Carbon sinks and trade, dams, rivers linking and extractive industries: New Terms & Mechanisms for further Expropriation & Livelihoods Threats to Peoples in India's North Eastern Region. DECLARATION - November 2003

Carbon sinks and trade, dams, rivers linking and extractive industries: New Terms & Mechanisms for further Expropriation & Livelihoods Threats to Peoples in India's North Eastern Region. DECLARATION - November 2003

We, the participants of the workshop on Carbon sinks and trade, dams, rivers linking and extractive industries: New Terms & Mechanisms for further expropriation & Livelihoods Threats to Peoples in India’s North Eastern Region, Guwahati, 16-18 November 2003 re-iterate the following positions taken by our brothers and sisters in other fora concerning the preservation of our environment and survival of our peoples:

1.      Indigenous peoples are the rightful trustees and guardians of the ancestral domains in this region which have been held by us since time immemorial and are our sacred responsibility to pass on to future generations.  It is therefore our duty to preserve it from alienation, damaging exploitation and commercialization that compromises its integrity or essential characteristics. 

2.      With this understanding we voice the following concerns in the context of the forthcoming Climate Change negotiations to be held during COP IX 2003 in Milan, Italy from 1-12 December.

3.      The present frame work of Kyoto Protocol where the northern countries (who contribute to 85 per cent of the dangerous emissions) could continue with their lethal emissions in lieu of buying carbon credits from CDM projects in the South is not acceptable to us.

4.      Negotiations in COP IX cannot proceed without the ratification of the USA and Australia, the largest greenhouse gas emitters today, to the Kyoto Protocol.

5.      The reduction of merely 5.2 per cent on an average between 2008 and 2012 of the 1990 emissions by the northern countries is farcical and goes against the basic tenets of the Climate Change Convention. If the carbon trade is allowed, then through funding the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects the northern countries will in reality effectively increase their emissions!

6.      The World Bank, ADB and other international financial institutions including the bilateral funds should immediately stop funding of fossil fuel mining and exploration, especially in the South, including countries of Africa and Asia.

7.      The climate change debate has turned forests into a carbon commodity, which will have to provide carbon credits for a lucrative carbon market that will allow industrialized countries to continue emitting greenhouse gases. The intent of the forest-related activities in the Kyoto Protocol - afforestation, reforestation and forest management – is fastest-possible carbon sequestration by trees rather than maintaining and restoring forests as carbon stores.

8.      Projects like the Plantar carbon sequestration project in Brazil are clearly industrial agricultural crops, consisting of thousands or even millions of trees of the same species, bred for rapid growth, uniformity and high yield of raw material and planted in even-aged stands. They are a far cry from forests as generally understood, but the Kyoto Protocol’s focus on carbon sequestration means that more credits can be gained the faster a tree can grow, which in turn leads to an incentive for large-scale tree plantations and ignores the role of forests, particularly old growth forests which have accumulated carbon over centuries, as carbon stores.

9.      Many of the CDM projects will be located on lands where forest peoples’ land rights and customary land use have not been recognized to date and in fact are violated in many cases. Yet, forest peoples are not even mentioned in the Climate Convention.

10.  Likewise, dams and hydel power projects will also be part of the CDM. The social implications of which on indigenous peoples in terms of displacement, loss of livelihood and destruction of culture and traditional institutions are well known. Neither the Convention nor the Kyoto Protocol includes any direct reference to indigenous peoples.

11.  Under these circumstances, we apprehend that CDMS and carbon sink projects will not respect or strengthen forest peoples’ and indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands and natural resources considering millions of hectares of land that would have to be taken over for carbon sequestration to have even a small impact on overall emissions. (Bonn agreement allows the North access to a parcel of land roughly the size of one small Southern nation - or upwards of 10 million hectares every year for the generation of CDM carbon sink credits.)

12.  The idea of using carbon sink credits to halt climate change is based on the faulty assumption that ‘carbon is carbon’, an assumption that ignores the different interactions of the carbon store with the atmosphere, depending on where the carbon is stored. The idea also does not address the problem of excessive fossil fuel consumption at its root as long as it allows people to feel they can just render carbon-neutral their emissions from a quick flight to the Caribbean by commissioning a consultancy or charity to plant the required number of trees for them.

13.  The Kyoto Protocol gives the wrong incentives: The focus is on carbon sequestration, hence more credits can be gained the faster a tree can grow, which in turn leads to an incentive for large-scale tree plantations. Examples of this perverse incentive are already evident. Such projects are also at risk of furthering the forest crisis, where often the establishment of large-scale industrial tree plantations causes forest destruction.

14.  There are no safeguards that projects sequestering carbon at one place will not initiate carbon emissions elsewhere through displacing people for plantation establishment, changing market prices for or displacing emitting activities outside project boundaries.

15.  The carbon credit approach may trigger a new wave of debt mechanism and inequity on the South. The more carbon a person / company in a northern country emit the more land it will be entitled to grab in the South for its carbon emissions.

16.  The latest developments at the World Bank’s BioCarbon fund are worrying. Recently the fund announced that it will operate two separate 'windows'. One for land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities potentially eligible for credit under the Kyoto Protocol; the other for diverse carbon sequestration and conservation projects that produce verified ERs, potentially eligible under emerging carbon management programs. Thus the fund will be spent on activities whose contribution to halting climate change is more than questionable. The fund's announcement to offer credits from conservation projects also runs counter to the decision taken by governments in the climate negotiations to exclude this very project type from the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism.

17.  This is totally unacceptable. Governments must act immediately to ensure that the World Bank will not predetermine the outcome of discussions about the role of sinks in the Kyoto Protocol's CDM after 2012.

18.  We are of the opinion that planting trees for the purpose of carbon credits and carbon accounting in the Kyoto Protocol will not address the root causes of the global forest crisis. It also is not an effective way to tackle the pressing problem of climate change. On the contrary, carbon sink credits run the risk of exacerbating both the global forest crisis and climate change.

19.  We are also uncompromisingly opposed to uranium mining and other extractive industry in our territories by large corporations.  We are witness to the irreparable damage that commercial exploitation of uranium and other minerals has effected on our lands and peoples.  We stand with our brothers and sisters in solidarity against such reckless devastation being wreaked in the name of development and prosperity.

Guwahati, 18 November 2003

 

Endorsed by:

Zo Human Rights Global NetworkBIRSA Mines Monitoring CentreMeghalaya Peoples Human Rights CouncilIndigenous Peoples FoundationRuongmei CouncilSiang Valley Bachao CommitteeDo:nyi Po:lo Youth SocietyNadi Wapsi Abhiyan SamitiInstitute of Alternative Approach to DevelopmentRural Volunteers CentreCentre for Social DevelopmentBethesda Youth Welfare CentreYouth Action for DevelopmentBorok Peoples’ Human Rights Organisation Zo Reunification Organisation Rilum Foundation for Sustainable DevelopmentManipur MailGrassroots OptionsAngikarNorth East Affected Development Society (NEADS)Centre for Organisation Research & Education (CORE)

 

ANNEXURE

STRATEGY FOR NORTH EASTERN REGION

The participants at the NORTH EAST REGIONAL WORKSHOP ON CARBON SINKS AND TRADE, DAMS, RIVERS LINKING AND EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES: NEW TERMS AND MECHANISMS FOR FURTHER EXPROPRIATION AND LIVELIHOOD THREAT TO PEOPLES IN INDIA’S NORTH EASTERN REGION, 16-18 NOVEMBER 2003, GUWAHATI, ASSAM, INDIA agree to the following strategy and priorities to be undertaken in support and solidarity of the global movement for combating climate change:

1.      This forum is committed to supporting, advocating and initiating locally and globally all action that promotes a holistic, sustainable and restorative development paradigm and life style option in consonance with indigenous principles and philosophies. This forum therefore confirm it’s commitment and support to any action that promotes the values of conservation and protection of nature as a priority.

2.      Indigenous peoples are the rightful trustees and guardians of the ancestral domains in this region, which have been held by us since time immemorial and are our sacred responsibility, to pass on to future generations.  It is therefore our duty to preserve it from alienation damaging exploitation and commercialization that compromises its integrity or essential characteristics. 

3.      We also reiterate our rights to full and prior information and consent regarding all development conservation or other policy initiatives and planning and full transparency in such activities by all parties.

4.      The ecological integrity and biological diversity of the North Eastern Region of India has been subjected to serious adverse changes including climate changes on account of aggressive and unsustainable developmental initiatives, globally and locally, ranging from construction of mega dams, indiscriminate logging, uranium mining and other extractive industry, carbon-emitting industries, massive agro-industrial plantations, persistent organic and chemical pollutants of lands, waterways and wetlands. Climate change is causing massive loss of lives and homes, species extinction, food and water shortages. Indigenous and tribal communities, impoverished rural communities and especially women and children are the most vulnerable to these negative impacts. Demographic change, multiple and long standing conflicts in the region further compound the complexities of the problem.

5.      Consequent to this stated position we the participants of this workshop reaffirm our opposition to the construction of river linking, high dams, carbon sink plantations and other carbon trading mechanisms, uranium mining and other extractive industry and taking up other mega development projects especially without thorough impact study and full informed and prior consent of affected people and civil society.

6.      In order to promote these values and position, we commit ourselves to the following specific strategies

a.       To actively advocate with all appropriate government processes including the Government of India, the state and local government, the north eastern council for the respect and promotion of international standards relating to reduction of Green House Gas by engaging in policy debate and development, establishing industrial and development norms and standards for the North East region of India, trans-border and neighbouring areas, national and international in consonance with the concerns of climate change, its international commitments and its obligations to its peoples and most specifically IPCC recommendations that States implement the recommendation of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced by 60% by the end of this century; environmental and social concern relating to river linking and high dams and uranium mining and other extractive industry.

b.      To engage actively in public awareness campaigns and encourage and stimulate public debate environmental and social concern relating to river linking and high dams and uranium mining and other extractive industry and the State’s obligations in this regard.

c.       To strengthen collaboration between different civil society organizations and indigenous peoples organizations within this region, trans-border and neighbouring areas, national and international movement to campaign for and promote action supporting appropriate local and regional trans-border and neighbouring areas, national and international policy in the conservation of the environment and the prevention and mitigation of climate change, river linking and high dams and uranium mining and other extractive industry and to support and contribute to the international campaign on these issues.

d.      To demand and support demands for participation, and to cooperate ensuring, in culturally and linguistically appropriate manners, the principles of full transparency, free, prior informed consent and guaranteeing independent third party verification and monitoring, benefit sharing, risk reduction, appeals mechanism and compensation. Particularly in the issue of large dams and river linking projects and monoculture and exotic plantation and uranium mining and other extractive industry.

e.       To cooperate in monitoring activities in the North East region, trans-border and neighbouring areas, national and international movements whether conservational developmental or industrial which have implications for impact on climate change, which are related to carbon sinks or trading (CDM), river linking and high dams and uranium mining and other extractive industry.

f.        To aggressively advocate with all appropriate government processes including the Government of India, the state and local government, the north eastern council or its agencies in the region or at national level to recognize and promote the fundamental role and participation of indigenous and tribal peoples, the rural poor women youth and children though community, traditional and civil society organizations in the planning implementation and monitoring of policies that have implications for climate change and CDM, river linking and high dams and uranium mining and other extractive industry concerns at the local national and international forums.

g.      To cooperate in and cooperatively initiate and share research on processes exacerbating and impact of climate change, river linking and high dams and uranium mining and other extractive industry in North East India with active participation of indigenous and tribal peoples in the region, taking into account, in addition to environmental impact, of the social, cultural and health impact assessment.

h.      Use all available legal, political, technical options at domestic and international level till states, multi national corporations and international financial institutions are held accountable for their action, inactions in climate change in the impact of river linking and high dams and uranium mining and other extractive industry at the NE regional level and cooperate in such efforts at national and international levels.

i.        Encourage prioritization and give priority to scientific and technical initiatives based on our traditional practices as peoples of the North East region, which generate knowledge on production systems which have a minimal greenhouse effect, which promote sustainable development and life style paradigms and which restore and conserve our values peoples and environments.

Passed by consensus on 18 November 2003 at Guwahati