“These people have sold our air”. This is the title of the shocking report of the “Blood Carbon” campaign that the international organisation Survival, which fights for the rights of indigenous peoples, has directed to raise awareness of what is happening to indigenous nations around the world, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

On 18 September, Survival Spain convened the media at its headquarters to explain the consequences of selling carbon at the cost of human rights violations, exposing concrete cases such as in northern Kenya, in a carbon offsetting system that makes millions of dollars in profits from indigenous lands, and raising serious doubts about the credibility of the claims of the Grasslands Project.

Point by point, the International President of this Association and its representatives in Spain, firmly stated that “indigenous peoples are the true defenders of nature and their rights are being continuously violated”. Companies and governments are fighting for their territories in order to remove it for profitable carbon credits without caring in the least about the situation in which they find themselves, and often robbing them of their ancestral territories in order to convert them into protected areas presented as “Nature-Based Solutions”.

Photo: Pexels – Loic Manegarium

It has been made clear by Survival and the United Nations that a new model must urgently be created in which the rights of indigenous peoples are put at the centre. If all governments respected the 80% of the planet’s sensitive area that is located in indigenous territories and granted them management, we would have achieved the protection of not only 30% of the ecosystems essential for life on our planet, according to the 2030 Agenda, but of 80% of them.

However, governments and multinationals deny indigenous peoples their right, which is guaranteed by the United Nations, to live on their ancestral lands and on many occasions they are being expelled from these lands, sometimes with the consent of large conservationist associations.

Carbon credits and green bonds are a failure in the fight to stop the climate crisis. Sometimes, or almost always, the opposite is true: they increase. It is claimed that Protected Areas allow territories to be “protected” from deforestation and other carbon dioxide emitting activities and can thus be used to “offset” carbon emissions generated elsewhere in the world. This strategy allows them to continue polluting without curbing the growing climate crisis.

Survival denounces that the most common model of conservation is ‘fortress conservation’, which is based on the expulsion of indigenous and local peoples from their lands, and is accompanied by increased militarization and violence if landowners attempt to enter their lands, sometimes resulting in torture, rape or murder. “Protected Areas destroy the best guardians of the natural world, the indigenous peoples in whose territories 80% of the world’s biodiversity is found.

The United Nations must direct the world to urgently call for a halt to the carbon credit and green bond business, which are schemes invented by the same people who pollute the world under the protection of governments.

The title of the Survival report, “These people have sold our air”, was the cry direct from Emmanuel, from the Rendille People in northern Kenya.

Felix Diaz, an indigenous leader of the peoples of northern Argentina from whom the government has stolen part of their territory to turn it into a national park, put it very starkly in a recent conversation with him: “They have taken away our hunting grounds, the lake to drink from, our medicines that we sought in the bush, our spirituality in our sacred lands. We are just things. Abandoned and rejected. If we try to enter our lands they kill us, they accuse us of poaching. They don’t give us work anywhere and dare to call us lazy. My daughter recently tried to commit suicide, she has no future, no hope. My words are carried away by the wind”.

Shocking message of a forgotten reality that no one wants to hear.

Photo: Pexels – Pranavsinh Suratia

What are we playing at when we have the solution in indigenous peoples? The business of selling carbon, carbon credits, green bonds that try to seduce society as solutions against the crisis or those solutions based on nature that do not respect local populations, are truly a crime against humanity condoned by governments, by the international community and by the business of conservation.

The world is facing a very serious problem. “Many of the projects are monoculture tree plantations that are planted to offset emissions, but after they are cut down and the CO2 goes out again,” we were told at the meeting at Survival’s headquarters, where no national, TV, radio or local media attended the call for this “Blood Carbon” campaign. Only a few independent journalists and one member of an NGO such as the Great Ape Project, who writes for the international press agency Pressenza, attended the press conference. This shows how little sensitivity there is in the media about this serious problem and the lack of interest on the part of governments.

If we know, we can act. If we do not know, it will not exist.