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Last week, at a side event in Durban, the Green Belt Movement presented what they have learned so far about forest carbon finance. A paper released at the side event explains the problems with relying on carbon trading to finance forest projects, with important lessons for REDD.

The Green Belt Movement was founded by Wangari Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. GBM focussed on tree planting, environmental conservation and women’s rights. “You cannot protect the environment unless your empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them,” Maathai said.

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Andrew Steer, the World Bank’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, was asked in June 2011 what he thought would make the upcoming UN climate meeting in Durban a success? His response provides a fascinating glimpse into how the world is utterly failing to deal with the coming climate catastrophe.

In his six minute reply, Steer talks about moving the Cancun Agreements forward. He mentions technology, the Green Fund, finance, adaptation, small and carbon markets. “We need to see REDD being fully endorsed and nationwide crediting through REDD,” he says.

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The Forest Peoples Programme’s April 2011 ENewsletter starts with this sentence: “Closing the gap between international human rights law and realities on the ground is the most important challenge facing forest peoples.” This raises a question for REDD proponents: Is REDD helping to close the gap, or further widening it?

From the evidence presented in FPP’s newsletter, things are not looking promising. REDD is not the first intervention in the name of conservation in indigenous peoples’ lands and forests. FPP highlights the plight of the Ogiek who were evicted from their lands on Mount Elgon in Kenya in 2000, after Mount Elgon was declared a game reserve. On the Ugandan side of Mount Elgon, evictions took place in 1993 when the government declared the land a National Park. Evictions continued, partly the result of a tree planting programme around the boundary of the National Park. The trees were a project by the Face Foundation and were supposed to store carbon, generating carbon credits to be sold to people and organisations in the Netherlands who were unaware of the human rights abuses taking place in far away Uganda. The Face Foundation has now changed its name to Face the Future and seems to have abandoned its tree planting project at Mount Elgon. The conflicts over land in and around Mount Elgon National Park continue.

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The indigenous Ogiek people living in the Mau Forest Complex in Kenya are threatened with eviction to make way for the government’s conservation plans. The government has already started evicting 1,690 non-Ogiek families from the Mau Forest. They have nowhere to go. The Mau Forest Secretariat says that because they have no title deeds they do not qualify for any compensation.

Karanja Njoroge, a journalist with The Standard spent a day and a night with the evicted people and described it as “an experience of extreme despair and squalour of people who say they have been kicked out without being allowed to harvest their crops.”

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