‘Forests are not for carbon stocks’

Yusuf Omar

Bolivia came out swinging at its first press conference of the climate change conference yesterday, criticising the Green Climate Fund – which is meant to help developing countries adapt to climate change – and opposing the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation scheme (Redd).


“Bolivia is showing strongly against the mechanism of Redd. The role of the forest is not for carbon stocks,” said the head of the Bolivian delegation, Rene Orellana.

Redd is a set of steps designed to use financial incentives to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation. The forest produces carbon credits and therefore becomes an emissions offsetting scheme.

While most countries have been hesitant to overtly state their positions at such an early stage in the negotiations, the Bolivian delegation took a strong stance against the mainstream consensus of the talks thus far.

“As people who live in the forest, we are not carbon stocks. We disagree with Redd because we oppose the commoditisation of the forest,” said Orellana. Fifty percentt of Bolivia is blanketed in forest, 40 percent of which is in lowlands near the Amazon.

“It’s a complex and dangerous situation to see forests as carbon stocks. The forest provides a role as food security, a water source and biodiversity for our indigenous population. Redd reduces the function of the forest to just one, carbon stocks,” he said. “We have an alternative proposal, not based on market solutions.”

The joint mitigation and adaptation plan mechanism proposal, called “sustainable forest life”, outlines three main principles: to find different sources of finance for climate change mitigation and adaptation (other than carbon credits); the recognition of multiple forest functions such as environment, social, economic and cultural functions; and methodologies for integrated forest management.

“We have put the proposal on the table, but no attention is being paid. We are not saying the system should be the same in Bolivia and South Africa, although we share many of the same environmental issues. Most of the countries are supporting Redd,” said Orellana.

He also went on to criticise some of the details of the proposed Green Climate Fund. “We do not agree with having results-based payments,” said Orellana.

Countries agreed to form the Green Climate Fund during climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico, and a transitional committee was formed.

While Bolivia is somewhat politically unstable, with recent student riots in November, its environmental stand is firm.

In Cancun, Bolivia was the irritating thorn in the side of the US and the EU.

This year, the South American country also passed the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. “We must have respect for the rights of Mother Earth,” said Orellana.

The Law of Mother Earth defines the country’s rich mineral deposits as “blessings”. The 11 rights for nature include the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right not to have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.