By Jiten Yumnam
The world is grapping hard to combat the fast unfolding climate crisis with endless international processes and negotiations between states forwarding corporate agendas, all far away from communities, whose land, forest and future are negotiated and compromised, even without them know what is happening. Answers suggested, such as “carbon trading” only complicates the crisis.
At the onset, carbon trading mechanisms, under Kyoto Protocols, involves a very false notion of responding to climate crisis. To reduce emission of Green House Gases (GHGs) from the powerful industrialist countries, which is the primary causes of global warming, Kyoto negotiators established the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the UN Convention on Climate Change by which developed nations could claim to cut their GHG emissions by investing in ‘clean’ programs in developing nations. This market based solutions, only legitimized pollutions of big corporate bodies unwilling to reduce emissions. The process is just a consolidation of the global plunder of natural resources by the agents of exploitative trade regime, fostering unsustainable growth and production model. An exploration of the process of devising the mechanisms and the implementation would reveal the arbitrations of human rights principles and standards by the carbon traders.
The very process of defining the “Carbon Trading” mechanisms as the ultimate means of combating climate crisis itself is bound by limitations and fraud. One serious procedural lapses of the decision making process in defining such mechanisms is the exclusion of communities from meaningful and effective participation role. Rather corporate and business interest ran high in the negotiations.
The ongoing pursuance of India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change and by the state plans in respective states, including in Manipur, involves pursuing corporate agenda of carbon trading with either absolutely no consultation or limited consultation. However, in all these, there is a clearly no process to consider suggestions to opt for real solutions, such as promoting the low carbon oriented way of life of many indigenous peoples. There is very little scope to participate and seek redressal at the decision making processes on clearing CDM projects at both the national and CDM board level. There is no process for conduct a holistic impact assessment by the projects and to comply with human rights standards. For the communities, especially indigenous peoples living and depending on forest for their survival, this exclusion is serious violation of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development and the UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) etc.
The aggressive pursuance of the carbon trading mechanisms by the corporate bodies involves a clear violation of human rights of communities depending on their land, forest, rivers for survival. An assessment of mega dams projected as clean source of energy under CDM by various dam developing countries in India’s North East confirms serious human rights violations. Many of these dams, such as the 1200 MW Teesta III, 105 MW Loktak Project had already led to widespread displacement, destruction of livelihood source of communities and loss of endemic flora and fauna, which constitutes a clear violation of “Right to Life”.
There is a clear misinformation and denial of information in the pursuance of such mega projects across the region and the non recognition of indigenous communities’ collective rights over their land. A serious misinformation is the concealment of facts and figures as to how the submergence of forest and excavation of earth by mega dams will lead to colossal emission of GHGs. The ongoing push for REDD+ projects in Manipur involves misinformation and lack of impact assessments.
The construction of such mega development also involves destruction and desecration of cultural and sacred sites and the construction process involves pollution and contamination of air and water. Additionally, there are social impacts due to influx of workers and in most of India’s North East inhabited by diverse indigenous communities with minimal demographic strength, the number of workers often far exceeds local communities. The conscious insistence of development onslaught in the pretext of climate crisis and destroying the land and survival sources of marginalized communities also constitute serious forms of discrimination, which is strongly prohibited by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Another carbon offsetting scheme, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus (REDD +) pursued vigorously in India, will only encourage restriction of communities access to forest, monoculture tree plantations etc, including with non-native species such as palm oil, the resultant massive loss of biodiversity, as well as the loss of lands, subsistence and cultures of Indigenous peoples. Across the globe, REDD and forest carbon projects already led to loss of land, massive evictions in the form of servitude, multi-generational slavery, persecutions and threats to the cultural survival of Indigenous peoples. According the New York Times, over 22,000 farmers with land deeds were violently evicted for a forest carbon project in 2011. However, business continues as usual in the world's carbon markets, despite the "systemic and grave human rights violations".
For many indigenous communities affected by carbon trading, and other carbon offsetting projects, it constitutes a violation of their inherent right to Self Determined Development, spelled out in Article 3 of UNDRIP, which states “Indigenous Peoples have the Right to Self Determination, by virtue of this right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”. Article 32 of UNDRIP insists that the Right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent of all indigenous peoples should be obtained before any decisions affecting their land.
The very process of forcible land grabbing by plantations, mega dam projects, gas pipelines, cement plants, etc violates the UN Declaration against forced and arbitrary Displacement. The UN Resolutions 1993/77 and 2004/28 of the UN Commission on Human Rights clearly outlined that forced evictions constitute gross violations of a wide range of internationally recognized human rights and mass evictions may only be carried out under exceptional circumstances and in full accordance with international human rights law. Article 11.1 of the ICESCR, to which India is a party states that the State party recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including housing and to a continuous improvement of living conditions.
Lack of corporate accountability is serious as many multinational corporate bodies, such as the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) seeking profits from CDM are still marred with accountability. The NHPC, which still failed to compensate and rehabilitate communities displaced by its 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Power project, now, embarks on a grand idea of seeking carbon credits and profits by upgrading Loktak HEP Power Station.
Democratic calls for just decision making process and recognition of their rights is often responded with militarization and brute use of force, leading to loss of life, physical deformities, mental agonies, filing of false and fabricated charges, arbitrary arrest and detention, which constitute series of violations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A dispute with palm oil Plantation Company for carbon trading initiative in Honduras led to killing of 23 Honduran farmers, who tried to recover land illegally sold to palm oil plantations such as Grupo Dinant.
The most unfortunate part is the reluctance and indeed, refusal of state parties to implement its human rights obligations. The recommendations of th UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples and on the Right to Housing, to the Government of India to take appropriate action to recognize the rights and demands of communities displaced by the Mapithel dam and the Lamphelpat evictions in Manipur in 2009 and 2011 respectively has long been sidelined.
Human Rights defenders campaigning against land grabbing and for just participation and accountability of corporate bodies are often resorted to threats and intimidations by law enforcing agencies and military. Even in other countries, those opposing false solutions to climate crisis are targeted. Mr. Odey Oyama, Executive Director of the Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC) in Cross River State, Nigeria suffered police harassment and intimidation and had to flee his home early 2013 for opposing REDD activities. Peoples’ voice for just decision making process and recognition of their inherent rights is often responded with militarization and brute use of force.
The UN Charter (Article 55c) states “the United Nations shall promote universal respect for and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction”. Further, the Cancun Agreements (Decision 1/CP.16 paragraph 8) state that “Parties should in all climate change related actions fully respect human rights”. Human rights and international human rights laws should apply to the UN and its entities, including the CDM decision making processes.
Carbon trading and carbon offset projects increase pollution and make global warming worse. The carbon trading scam also means more diseases for communities living near sources of pollution. Carbon markets increased fossil fuel exploitation, extraction and combustion, which create toxic hot spots and toxic body burdens for women, affecting the right of future generations to a healthy life. These false solutions allow polluting industries and governments to increase toxic emissions and releases. It is also high time to gauge and assess the effectiveness of the pursuance of carbon trading mechanism as a solution to climate change and further to assess the violations committed in the pursuance of so called “clean and green projects”. Pursuing an alternative development model based on the needs, wishes and low carbon way of lives of communities is key to combat climate crisis.
 Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations and NGOs Opposing REDD Request Meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown, Oct 8, 2013, http://www.ienearth.org/indigenous-traditional-grassroots-based-organizations-opposing-redd-request-meeting-with-gov-jerry-brown/
 Carbon credits tarnished by human rights 'disgrace' http://www.euractiv.com/climate-environment/carbon-credits-tarnished-human-r-news-508068, Published 03 October 2011, updated 04 October 2011
 The Mapithel Dam of Thoubal Multipurpose project in Manipur was approved in May 1980. The project aims to utilize the water resources of Thoubal River for irrigation, drinking water for Imphal town and to generate 7.5 MW of power.