March 8, 2013 / 3:40 PM / 6 years ago

RPT-Land ownership disputes hamper Latin American carbon projects

(Repeats Thursday item to additional subscribers with no changes; previous story carried POINT CARBON headline tag)

By Marcelo Teixeira

SAO PAULO, March 8 (Reuters Point Carbon) - A spate of recent land ownership disputes is posing threats to several carbon emission-reduction projects under development in Latin America, putting at risk private investment and United Nations funding in those projects.

An investment plan to address deforestation in Peru, a U.N.-funded avoided deforestation program in Panama, and a U.N. offset project in Honduras have all been affected by land-related disputes in recent days.

Meanwhile, a Brazilian think tank said this week that almost 40 percent of the largest Amazon state faces uncertainty over land ownership.

Uncertainty over how to deal with land ownership issues of large forest areas has kept hesitant investors away from the nascent market for carbon credits from projects to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD).

The uncertainty has caused the majority of initial REDD projects in Latin America to be developed on smaller and private tracts of land.

In Peru, a country that holds 13 percent of the Amazon rainforest, or roughly 70 million hectares, a $50 million plan by the World Bank’s Forest Investment Program (FIP) to fight deforestation will no longer be signed in April, as initially expected, said an official.

The Bank decided to delay the announcement to give time to the local government and indigenous groups critical of the World Bank program to discuss land titles.

“The situation in Peru is rather complex, especially regarding the relationship between the government and several indigenous groups. This is not an easy topic for both sides, so the consultation is taking longer,” said Andrea Kutter, senior program officer for World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds.

Kutter made her fourth trip to Peru in February to discuss the $50 million investment plan. Usually, the FIP endorses plans for countries after only two visits, she said.

Before the visit, AIDESEP, an organization that represents some 1,500 indigenous groups in the Peruvian Amazon, criticized the draft, saying it focused too much on private firms that won government exploration concessions and inadequately addressed formal land titles for indigenous communities.

PANAMA, HONDURAS

In Panama, indigenous group COONAPIP declared last week it was abandoning a UN-supported REDD program in the country, accusing it of “not recognizing that almost 76 percent of the forests of Panama are found in indigenous lands and territories, which indigenous peoples have inalienable rights to.”

UN-REDD is a collaboration between the UN and donor countries to assist developing countries in designing national strategies combat deforestation.

“The UN-REDD officials say that it is not a priority of the program to help secure the land rights of indigenous peoples who do not have collective deed,” said Hector Huertas, legal counsel to COONAPIP, in a statement published by the REDD Monitor website.

In Honduras, a more violent land dispute forced the World Bank to announce an investigation into an investment plan financed by its investment arm, the IFC, which includes a CDM project registered by the U.N.

That led to a request by CDM watchdog Carbon Market Watch for the U.N. to investigate possible human rights violations in carbon offsets projects.

BRAZIL

Land ownership uncertainties also pose a potential threat to carbon projects in Brazil, considered the world’s largest potential area for REDD projects.

Imazon, a Brazilian research institution, released this week a study (here) called "The State of Amazon" where it analyzed the land ownership situation.

According to the paper, 39 percent of the largest Amazonian state Para experiences land ownership conflicts.

Imazon said the area, equivalent of that of Spain, is where 71 percent of deforestation in Para occurs. And only 8 percent of that area is currently subject to any legal process seeking clarification of ownership. (Editing by Valerie Volcovici)

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