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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.
The local NGOs are from the Community Forest Platform, a group of Civil Society Organizations in Cameroon active in forestry and related fields. The international NGOs are Environmental Investigation Agency, FERN, Forest Peoples Programme, and Rainforest Foundation UK.
Cameroon’s ER-PIN covers an area of 9.3 million hectares, in seven departments in southern Cameroon. The ER-PIN notes that in 2005, more than 1.1 million people lived in this area.
The NGOs question the target of 6 million tons of carbon per year in the ER-PIN,
in a context of growing resource extraction projects and infrastructure developments that are currently being developed within and around the intended ER-P area; and in a context where there is little progress being made on readiness and where the forest sector faces important problems (for example, illegal logging, lack of transparency, shrinking space for civil society participation).
Reduced emissions from local communities
The NGOs criticise the fact that the ER-PIN skips over human rights and community rights issues.
Rather than focussing on reducing deforestation from infrastructure, mining and large-scale agriculture projects, the ER-PIN focusses largely on reducing emissions from community agricultural activities. This makes Cameroon’s Emissions Reductions Program (ER-P) far less likely to succeed in reducing deforestation:
Poor communities will not simply starve in order to abide by rules agreed between the government and conservation organisations; a programme which does not genuinely incorporate their rights and interests will see high levels of non-compliance (and therefore continuing deforestation and GHG emissions), most likely accompanied by significant levels of serious human rights violations (including violence by ecoguards, for example, something which is already a significant problem in Cameroon).
FPIC after the ER-PIN
The ER-PIN was carried out in breach of Cameroon’s national REDD+ FPIC Principles, adopted in 2013. ER-PIN documents were only shared with the international NGOs that were involved in the drafting process.
Some workshops have taken place with civil society about REDD in Cameroon, and the ER-PIN refers to these as evidence of consultation. But the titles of these meetings (national workshop on MRV held in Douala; the indigenous people workshop on FPIC in Abong Mbang; the indigenous people workshop on REDD+ institutional arrangements in Lomie; civil society regional workshop on REDD+ project initiatives in Garoua and Buea; civil society national workshop on REDD+ negotiations in Yaoundé) reveal that while the meetings were about REDD, they were not focussed on the development of the ER-PIN.
The ER-PIN even states that consultation will take place after the ER-PIN is adopted and that a consultation plan is being developed. The NGOs comment that,
We are worried that it will be extremely difficult for civil society and communities to question or challenge the overall approach and the intervention axes defined in the ER-PIN after the ER-PIN is adopted. It is expected that, with these so-called FPIC consultations being organised, the ER- PIN can only be tweaked, and not changed fundamentally. It is likely that communities will interpret this as a top-down approach, instead of the bottom-up approach that should be promoted by REDD+.
The ER-PIN area: political incoherence and inconsistency
In 2012, WWF, CED and RELUFA released a report on land-use conflicts in Cameroon, in particular how mining and oil permits overlap with forests and protected areas in Cameroon. The ER-PIN includes a map showing the overlapping concessions:
Wildlife Works, a US-based REDD project developer, attempted to set up the Ngoyla-Mintom REDD project, covering an area of about 800,000 hectares inside the ER-PIN area. According to WWF’s website, the area was “assigned to conservation in the late 1990s”. Before that the plan was to log the area. In 2012, the Ministry of Forestry decided to hand out 81% of the forest for logging concessions.
The European Union, WWF, and local communities wrote to the Ministry of Forestry and to the Prime Minister. The Ministry of the Environment also wrote to the Prime Minister. Almost of half of the forest was nevertheless allotted for logging concessions.
The ER-PIN identifies the issue of overlapping and conflicting land uses, which caused at least in part by a lack of coordination and communication between ministries. But the NGOs point out that the ER-PIN completely fails to address the issue. “Ignoring this fundamental problem greatly jeopardises any potential results in emission reductions from the proposed ER-PIN,” they write.
An upside-down process
The ER-PIN was written before a proper assessment of the drivers of deforestation has been completed. Instead of being evidence-based, the NGOs argue that the ER-PIN is,
a short-term political compromise allowing the government to convert forest areas for large-scale projects while at the same time accessing REDD money.
The ER-PIN manages to claim that, activities in the Emissions Reduction Program are “in line with the vision of the REDD+ strategy”. But Cameroon’s National REDD+ Strategy is not expected to be finished before the end of 2016. The Carbon Fund’s cart is before the REDD readiness horse.