region, reported ABC digital. Brazil made the offer during a meeting of foreign affairs ministers and representatives from Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Guyana in the Brazilian city of Manaus. In the same meeting, the government representatives said their countries need to “open spaces for dialogue with Amazonian populations, as they are generally forgotten in the national debates”. The officials also agreed to reach a common position ahead of the UN Sustainable Development Summit to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, next June.
- Nicaraguan army has appointed a battalion to protect the country’s resources, reported Prensa Latina. Army chief Julio Cesar Aviles said the soldiers would monitor 71 protected areas, particularly in Bosawás and the Indio Maiz reserves, home to endemic flora and fauna and the country’s main river basins.