On Democracy Now!, CIR’s Mark Schapiro discusses his reporting trip into the heart of the carbon offsets market on the Atlantic coast of Brazil–where a tree owned by General Motors is given an offset value of $1.
Schapiro’s report is part of a joint project between CIR and FRONTLINE/World that launched this week: “Carbon Watch: Tracking the New Currencies of Global Warming”
In a FRONTLINE/World video series, and accompanying Mother Jones article, Schapiro speaks with people who were displaced from a preserve where they’ve lived for generations—a forest now owned by General Motors. The forest was purchased by GM in partnership with the Nature Conservancy as part of an initiative to preserve biodiversity. What does GM get out of the deal? “The potentially lucrative rights to the carbon sequestered in the trees,” Schapiro explains in his article.
And unfortunately for the Guarani Indians and subsistence farmers who live in and near the forest, the new designation of the land as nature preserve and carbon offset project means they are no longer welcome. “I heard numerous stories of people being harassed, arrested, and shot at while looking for food, wood, or reeds,” Schapiro writes. He notes this has dire consequences for the community:
By excluding villagers from the forests, says Jutta Kill, a researcher with the Forests and the European Union Resource Network who has spent months interviewing locals about the project, the reserves are pulling out the communities’ lifeline. “In this area,” she says, “everyone is cash poor but no one goes hungry. If you take the forest away, you take away everything. The preservation projects here are designed to generate offsets for the largest polluters, and they’re doing it by cutting off people from the land.” Few of the people here have motors on their boats, she notes; even fewer own cars. People with some of the smallest carbon footprints on Earth are being displaced by companies with some of the biggest.