Climate talks in Lima can save the Amazon rainforest by recognizing rights of its best protectors
Peru is home to the second largest block of Amazon rainforest after Brazil and has promising forest protection schemes (including REDD+) in four national parks. But the country has a poor record for fighting deforestation, with rampant illegal mining and logging, slash and burn agriculture and insufficient land titling for indigenous groups.
Tropical rainforests play a crucial role in the health of our planet, especially as carbon sinks. Their importance is highlighted further given the drastic emissions reductions recommended by last month’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. International donors seem prepared to lay down large sums to protect forests, yet their future still hangs in the balance
At the UN Climate Change summit in September, Peru signed a $300m (£191m) deal with Norway to reduce net deforestation to zero by 2021, with the aim of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Peru committed to increase by five million hectares the land titled to indigenous peoples and to respect their territorial rights enshrined in the Consultation with Indigenous Peoples Law (guaranteed in the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 169).
However, Peru’s government announced this year it would open up the same amount of land for forest concessions on the back of a new law which seeks to attract investment to the slowing economy. At the centre of the debate about how to best protect Peru’s 73m hectares of Amazon rainforest are the indigenous people who inhabit it.
The anti-logging campaigner Edwin Chota and three other Ashéninka native leaders were killed in Peru’s Ucayali region in September over land they had spent a decade trying to secure for their community. At least 57 activists have been killed in Peru since 2002, making it the fourth most dangerous country to be an environmental defender.