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Will a UN Climate-Change Solution Help Kuna Yala?

Faced with sea level rising, one indigenous community weighs a plan to mitigate climate change. In northeast Panama’s lush tropical forests, a sovereign indigenous comarca is raising the same question that delegates at the Cancún climate conference are raising about a plan for avoided deforestation: how is REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) supposed…

Cancun 101

Like other nations with tropical forests, Panama is preparing for the chance that the United Nations will include the program REDD (“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”) in a UN-sanctioned carbon market. Such a market would ultimately have to conform to any agreement approved at Cancún — a gathering of the United Nations Framework…

REDD and Land Tenure: the Rights Issue

In Panama, where many land-tenure issues have gone unresolved for a long time, the nation’s indigenous communities are closely watching the climate-mitigation plan REDD (“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”). According to most interpretations of the documents involved, REDD’s role in a carbon market in Panama would undermine sovereignty, mostly by providing incentives for…

Investing in Cancún: Behind the Carbon Market, a Money Trail

In the debate over the climate-plan REDD (“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”), the wealthy players have no shortage of chips on the poker table. Partly to appeal to private investors and partly to establish a cheaper way to reduce their carbon footprint, developed nations want any Cancún agreement to embed REDD in a…

Subsistence Farming: the Wrong Culprit?

According to a review of plans filed by more than 20 countries for REDD (“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”), at least seven nations besides Panama — from Ghana to Liberia — also blame “swidden” farming for damaging forests. Threatening ancestral fire regimes with references to “slashing, burning” and “traditional agriculture,” Panama’s plan could…

Consent or Coercion?

The proponents of the climate plan REDD (“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”) face obstacles in seeking consent from traditional indigenous communities, which almost invariably inhabit the forests targeted by the program. But if genuine consent is to happen, critics say, advocates of a forest-conservation project must not be allowed to coerce or bribe…

REDD Blueprint: “Guns and Guards”

The eyes of many indigenous communities are on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancún, particularly on an emerging definition of a climate plan called REDD (“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”). Despite more than two years of lobbying by forest inhabitants and their advocates around the world, the UNFCCC’s…