From the Editors
The Ecosystem Marketplace's Forest Carbon News
Tracking Terrestrial Carbon
Seen from above, the indigenous territories in the Amazon's "Arc of Deforestation" appear as solid green islands amid a sea of grey-green degradation. This bird's eye view corroborates the studies that say indigenous peoples are the best guardians of the forest. But like all maps, they show just a snapshot in time.
The reality is that these carbon-storing oases face daily threats, and indigenous peoples are not homogenous in their strategies for facing them. A ride down Brazil's Highway 364 reveals three distinct approaches by neighboring groups:
First, the Zoró. Though their territory along the border of the Brazilian states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso has achieved lower rates of forest degradation than their non-indigenous neighbors, the Zoró are actively logging their old growth teak and mahogany forests. The wood travels down Highway 364, destined for luxury furniture showrooms across Brazil and the world – and only a tiny percentage of the profit flows back to the Zoró.
Down the road, the Paiter-Surui once logged their forests just as aggressively as the Zoró, but that has changed over the past five years as the Paiter-Surui harnessed carbon finance to help implement their "Life Plan" for forest preservation. In June 2013, they struck their first deal to receive payments for carbon offsets with Natura Cosméticos, a Brazilian cosmetics company.
Highway 364 also passes briefly through the southern tip of the Igarapé Lourdes territory, home to members of the Gavião and Arara – people who have never succumbed to the economic pressure to deforest. Ironically, this creates a bit of a Catch-22: REDD financing typically flows on the premise of saving forests from imminent destruction, and it is difficult for communities with very low historical deforestation rates to prove the threat.
Jurisdictional REDD, in which an entire state gets paid for reducing deforestation, may offer a solution. Acre, a tiny state to the west of Rondônia, has pioneered this approach and in 2013 secured a four-year, $40 million agreement from the German development bank KfW to avoid eight million tonnes of emissions – the first-ever REDD payment at the jurisdictional level. Discussions about creating a state-wide REDD system in Rondônia have already started.
But indigenous peoples are also exploring other potential sources of funding to keep forests standing. One possibility: state-level ecological taxes that allow local governments to access a refunded portion of the value-added tax collected in their states based on the amount of forest cover and water resources protected. To date, at least 24 Brazilian states already have or are debating legislation related to this "green" tax.
Another possibility is Indigenous REDD+ (known as "RIA") which would take a jurisdictional approach to reducing deforestation and implementing indigenous Life Plans, but outside of carbon markets. Ecosystem Marketplace will soon follow with the next installment of our Indigenous REDD+ series.
—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team
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