tropical deforestation

Fight For Climate Justice: Eric Mbotji’s Story

By Morgan Taylor Peterson, MPH

Eric Mbotji

Eric Mbotji

Fellow Care About Climate and Climate Sign user, Eric Mbotiji is an inspiring individual who continues to show his fierce love for the sustainable ecotourism, the environment and the protection of the planet for future generations. Eric is a fellow climate advocate, who also trains young people to serve as advocates. He continuously encourages young people to fight for climate justice by planting trees within their communities. Along with this he organizes tree planting days in order to get communities to think globally and act locally.  

This story shows how Eric was taken as a Prisoner of War for 20 days while protesting deforestation in Cameroon.  Most of Cameroon’s forests are located within the southern part of the country and much of the deforestation is occurring in the southwest. These forests are what we can call a hot-spot” of biodiversity. Within the rainforests are housed some of the oldest and most unique woodlands in the world containing 620 species of trees and bushes and around 500 different herbs and lianas. There are many causes of deforestation in Cameroon that are extremely complex and have changed over the years. According to Eric, the major causes to this deforestation is agricultural expansion and general land use management. However, what does this mean for air quality, environmental health, and human health?

In late 2016, the armed conflicts began to arise as a result of the marginalization of English-speaking minorities by the French-speaking majority in Cameroon. As a fellow climate change advocate, Eric became very concerned about the wellbeing of internally displaced citizens as well as the devasting effects of climate change. Before this crisis and conflicts, Eric was an educator who trained young people from primary, secondary, and high schools in Bamenda as Climate Justice Ambassadors with support from the Plant for the Planet Academy. Around 60 young people were trained and educated on the importance of planting trees and the effects of climate change. Due to the overall success of this training process, this training was taken further to various campuses across the region, where students and young people planted trees, designed gardens, and school orchards. 

Screen Shot 2019-07-31 at 9.25.21 AM.png

With the upcoming conflicts, Eric witnessed citizens cutting down trees and forests illegally to sell, use as firewood, and for other uses. From a climate change prospective this did not sit right with Eric, because he had advocated for so long with local town councils in order to establish policies geared towards getting families to plant trees as one of the requirements for the establishment of a birth certificate. This became a community effort for couples to plant trees in their communities after having a newborn. However, due to the conflict and government crisis affecting the country, the council was not functional, because of the burning of government buildings and insecurities. Due to this, citizens began cutting down the trees in the region.

IMG_20180721_165919504_HDR.jpg

As a climate advocate and protector of the environment, Eric and 10 other volunteers moved about in the villages of Santa, Bali, and Bafut to protest the illegal deforestation caused by other citizens in order to raise awareness of the effects of climate change and deforestation. As a result of this protest, Eric was abducted by a Nonstate Armed Resistance group for almost three weeks. Eric pleaded with the resistance group to not take the other volunteers and to just take him alone with them. The group accepted these terms and held Eric captive in three different camps with different leaders for questioning.

Eric was accused of being a government spy, because the group that kidnapped him had declared themselves as pro-independent fighters. After one week of torture and questioning, Eric fell seriously ill, sustained substantial injuries, and was only fed once a day with hardly any water. After weeks of convincing, Eric was finally able to talk about what he was really doing, talk about being a climate advocate, the effects of cutting down forests and trees, and why these trees are important for the environment. After three long weeks, Eric was finally set free, however, due to dehydration and his injuries, he spent a week in the hospital to recuperate.

Screen Shot 2019-07-31 at 9.25.14 AM.png

Even after all that he has been through, Eric is glad he was able to organize these campaigns to bring awareness to the illegal cutting of trees and the effects of climate change. Eric believed this was the best way to contribute to the fight against climate change in his community and will continue to advocate and educate his community through the planting of trees. In the past, Eric has inspired many young people to cultivate gardens at their homes, recycle waste from homes, and transform it into compost, manure, and biogas. Eric has always been an advocate for environment and continues to train young people to care about the environment.

After a few weeks of, Eric already has his next project in sight, which is to support the internally displaced households with solar lamps, in order for children to do their school assignments at night and be able to carry out other household duties. Eric is also creating a psychosocial support group for young people who have been affected by the conflicts and crisis in Cameroon. This support group creates a way for these young people to heal through social traveling and hiking in order to “Connect to Nature”. Eric hopes that this travel program will be meaningful and help heal some of the trauma caused by war, as he himself, has experienced.

I love advocating for the environment and planting trees is my own way” – Eric Mbotiji

I love advocating for the environment and planting trees is my own way” – Eric Mbotiji

Check out more photos of Eric’s work and volunteerism below! 

IMG_20181015_121945_198.jpg
IMG_20180501_153858_847.jpg
IMG_20190509_135135.jpg
IMG_20180827_113205819.jpg
IMG_20181006_124121_697.jpg
IMG-20171205-WA0072.jpg

International Involvement in REDD+

December 10, 2017

A critical analysis of a regime and the importance of global cooperation

Problem Statement and Overview

A general lack of resources and funding, heavy reliance on forest resources to sustain livelihoods, and the overall increasing global threat of climate change deepens the complexity of tropical deforestation and land degradation. Most deforestation is taking place in South tropical regions, making it one of the leading causes of climate change (Park et. al). The agreement of REDD+ reflected “win-win” results for developed and developing countries alike (Hufty et. al), but there has been criticism from local communities who believe this mechanism will override their rights to forests or make their rights inequitable. The involvement of leading developed countries in REDD+ is paving the way for smaller countries to follow, but in order to successfully exercise forest conservation and sustainable management whilst avoiding backlash from locally marginalized groups, identifying trade-offs before implementation will ensure the inclusion of multi-stakeholder perspectives necessary in global environmental policy.

In this analysis, the focus is on the importance of international cooperation to combat deforestation in the global regime of climate change and how the UNFCCC’s REDD+ is currently addressing the “common but differentiated” responsibilities of developed and developing countries. With more than 100 REDD+ projects administered around the world, this paper focuses on two studies: one which analyzed five developed countries who are actively participating in building their global REDD+ regime and another study that analyzed 80+ projects in mostly developing countries to conclude what strategies have been successful in achieving REDD+ goals. Results indicated that implemented strategies depended on the countries’ respective perspectives and interests, yet some lacked specificity in terms of the “plus” goals of REDD. Furthermore, there is a fear of stolen property rights from local communities, indigenous people, and women and giving developed countries an opportunity to back out of their personal climate change reduction goals. Therefore, a transnational dialogue between all levels of civil society is necessary to successfully build the global regime of REDD+.

Overview

Annually, 13 million hectares of land are lost to deforestation, where 97% takes place in tropical regions (Hufty et. al). Tropical deforestation and forest degradation contribute to about 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions which is a striking challenge to the addressing the global regime of climate change due to tropical forests having particularly high carbon stocks (Park, et. al). At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations, the term “avoided deforestation” was not included in the Kyoto Protocol due to the complexity of deforestation management (Hufty et. al). At the 11th Conference of Parties (COP) in 2005, the mechanism “Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus” (REDD+) was agreed upon to support the implementation of REDD by focusing on the role of conservation, sustainable management and carbon stock enhancement (Hufty et. al).

The Global Regime of REDD+

In just four years after the proposal of REDD+ in 2005, 79 REDD+ activities and over 100 demonstrations were implemented in 40 developing countries with the help of international organizations such as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) of the World Bank and the UN-REDD Programme, jointly led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (Park, et. al). However, the progress of REDD+ would not be where it is at without the support of several developed countries. At COP15 under the Copenhagen Accord, Japan, Australia, France, France, Norway, the UK, and the US jointly pledged USD3.5 billion to kickstart the finance of REDD+.

Park et. al analyzed the national REDD+ strategies of Norway, Germany, Australia, the US, and Japan through three strategies: pledge, type of support, and approach. Results showed that all countries made a national pledge through a non-binding and voluntary commitment, exemplified in the Copenhagen Accord. Furthermore, all countries used a strategy of bilateral and multilateral cooperation to specialize national initiatives on forest management and climate change. However, the five countries used different approaches to REDD+: Norway had the largest scale of financing, Germany focused on the biodiversity regime, Australia partnered with developing countries to form forest carbon markets, the US focuses on bilateral assistance to use its REDD+ credits in its domestic carbon market, and Japan is using REDD+ technology for capacity building (Park, et. al). This study shows there is a shared goal of committing to the REDD+ regime, but their strategies are dependent on national goals and perspectives.

Within the international cooperation lies the smaller, developing countries where REDD+ projects are being carried out. The second case study analyzed 80 REDD+ projects in 34 different countries and the importance of biodiversity as a REDD+ goal by categorizing the study in two focuses: emission reduction (ER) and afforestation/reforestation (A/R). Results showed that A/R projects prioritized restoring natural habitat and RE projects prioritized preventing habitat loss (Panfil & Harvey). Similar to Park, et. al’s study, projects within REDD+ have variability in their objectives and goals. However, these projects lacked specificity which constrains the ability of these national governments to measure and monitor conservation success.

Policy Gaps and Future Actions

            The global REDD+ regime could alleviate poverty, conserve biodiversity, and mitigate climate change through its carbon market. It has the end-goal of protecting forests which protects the ecosystems and species within, and ultimately stimulates economic development. However, there are multiple criticisms to the mechanism. By focusing on developing countries, industrialized countries can be disincentivized to reduce their personal carbon emissions, whether it be through decreasing carbon-emitting behaviors or quitting investing in renewable and clean energy technology (Hirsch, et. al). Another gap is avoiding deforestation in one area neglects deforestation in another (Hufty et. al). If monoculture species or fast-paced growth tree species are implemented, there will be increased biodiversity loss. One of the biggest arguments is the loss of community based means. Tropical forests have a large population of indigenous people whose livelihoods depend on trees so if new governments or wealthier institutions come in to reallocate resource management rights, traditional land uses and indigenous culture will be threatened.

The aforementioned “win-win” structure for both developed and developing countries is effective in gaining funding and support, but fuels disillusioned optimism. If the developed countries fail to fulfill their promises, trust that is necessary to meet forest management and carbon reduction objectives will be lost and the receiving stakeholder even alienate their involvement (Hirsch et. al). Furthermore, focusing only on positives creates a platform for other policy narratives to focus on the negatives. For example, the Indigenous Environmental Network, a strong opponent of REDD+ renamed the acronym to “Reaping Profits from Evictions, Land grants, Deforestation, and Destruction of biodiversity” for their policy narrative.

To combat stronger divides, a new attempt of examining trade-offs during the planning of international policy regimes has been gaining momentum. Realistic acknowledgement of losses and analysis of trade offs promotes creative dialogue and reduces probability of disappointment (Hirsch, et.al). It is hard to acknowledge trade offs when support from political interests or funding is at stake because all decision makers want to hear is the definite success of said policy. However, acknowledging conflicting views from the start leads to more productive negotiation. It also legitimizes why a policy was chosen or not not chosen to be adopted and thus, legitimizes policies that are adopted in the end. However, there are some setbacks to trade-off analysis. Complex issues can be obscured and oversimplified, it can shift roles of important perspectives away from social issues, and there can be an assumption that everything can be traded off when things such as individual or cultural rights are deemed non-negotiable (Hirsch et. al) Analyzing trade-offs are not the only solution, but they are vital in recognizing multi-perspectives and embraces complexity which will lead to open discussion and improvement before implementation.

Conclusion

REDD+ access and exclusion to land depends on the actors involved, and how they claim and use their land and forest carbon. Developed countries’ level of contribution depend on their personal interests and resources. Some communities object the involvement of foreign national management while others are excited for more secure, local resource management. Overall, international cooperation between developed and developing countries indicate that there are shared values and interests with the commonality of combatting climate change. While the REDD+ regime is still gaining momentum in select national governments, this analysis of international cooperation on combatting deforestation is not enough. There is a prevalent lack of acknowledgment about the social impacts of REDD+ and the success of carbon as a market. In the meantime, continuous cooperation between developing and developed countries and inclusion of local-based groups in policy action is necessary for REDD+ to have long-term success in mitigating the global environmental issue of tropic deforestation and land degradation.

By Tammy Nguyen

Tammy is a delegate with Care About Climate to COP23 and Climate Ambassador. She studies Sustainability at Arizona State University and is an on-campus changemaker.