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On 18 August 2010, Environmental Rights Action (Friends of the Earth Nigeria, the country’s leading environment group) organised a meeting on REDD in Nigeria, together with the Rainforest Research Development and GREENCODE. The meeting produced a statement, signed by 18 NGOs. “Forests and REDD must be out of carbon markets,” is the first of a list of resolutions included in the statement.

One of Environmental Rights Action’s main focusses is on the oil and gas industry. Nigeria is the largest producer of crude oil in Africa, producing about 2.3 million barrels a day and has plans to expand production to 5 million barrels a day by 2015. ERA has produced a series of reports of gas leaks, oil spills and fires that document the terrible toll that the industry has on communities and their environments. Last year, ERA proposed that the Nigerian government should leave new oil in the soil – a proposal to stop to exploration for new oil in the country.

Nigeria is a UN-REDD partner country. ERA has good reason to be wary of at least one of the organisations involved in UN-REDD: UNEP. UNEP is studying the capacity of Cross River State in Nigeria to carry out a REDD project. The governor of Cross River State “>told Julian Bayliss, a representative of UNEP, that “we are of the view that the forest deserves to be protected to attract carbon credit and we will encourage partnership with United Nations to further the cause.”

UNEP incurred ERA’s wrath because of a research project that UNEP is currently carrying out about 300 sites that were contaminated by oil spills in Ogoniland, in Nigeria. The US$10 million project is entirely funded by Shell, the company that environmental organisations accuse of being responsible for the destruction in the first place. Perhaps not surprisingly, UNEP sided with Shell and concluded that Shell was responsible for only 10% of the oil pollution in Ogoniland.

Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends the Earth International and director of Environmental Rights Action, was reported by the Guardian as saying:

“It is incredible that the UN says that 90% is caused by communities. The UNEP assessment is being paid for by Shell. Their conclusions may be tailored to satisfy their client. We monitor spills regularly and our observation is the direct opposite of what UNEP is planning to report.”

Given UNEP’s record in Nigeria, why should environmental organisations and communities trust UNEP when it is dealing with REDD? Attempting to work out who should be held responsible for oil spills – the company drilling (and profiting from) the oil, or the community on whose land the company is drilling, is a comparatively straightforward matter. REDD is far more complex, but offers similar opportunities for siding with destructive companies.

COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT A ONE-DAY ROUNDTABLE STRATEGY MEETING ON REDD, CALABAR, NIGERIA.
18-AUG-2010.

PREAMBLE
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in collaboration with Rainforest Research Development Centre and GREENCODE, organized a one day strategic meeting on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) as pursued within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The thrust of the meeting was to build the capacity of critical stakeholders to understand, analyze, criticize and as necessary resist the REDD scheme prior to its adoption in Nigeria. Participants were drawn from non-governmental organizations, representatives of civil society groups, forests communities and students from Calabar.

OPENING
In his opening remarks, the Executive Director ERA/FoEN and Chair, Friends of the Earth International, FoEI, Nnimmo Bassey said that forests in Cross River State have been targeted for the REDD in Nigeria hence the need for participants to examine the process embarked upon by government and what the impacts will be on community forests and the environment.

Presentations and positions articulated by the resource persons, actions and reactions from the representatives of CSO’s, forest communities and individuals, during the incisive brainstorming session, formed the basis for observations which were made and articulated thus:

OBSERVATIONS

  • Forests in Cross Rivers State including some of the few remaining tracks of mangrove and rainforest reserves in the world targeted for REDD are in grave danger due to lack of critical engagement in the scheme.
  • Carbon trading/market mechanism promoted by the REDD are false solutions to climate change.
  • REDD does not aim to stop deforestation and may in fact promote deforestation and conversion of forests into plantations.
  • REDD could become a vehicle for corporate land grabs in the country.
  • Nigeria’s forest dependent poor may be forcefully evicted from their land and denied access to the forests that form basis of their culture and livelihoods by the REDD.
  • Forest-dependent communities that have been the original custodian of native forests have not been engaged or incorporated by government in the REDD negotiation process.
  • Awareness on REDD is very low at all levels of engagement in Nigeria as there are obvious capacity gaps among government negotiators who are principally looking at the financial potentials in the REDD processes. REDD attraction for the Nigerian government is the huge funds involved not the devastating environmental and socio-cultural implications.
  • There are no known Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) on all REDD targeted forest communities in Nigeria.
  • The World Bank and other financial institutions are positioning themselves to act as climate banks to the detriment of our forests and environment. They should be kept out of REDD and all climate finance processes.
  • African, particularly Nigerian forests and environment are in crises and require urgent action to rescue them from the path of grave degradation and attendant consequences.

RESOLUTIONS
Recognising that our forests play key role in our lives, protection of our forests and environment is a duty we all owe the earth and humanity hence the forum resolved and recommended as follows:

  • Forests and REDD must be out of carbon markets.
  • Our forest is not for sale! It is our life and source of livelihoods for millions of forest-dependent peoples in forest-bearing communities in Africa.
  • Government at all levels in Nigeria should take honest and practical steps aimed at stopping deforestation and tackling climate change instead of gambling and trading with our forests.
  • Plantations are not forests. REDD should reward community people who protect the forests and not drivers of deforestation and degradation like plantation merchants and unsustainable logging contractors.
  • The Nigerian Government should actively engage forest community dwellers; civil society groups in the ongoing REDD negotiation process and adopt Community forest management practices as one of the concrete solutions to climate change.
  • All civil society groups on environment in Nigeria and Africa must deepen their struggles against environmental and climate injustices by building alliances, solidarity and sharing experiences on REDD and its versions.
  • Government should conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on REDD-targeted forest communities.
  • Governments should engage civil society groups and forest community people in the entire REDD process.
  • Allowing rich Annex 1 countries to keep polluting in the North while claiming to offset their emissions in the south through plantations such as those for rubber, palm oil, agro fuels, and palm oil is not the answer to climate change. This is unacceptable. They owe us a climate debt as a result of inequitable use of global commons and disproportionate contribution to emissions that have resulted in climate change.
  • Awareness should be raised at all levels on the implications of REDD.

We stand together for our planet and for our future!

SIGNATORIES:

  1. Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN
  2. Rainforest Research & Development Centre
  3. GREENCODE
  4. Ekuri Initiative
  5. Development In Nigeria (DIN)
  6. Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC)
  7. BTAN
  8. RUCODEV
  9. Agbremo Community Representative
  10. Achu Foundation
  11. Goodnews Outreach Initiative
  12. Students Environmental Assembly, SEA
  13. Countrified Development Initiative,CDI
  14. Rural Women & Youth Development Initiative
  15. Peace Point Action
  16. Dream Boat Foundation
  17. Family Development Initiative
  18. Initiative for Rural Development