The Surui Forest Carbon Project

Indigenous people are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and have contributed the least. Agriculture and forestry generate ~30% of all greenhouse gas emissions, whilst traditional land-management practices can dramatically improve the ability of forests, farms & fields to absorb emissions. This has spawned the creation of mechanisms to support Indigenous land stewardship, such as REDD+. This story only touches the surface level of how intricate and complex these works become.⁣

REDD+ in the strictest sense refers to a specific set of mechanisms created under the UN Framework on Climate Change, enshrined in the Paris Agreement. The term also applies to voluntary initiatives developed to support sustainable land management in developing countries. ⁣

The Surui Forest Carbon Project is an example of this. In 1969 first contact was made with the Paiter-Suruí people. By 2005, more than 10% of their territory had been logged. After a lengthy process, a deforestation pilot project was approved. In 2013 they became the first Indigenous group in the world to sell carbon credits under the UN anti-deforestation scheme.⁣

There was however a pro-logging faction of the group, supported by the Catholic Church in the Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI) who sought to undermine the project by promoting division within tribes to stop carbon schemes.⁣

Gold was discovered & in 2015 illegal mining operations began that were environmentally devastating. Out of control & without full law enforcement, deforestation accelerated in 2016/17 and the project went on hold. It attained the seventh-worst deforestation rate among 419 Indigenous lands in the Brazilian Amazon that year.⁣

Before being suspended in 2018, the project generated 300k carbon offsets certified under the Verified Carbon Standard. This is equal to removing 64k cars from the road for a year. It became the first VCS project to receive Gold certification, which evaluates social & environmental benefits beyond carbon, dramatically reduced deforestation & funded 6 self-sufficient community initiatives for income. ⁣

Read more on our expanded article here.⁣

Photos: Beto Borges & Forest Trends⁣