Local people not left out of the REDD debate

23 May 2008 | News story

Local and indigenous people have to be active participants in the REDD debate, argued IUCN during today's side event at the ongoing Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bonn.

While the link between climate change and forests has been the focus of various international discussions for some time, the fact that they are home to millions of local and indigenous populations has become a hot topic during the ongoing CBD meeting. Close to 100 delegates attending the side event, organised by IUCN, UNEP and others united by the Poverty and Environment Partnership (PEP),  identified the need for REDD to deliver on three fronts: climate change, biodiversity, and local livelihoods.

"We should not let the carbon tail wag the forest dog", said IUCN's Economics and the Environment Senior Adviser, Joshua Bishop. Forests are about much more than the carbon they contain.

To those who actually live in and depend on forests directly for their well-being, carbon remains a rather elusive asset. Victoria Tauli Corpuz – Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues – warned the audience that local and indigenous communities could be ‘left out of the REDD scene’. For it to work successfully, REDD should not become a barrier to local livelihoods.

The uncertainty surrounding REDD is, unfortunately, not limited to the community level.  Leo Peskett from the Overseas Development Institute, aptly presented its intricacies and provided some initial indications of how REDD could work for the poor, emphasizing that poverty reduction needed to be an explicit goal of the scheme, as opposed to a simple ‘add-on’. 

REDD has a tremendous potential for achieving environmental and development objectives and  for this potential to be  realized, those local and indigenous communities who have the most to lose from climate change and deforestation need to become the main beneficiaries. Raising community-level awareness on REDD and carbon markets is one step in the right direction, but the road towards pro-poor REDD is still long. IUCN is committed to having local communities on board for the entire ride.