The Commodification of Forests Justifies Displacing Communities in Chiapas

Programs for environmental conservation require an end to planting corn.

May 21, 2012 | Source: Climate Connections | by Hermann Bellinghausen

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA’s Politics and Democracy page, Environment and Climate Resource Center page, and our Organic Transitions page.

San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas., Among the main economic motives for displacing communities from their forest homes is the sale of carbon credits, say civil society groups belonging to the Network for Peace Chiapas (SIPAZ, Desmi, Frayba and others). At COP 16 (Conference of the Parties) in Cancun in December 2010, Mexico entered the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD Plus) program, whose basic idea is that countries that are willing and able to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation should be financially compensated.

In a 122-page report, critical of the Sustainable Rural Cities project and the  environmental policy of the state of Chiapas, released this week, civil society groups recall that the state governor signed an agreement with his then-counterparts in California (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and in Acre, Brazil, (Arnobius Marques de Almeida), which initiated a market for buying and selling carbon credits as part of REDD Plus.

In 2009 the Action Program on Climate Change in Chiapas (PACCCH) was established with support from the British Embassy, Conservation International, conservation NGOs (“acting as intermediaries with the communities”) and academic institutions such as El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, which have worked with the National Forestry Commission to implement REDD Plus. There have been recent attempts by some of these groups to publicly distance themselves from the project, but these efforts have not been undertaken with sufficiently clarity.

The governor of Chiapas, the report notes, “is convinced that taking part in ‘payment for environmental services’ is a project of life,” and he quotes the president: “Your children and grandchildren will thank you because they will live, they will receive money for taking care of the environment, we are placing this bet for them, for the little ones, so you can be certain that your children will live in the future, will live from conserving the reserves, from tourism and from the production rubber or oil palm.”