Arrival at COP20’s (Conference of the Parties) “Voices for Climate” Fair
We were spat out from Lima’s traffic choked throat at the “Voices for Climate” Fair, an interactive exhibition space in the Jockey Club of Peru, where citizens could enter for free during the COP. The COP20 side-venue had the sterile atmosphere of a temporary installation, but looked nice and new all the same. It sits surrounded by the the inner city traffic of Lima, separated in the same way a moated castle lies just out of reach of the town. On the first evening of the COP20 we entered Pavillion Bosque to witness the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) presentation in relation to REDD+ (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), which is promoted as a proactive force in climate action, within the framework of the current capitalist system.
Because of its operational framework, JICA also received heavy criticism in Lima from activist groups and organisations such as the Indigenous Environmental Network, Friends of the Earth, Carbon Trade Watch and the World Rainforest Movement (WRM), who fight against “capitalism and extractive industries” and “for the defence of territories, life and Mother Earth”, as outlined in a Call to Action statement I received from Tom B.K. Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. It is also worth noting that there was no shortage of anti-REDD+ stickers and paraphernalia among participants of the Cumbre de Los Pueblos (People’s Summit) as well as within alternative activist groups such as Tierra Activa Peru and Bolivia, for instance.
The JICA Presentation
Shinichiro Tsuji was the first JICA expert to speak. His slide show reflected the Japanese organisation’s projects that are trying to combat “slash and burn” techniques in Indian forests, as well as forest degradation in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. Organic farming, adaption and the marketing of a healthy climate were also keystones of the presentation. Tsuji continued to mention that governments must create business opportunities to promote climate conscious industry, facilitate discussions between people and businesses and prevent exploitation of people by businesses.
However, this “marketing of a healthy climate” and “creating business opportunities” is indicative of the fact that REDD+ operates within a capitalist system that puts a price on the climate and is why REDD+ also faces much criticism from activists like Goldtooth. “Our trees are not for sale, our sky is not for sale, we are against privitisation of nature and against REDD+,” said Goldtooth during his speech at the Inauguration Ceremony of the Cumbre de los Pueblos a few days later. I hope to interview Goldtooth as the third part of this series, following my interview with Shinichiro Tsuji.
Murakami Yusuke followed Tsuji on the night and explained JICA’s interest in Peru and the importance of the Amazon in regards to climate change. Specifically, the aguaje fruit, of which 20 tonnes is consumed or sold daily in the countries northernmost region of Loreto as well as the importance of the almost untouched pitlands, also known as carbon pitholes.
In regards to the pitlands, their destruction would be like a gas spill, as essentially there is CO2 lying on the forest floor. In regards to the aguaje fruit, it provides 10-20% of Loreto’s income, and as by far Peru’s largest region that’s quite significant. Here, in their relative ways, preservation is essential in an economic sense, and more importantly, environmentally, not only in the reduction of CO2, but rather the absorption and prevention of it. Thankfully, many areas can still be preserved in Peru and new, more sustainable techniques have been and can continue to be created to preserve the rainforest. To contextualise the importance of this area on a global scale, Peru has the fourth largest area of tropical rainforest in the world after Brazil, Congo and Indonesia. Furthermore, in an article on December 20th in The Age, Dom Phillips wrote that it is not only the release of carbon which is a threat from deforestation.
“But as a new report out this week argues, scientists are making the case that cutting down these forests does more than simply release carbon into the atmosphere – it has a direct and more immediate effect on the climate, from changes in rainfall patterns to rising temperatures,” writes Phillips.
Phillips later continues to crystalise the importance of preserving areas such as Peru’s tropical rainforest on a global scale and to the global community by quoting Deborah Lawrence, a professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia and author of the recent Nature Climate Change report: “Significant large scale deforestation in any of these regions could have impacts on agriculture – across the world there will be regions that suffer,” said Lawrence.
I had made a mental checklists of points I wanted to question from the JICA presentation. What else could I find out about JICA? What is their interest in Peru and COP20? What are their overarching business motives? How can governments and businesses really be held accountable in the new environmental market that will inevitably open up on a grand scale? What are JICA’s ideologies and goals for the COP20?
Additionally, I needed to find out more from those who oppose REDD+.
I had an interview with the first speaker of the night, Shinchiro Tsuji to find out more about JICA, which you can read in Climate Lima: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, Part Two. I am hoping to interview Tom B.K. Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network and strong anti-REDD+ advocate for Part Three.