Market-based “solution” to climate change dispossesses peasants in Honduras

The Guardian reports that an EU-based carbon credit scheme is empowering crooked landlords in Honduras who are implicated in the displacement and murder of farmers and their families:

The reported killing of 23 Honduran farmers in a dispute with the owners of UN-accredited palm oil plantations has called into question the integrity of the EU’s emission trading scheme (ETS), as carbon credits from the plantations remain on sale.
At the heart of the issue are the reported murders of 23 local farmers who tried to recover land that they say was illegally sold to big palm oil plantations, such as Grupo Dinant, in a country scarred by widespread human rights abuses.

In July, a report by an international fact-finding mission was presented to the European Parliament’s human rights sub-committee, alleging that 23 farmers, one journalist and his partner, had all been murdered in the Bajo Aguán region between January 2010 and March 2011.

The alleged killings were facilitated by the “direct involvement of private security guards from some of the local companies who are complicit with police and military officials”, the report said. In some cases it cited “feigned accidents” in which farmers were run over by security guards working for palm oil businessmen. In other cases, the farmers were simply shot, or had “disappeared”.

The CDM board recently ruled that the Bajo Aguán project met the criteria of its mandate – because of a three-year gap between the stakeholder consultation process and project approvals.

We are not investigators of crimes,” a board member told EurActiv. “We had to take judgments within our rules – however regretful that may be – and there was not much scope for us to refuse the project. All the consultation procedures precisely had been obeyed.”

Such morbid results were likely predicted by many on the left-wing of the environmentalist movement who criticized carbon “offset” programs as a means for rich countries to foister the responsibility for fighting climate change on poorer countries. This scheme is the logical extension of neo-liberalism to climate policy. Instead of making a stenuous effort to invest in conservation, energy-efficiency and clean power, the “market-based” solution to climate change is to privatize the atmosphere. The complexities of balancing pollution control with the need for energy are thus reduced to a another financial instrument for speculators in Wall Street and London to place bets on.

The thinking in this instance is that European polluters can offset their emissions by investing in biofuels (despite the massive environmental damage associated with their cultivation). Somehow this evens things out in their minds. Carbon credit programs have created a large demand for biofuels. As is always the case when landed oligarchies discover a new cash crop to grow and reap for profit, vulnerable groups such as the indigenous, those residing on communally-held land, and small farmers see their land rights enroached upon to satisfy the increase in demand. We have seen this many times before in Latin America.

I am currently working on a extensively researched post on the land conflict in the Bajo Aguan of Honduras. It should (hopefully) be posted by the end of the year.