(NaturalNews) The National Forestry Commission of Mexico in conjunction with the Swiss government recently held a conference to discuss the possibility of new, centralized climate change legislation. If enacted, the legislation will change the way Latin America governs its forests, and potentially set a precedent for how governments around the world manage their resources. But many at the conference expressed concerns that such legislation will end up benefiting a few wealthy elite while depriving local communities of their natural resources--all in the name of protecting the climate.
The REDD+ legislation--short for "reducing deforestation and forest degradation"--will require industrialized nations to pay developing nations to store carbon in their forests as well as manage them according to sustainable standards. Advocates say REDD+ will greatly benefit developing nations by helping to bring them out of poverty and end forest mismanagement.
Critics, however, say the legislation will do the exact opposite. By centralizing control of forest management, local communities and property owners in forest-rich nations like Brazil will be robbed of their resources, and a select few will have total control of these valuable resources.
The vast majority of Mexico's 64 million hectares of forest, for instance, are currently owned by rural communities and local landowners who manage them well. Climate change legislation that takes this control away and gives to centralized governments will only devastate these communities and open up the floodgates for corruption.
"Mexico's long tradition of community forest management provides a strong foundation for local action," explained Jose Carlos Fernandez Ugalde, head of Mexico's National Forestry Commission.
So rather than transfer control of Latin American forests and their resources to a select few in the name of protecting the climate, many experts are urging that such control remain in the hands of the people.
"If REDD+ is to succeed, it must not come from central government decrees that undermine rural communities," stressed Christian Kuchli from Switzerland's Federal Office for the Environment. "It must have local support and involve increased resource flows to rural areas, with adequate safeguards in a balanced regulatory framework."