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Brazilian Indigenous Leader: Carbon Trading Scheme ”REDD” a False Solution to Climate Change

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The controversial carbon trading scheme known as REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, has set off protests not only in Africa, but also in South America, especially in the Amazon region. We speak to Chief Ninawa Huni Kui, president of the Federation of the Huni Kui, an indigenous group in Brazil. He has traveled to the U.N. climate summit in Lima to voice his opposition to REDD.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to the controversial carbon trading that [Nnimmo Bassey] was talking about, known as REDD—again, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, R-E-D-D, which has set off protests not only in Africa, but also in South America, especially in the Amazon. Earlier this week, I interviewed Chief Ninawa Huni Kui, president of the Federation of the Huni Kui, an indigenous group in Brazil. He traveled to Lima to voice his opposition to REDD.

NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] My name is Ninawa, and I am the president of the Federation of the Huni Kui people in Acre, Brazil, in the Brazilian Amazon.

AMY GOODMAN: And how many people do you represent?

NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] I represent 10,400 people in 90 villages in two indigenous territories in five provinces of the state of Acre in the Brazilian Amazon.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about why you’ve come to Lima for the U.N. climate summit? What is your message?

NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] I came to Lima with the hope of telling the world that the historic discussions here at COP 20, amongst the 195 countries and indigenous people of the world and civil society of the world, on climate change are historic. Of course, the peoples of the world include indigenous peoples of the world, and we are here to denounce the problems that the governments are causing in our territories.

My message is from my people and the children and elders of my community. And we are saying that the climate change proposals that the government is tabling here at the United Nations are false solutions to climate change. Specifically, we are here to denounce REDD—R-E-D-D, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

AMY GOODMAN: How does REDD affect your community?

NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] So, the first impact is that the state of Acre is one of the first states in the world that is promoting REDD, and it is the first state of the Brazilian Amazon that is doing REDD. And it has already violated Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, which guarantees indigenous people’s right to free, prior, informed consent and the right to say no to projects that affect us. So, Brazil is violating Convention 169, because indigenous peoples have not been consulted about REDD and it is moving forward.

So, the second impact of REDD is that it has divided indigenous leaders, who before were united to defend the territories and Mother Earth. A third impact of REDD is that it has resulted in the co-optation of some leaders who have accepted money and bought cars with that money, and they don’t even know where that money is from and what it means.

Another impact is that the government of Brazil, because it is opening its doors to this carbon-offset mechanism, is that it’s gutting the laws and the legal framework on indigenous people’s rights and the guarantees that have been enshrined to protect our rights to our territories.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the effect on the ground of REDD? What happens in your community when it’s enforced?

NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] The impacts are the following: The community is no longer to fish in their own land, to cultivate food, to practice agriculture. All of these activities are banned and have been declared illegal, and people are jailed if they participate in agriculture or go fishing.

So, another impact that is a very cruel impact of REDD pilot projects is that leaders are being criminalized for opposing the project, and communities are told that the services provided for education or transportation or healthcare will be suspended if they oppose the project.

AMY GOODMAN: What are the communities expected to do? Are they given the money to move?

NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] The truth of what is happening in Acre is that there’s now a program that pays the community. The program is called Bolsa Floresta. And a family gets 300 reais for three months, which isn’t enough to live on, and then they’re banned and prohibited from going into the forest, so that the government can sell carbon credits to multinational corporations in other parts of the world to offset their pollution.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you been offered money?

NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] Yes, the government of Acre offered two million reais to my community. They said it was to motivate strengthening our culture, but we understood it as a precursor to winning the acceptance of signing a REDD contract.

AMY GOODMAN: And who are the corporations and the government entities, states in the United States, that are doing this in Brazil?

NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] There are many actors that are promoting REDD in Acre and that have given money to the state of Acre to do REDD. One of them is the state of California in the United States. But there are also multinational corporations that are offering money to the Acre government to do REDD. And in August of 2014, Germany gave the government of Acre $280 million reais to do REDD.

AMY GOODMAN: Ninawa, you talked about the criminalization of leaders who oppose REDD. You’re a leader who opposes REDD. Have you been threatened?

NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] Yes, I have received threats, but I’m not the only one who has received threats. Leaders of the Mundurukú indigenous people have also received threats for resisting REDD. And other peoples and leaders are persecuted and criminalized, and our right and freedom of expression and of association and our freedom to struggle and to resist this and to oppose it is being violated. I, myself, have denounced REDD and have also received death threats.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Ninawa, what do you say to those that say this is an environmental solution, that if corporations or states or countries are going to pollute, then they want to invest in places that remain pristine, that are not polluted?

NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] So, I respond to those that say that it’s a solution, that REDD is not a solution to climate change. It is a false solution to climate change. And furthermore, indigenous peoples are not the ones that are causing climate change. In Brazil, in Mato Grosso, the biggest soy baron is receiving funding and subsidies from the Brazilian government to cut down forests. This is not a solution to climate change. And furthermore, REDD is criminalizing us. And really, if they care about real solutions, they’ve got to talk to the logging companies, the soy barons, the corporations that are polluting and destroying nature. Indigenous peoples protect Mother Earth. We defend our mother, because she is our mother, because she gives us food. She gives us the air that we breathe. She gives us the Amazon. And the Amazon is important not just for indigenous peoples; it’s important for the whole world.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Ninawa Huni Kui, president of the Huni Kui people in Acre, Brazil, as he sings us through our break.

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