Fighting Climate Change and Saving Forests Doesn’t Mean Ignoring Indigenous Rights

With the COP21 international climate talks in Paris rapidly approaching, Mexico merits attention. In March, Mexico made news by becoming the first developing country to commit to reducing its carbon footprint at a national level ahead of the upcoming talks—including an ambitious goal to bring deforestation rates to zero by 2030.

These latest commitments aren’t the first time Mexico has been a step ahead of much of the world on climate. In 2010, Mexico released a vision document laying groundwork for a national strategy for REDD+—a United Nations program that stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.”

Carbon Brigade in Chiapas measures trees

Community members in Chiapas learn how to measure carbon stored in trees (Photo: Felicia Line)

EcoLogic has been working to support REDD+ implementation in Mexico’s tropical forests since 2012, when we established our CarbonPlus program in the Lacandón Jungle of Chiapas. Now, with renewed support from the Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Fund, we have an unprecedented opportunity to fight climate change in Mexico in five states.

Since early 2014, EcoLogic has been working in the two southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Campeche, where—with GCF’s support and in partnership with the two states’ governments, two Mexican universities, and several local NGOs—we train local communities to measure carbon stored in trees in the Lacandón and Calakmul jungles.

This year, our project is expanding from two states to five—Chiapas, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and Jalisco. We plan to replicate our past success working with local stakeholders in Chiapas and Campeche to train community “carbon brigades”—groups of local people, many of them students and youth, to measure the carbon stored in Mexico’s beautiful and biodiverse tropical forests.

Measuring forest carbon in Chiapas

Community members in Chiapas learn about measuring forest carbon

With the support of GCF and our local collaborators, our work will also help influence the states’ REDD+ policies—which could then significantly impact Mexico’s national efforts to protect forests and fight climate change. “I’m very hopeful that the work we’re doing with GCF will be influential in informing Mexico’s plans at the national level,” said Felicia Line, EcoLogic’s CarbonPlus Community Coordinator.

Mexico could become a model for involving local communities in REDD+, ensuring that the program works not only for trees, but also for people—recognizing the needs and rights of rural and indigenous communities.

By joining forces with a diverse group of stakeholders to tackle big-picture policy questions, EcoLogic is taking our people-powered conservation approach to a larger scale than anything we have done in the past. “It will be a huge challenge,” Felicia mused, reflecting on the road ahead. But it’s a challenge we are excited to tackle, for the good of people and the planet.

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