A Moratorium on Forest Carbon Trading

Indigenous-led alliance calls for a moratorium on terrestrial forest carbon trading.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Indigenous-led alliance calls for a moratorium on terrestrial forest carbon trading. Image Unsplash.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Indigenous-led alliance calls for a moratorium on terrestrial forest carbon trading.

The Pathways Alliance for Change and Transformation (PACT), a coalition of indigenous groups, community organizations, and non-profits, has published a paper calling for a moratorium on terrestrial forest carbon trading until genuine consent and recognition of indigenous land claims has been established, along with effective market regulation. 

Our past shapes our present, which shapes our future. 

As we progress further and further into the climate crisis that has gripped our world, it is apparent that we must reflect upon our past and how we got into this position to create real solutions for our predicament. 

While this is a subject of debate in some areas of the environmental justice movement and the broader fight against the climate crisis, what is broadly understood by many academics, non-profit organizations, activist groups, and indigenous peoples is that unrestrained or not, expanding capital has been primarily responsible for the widespread climate change that the world is experiencing. 

From colonial oppression at the hands of European powers to the current global domination of multinational corporations, capital expansion has been the primary motivator for the destruction of our natural world. 

This is why there has been significant resistance to adopting market-based solutions to resolving climate change within the global environmental movement, especially from indigenous peoples, because many see it as a facade to do the bare minimum necessary to continue recklessly expanding profits for a small minority. Greenwashing is a prime example of this resistance to fundamental change from the business community. 

Still, the example most noteworthy to this story is how forest carbon trading can be corrupted from its original purpose and be used as an excuse for wealthy nations to continue emitting carbon and exploiting land that has never belonged to them. 

This is also the story of a group of people fighting for a future where forest carbon trading works and functions for the benefit of all people, not just the ones at the top. 

The wisdom of those who were there before.

When considering how to best manage our world’s ecosystems, it seems intuitive that we would consider the knowledge of the people who have managed those ecosystems the longest. While at the time of writing, it certainly appears that way, that hasn’t been the case and still isn’t the case in large parts of the world. 

Times are changing, however, and the climate crisis effectively represents that, if nothing else. As the world continues to open its eyes to the mindsets and paradigms that have led us to this point, ideas that indigenous peoples have held as values for generations have resurged. 

A coalition of indigenous groups, community organizations, and non-profits have come together to highlight a specific mechanism designed to mitigate climate change, which could also be used to propagate it further. PACT published a paper in September 2023 calling for a moratorium on forest carbon trading until genuine consideration of indigenous voices in discussions concerning land rights and effective market regulation is established. 

The reason why a moratorium must be established is that, right now, corporations and countries are using the carbon credit system to continue emitting carbon into our atmosphere and destroying forests wholesale. Wealthy nations and countries who largely built their wealth on the destruction and exploitation of years past can afford to purchase carbon credits to continue emitting carbon as they would normally. 

There is also a lack of genuine regulation in the forest carbon trading market, so it’s impossible to know whether or not the carbon credits exchanged represent meaningful change. Samuel Nguiffo, founder and director of the Cameroon-based Centre for Environment and Development and a co-author of the PACT paper, compared forest carbon trading to profit-seeking in timber and palm oil.

 “We have to look at nature as what it is, something important and not another commodity through which we can get money because we sell carbon,” he said. “The message is that you cannot resolve a problem with the same mindset that created it.”

Stop forest carbon trading; what else is being done?

Millions of people, especially in the Western world, live blissful lives, completely unaware of the destruction that supports the luxury and enjoyment they experience. However, as the climate crisis continues to worsen, even they are coming to reckon with the reality of our situation. 

Now is not the time to assign blame, but plenty of that will be dealt with in the future. What is the time to do now is to act and certainly not repeat the same actions that brought us to our predicament. 

At COP28 in 2023, no new versions of article 6.2 or 6.4 of the Paris Agreement were adopted, specifically about market-based solutions to climate change and specifically forest carbon trading markets. This was a disappointment to those who are in support of carbon markets, but COP28 was a success for those who are interested in other options, like a moratorium on terrestrial forest carbon trade.

Negotiators adopted a new version of Article 6.8 of the Paris Agreement, and backers say these changes encourage non-market and cooperative solutions to the climate crisis. As humanity, we created the systems that enabled the climate crisis. We can also create the systems that will save our planet. 

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