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By Orlan Cazorla and Miriam Gartor
Continuing with the special coverage on climate change for the upcoming celebration of both COP20 and the People's Summit, we interviewed Ivonne Ramos, a member of the Ecuadorian environmental organization Acción Ecológica. From a critical position on the impacts of carbon markets, Ivonne explains to us the socio-environmental consequences of some projects implemented in Ecuador, as well as the possible solutions to face climate change.
What is the global context in which the mechanisms related to carbon markets are situated?
At present there is a great dispute at a global level in the control, management and use of the territories and the patrimonies they have. These disputes usually occur between the large actors who concentrate economic power and the local communities that live within those territories, which may be indigenous, peasant or urban populations. Local communities are those who in some way may be exercising the care or use of these spaces many times with the purpose of satisfying their life needs, while the former are in those spaces with a very clear purpose towards accumulation.
Making this reading we can see that at the present time new mechanisms are being found by which all these heritage assets acquire a new dimension. The resources that previously existed are no longer the only ones that the system needs, but rather the frontier in which the patrimonies of the peoples are converted into merchandise. Apart from traditional resources such as minerals or agriculture, a new horizon is opening up at the global level, which is the possibility of commercializing new additional resources such as water or the new carbon commodity.
And what implications do they have?
These mechanisms are a new form of colonialism that incorporate a new commodity to the global system that is carbon, or the possibility of having a sink where you make a territorial occupation in other spaces on the planet. Companies manage to transcend their own borders and move to occupy other territorial spaces, not buying the land, not renting it, but saying that they are going to buy the carbon that is in those trees. This is a new process of dispossession and displacement. It is dispossession because they have finally managed to take those lands away from the communities, and they displace or destroy a natural ecosystem with all the implications that this implies, or occupy spaces for survival and forms of economy.
In addition, the communities are made into employees half slaves of the maintenance of that plantation through the signing of a contract. In this, the community is committed to the maintenance and conservation of that plantation for the course of 20 years or more, and to guarantee that it is kept in good condition during that period of time. Otherwise they will have penalties.
Regarding the loss or destruction of natural ecosystems, it is quite serious, because where there are forest plantations, especially pine trees, water sources are destroyed and springs dry up. Furthermore, when the plantation is put in, all biodiversity disappears and in some cases soil erosion occurs.
And in this game of actors who have very specific interests, what is the role of environmental NGOs? Why are so many working on projects related to carbon markets?
I think it is important to differentiate on the issue of NGOs and understand that there is a 180 degree range. From popular environmentalists to market conservation environmentalists.
In this map of actors we have companies and capitals, and at their service there is a whole State structure. In addition, on the international scene there is a whole structure of cooperation agencies that perform the function of favoring this space of control. For example, within international cooperation, I believe that GTZ, USAID, as well as each one of the cooperation agencies, have an important role in meeting the capital requirements of their respective countries. And in fact the trend of international cooperation in the last 10 years has been to become functional in what they call public-private alliances. The money from the cooperation is now directed towards meeting the needs of companies. And the trend has increasingly gone in that direction.
There are also large conservation NGOs, known as the BINGOs, which are clearly intended for these purposes: to the satisfaction of this space of large capitals. For example, the WWF, TNC and a lot of organizations that have even become landowners of spaces of great planetary biodiversity to fulfill these purposes.
So on the stage of these 180 degrees you have these actors. But on the other hand there are others that can be NGOs such as Acción Ecológica or civil society, which are critical of any form and any manifestation of this green capitalism.
Since 2008, the Ministry of the Environment of Ecuador (MAE) has been developing the Socio Bosque program, which can be part of the logic of REDD + mechanisms . In this way, it would be seeking to position the country as a provider of environmental services in the international market. What is your assessment of it?
What we have seen is that in several spaces where the Socio Bosque has been signed, projects have been implemented for the exploration or exploitation of both mining and oil. For example, in the area of the Zápara territory, in the Curaray area or in the Napo area, borders are being expanded to carry out oil exploration. Therefore, the application of Socio Bosque projects in the Amazon region miraculously coincides with the areas where there are mineral or oil reserves.
On the other hand, in terms of social organization, what has happened is that by applying the Socio Bosque project an economic resource is given to the community. But it is a resource that is generating a process of dependency, which you will not want to lose later and which will condition you. In addition, we have seen that it often happens that money is spent in a different way than it was planned. The problem is that there is a clause in the contract whereby if the plan is not complied with, you can have civil, administrative and criminal penalties. And if you do not have the conditions to respond, the State comes and says "I want to enter into oil operations in the area and I am going to solve the money problem you have."
So what this economic resource has become is to create a new chain of corruption. And of course, it has greatly facilitated the introduction of extractivist projects in territories where they would not have had the possibility of entering before. Therefore, when you see a project of this nature, you realize that ultimately the purpose is not conservation, but control.
However, from global institutions it is suggested that carbon markets are a solution to climate change, what is your opinion?
I think they are not, because these solutions to absorb carbon are not real, they are rather high risk. If we do a global analysis in what has to do with the solution to climate change, it is a fallacy because it becomes a pretext by which those who emit carbon find a way to clean up their image. Furthermore, all the gases that are emitted cannot be reversed or taken up by these natural spaces, nor by forest plantations.
All of this has a lot of limp legs. On the one hand, it is the pretext to continue polluting, and on the other hand, it does not solve the climate problem but may even be aggravating it, by destroying natural ecosystems and transforming them into monoculture plantations. And what seems terrible to me is that it is a mechanism that generates a new expansion of territorial occupation of the great centers of concentration of power and capital.
Taking into account these false solutions, what would be the measures to face climate change?
For me it is a great satisfaction to be able to say that in this country it has been possible for almost 40 years to stop the expansion of the extractive frontier of many large projects. Large-scale mining, for example, has been stopped in several areas of the country: in Intag, in the southern area in Shuar territory or in the Azuay area. Around 20 prospecting and research projects were stopped with the resistance of the communities. I think these experiences of managing to conserve nature in its natural state versus the intensive exploitation of resources is one way.
But now all that is in danger ...
Sure, it always has. Since they discovered that natural resources existed, government after government, they have managed to stop. Now this government is much smarter, it is much more skillful, it has different strategies, it has managed to break the social fabric, the communities, it has managed to introduce it into families ...
And going back to the possible solutions?
I think one of the basic and fundamental things is to keep the oil underground. They are initiatives that come from the indigenous communities and that they have managed to sustain in time and space. And if we looked at and recapitulated all the stories of each country where those struggles have managed to hold the oil underground, we would really have a very broad accounting. That's why it seems to me that this is a basic, fundamental thing.
Another real solution is to recognize that there are economies that are not visible. The invisible economies that are the real economies that maintain the survival of the peoples in an ecologically healthier way, and that sustain a logic of independent relationship between people and societies. So, I think it is necessary to look at these economies in a different way, which are small-scale, which are for self-consumption or for local consumption and which are not oil-dependent. Therefore, as a State, we should start to rethink that all proposals for subsidy or incentive policies should privilege this form and not the one that implements monoculture or large-scale production, which in turn is oil-dependent.
That is why I see that the real solutions to global climate problems come from local communities that are fighting against all odds to conserve their territories.
In December COP20 will take place in Lima, what discussions should the climate summit focus on?
I think that subsidy mechanisms to be able to sustain carbon production are not convenient. The proposal to make forest plantations as carbon sinks should end. They are not solutions and hide the real problem. The REDD + issue, which I also think will have a lot of momentum and a lot of discussion, is an issue that needs to be debated in much more depth and to start looking at experiences where there are impacts on local communities.
The essential problem is carbon emissions. So what has to be discussed is the real reduction of emissions. And in order to solve this problem, it is also necessary to analyze the productive model and the civilizing model. That is where the discussion has to refocus. That is the essential. And then there we are seeing levels of responsibility and levels of commitment on this issue.
Everything else, CDM , REDD +, climate offsets,… hide the essential discussion. But even more, these are mechanisms where those who cause the damage have the possibility of accessing new territorial spaces to exercise control and to expand a form of colonialism that will use the people who live in those territories as labor. cheap.
I think we should not fall into that trap, in that game. Now, of course, everyone falls because it is very attractive and convenient, and there we are talking about money involved, possible economic resources, accessing certain privileges in that space for discussion and in that space for participation.
 REDD +: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
 CDM: Clean Development Mechanisms