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Next week sees the 13th meeting of the World Bank’s Carbon Fund, under its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. Cameroon is one the countries that will be presenting its Emission Reductions Program Idea Note (ER-PIN).

A group of local and international NGOs have analysed the ER-PIN and submitted their comments. They are concerned about both the process of producing the ER-PIN and its content. They recommend that the Carbon Fund should reject the ER-PIN:

In light of the significant shortcomings and risks identified in the proposed ER-PIN, we strongly recommend to the Carbon Fund participants do not endorse it at the 13th Carbon Fund meeting.

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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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Two new reports look at REDD in Cameroon from slightly different perspectives. The first, by the Forest Peoples Programme, focuses on indigenous peoples’ rights in the REDD processes in the country. The second, by CIFOR, looks at context of REDD, including reference scenarios, mechanisms for funding, monitoring, reporting and verification and political reforms.

The report published by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) was written by Emmanuel Freudenthal, Samuel Nnah and Justin Kenrick: “REDD and Rights in Cameroon: A review of the treatment of indigenous peoples and local communities in policies and projects” (pdf file 1.0 MB). CIFOR’s report, “The context of REDD+ in Cameroon: Drivers, agents and institutions” (pdf file 1.5 MB), was written by Guy Patrice Dkamela.

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“Curbing deforestation is a highly cost-effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and has the potential to offer significant reductions fairly quickly.” With this statement from his 2006 report, “The Economics of Climate Change”, Nicholas Stern, Lord Stern of Brentford Kt, FBA, gave REDD a huge boost. But how much truth there is in this statement?

The Stern Review based its figures on work carried out by Maryanne Grieg-Gran at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). Grieg-Gran calculated the cost of REDD by looking at the “opportunity cost” of not deforesting in eight countries. Stern wrote that:

“Research carried out for this report indicates that the opportunity cost of forest protection in 8 countries responsible for 70 per cent of emissions from land use could be around $5 billion annually, initially, although over time marginal costs would rise.”

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On 30 June 2010, a range of civil society organisations and indigenous peoples met in Yaounde to discuss a series of consultations on potential REDD projects that have been taking place in southern Cameroon. A press release from Forest Peoples Programme highlights the key concerns raised by the Baka, Bagyeli and Bakola forest communites. The press release is also available in French, below.

The questions and concerns will be familiar to anyone following discussions about REDD. Will REDD in its current form address climate change? Will REDD secure the rights of forest peoples? Will local communities benefit from REDD? Is REDD simply a way of allowing industrialised countries to continue polluting while allowing industrial loggers, plantation companies and conservation organisations to take more control over the forests?

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The International Institute for Environment and Development published an important new report last week, “Tenure in REDD: Start-Point or Afterthought?“. Written by Lorenzo Cotula and James Mayers, it is a welcome addition to the discussion on REDD.

Like a football match, this is a report of two halves. In the first half, the authors discuss the issues surrounding tenure of land and trees in the context of REDD: “the systems of rights, rules, institutions and processes regulating their access and use”.

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