Paris Climate Agreement May Displace Forest Dwellers

The Paris climate conference (COP21) held in December 2015 and resulted in the landmark achievement of getting 195 countries to adopt the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The agreement sets out a global action plan to get the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.

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The Paris Climate Agreement becomes legally binding if joined by at least 55 countries, which will together make up 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions. The countries will have to sign the agreement in New York between 22 April 2016 which is Earth Day and 21 April 2017, they will also have to adopt it into their own legal systems. If they meet these conditions, the agreement will be due to enter into force by 2020.


The Paris Climate Agreement has come up in talks again as a new analysis suggests that the Paris climate agreement could indeed make millions of forest dwellers homeless. This conclusion is as a result of considerations that many developing countries will attempt to curb carbon emissions by setting aside forested areas as reserves. The experts are worried however, that the creation of national parks often leads to the removal of the people who live in these areas. With funding from Norway, Liberia has proposed that 30% of their forests should become protected areas by 2020. Democratic Republic of Congo sets its own goal at 12-15% of their forested lands to be funded by Germany and the Global Environmental Facility.


The study has indicated that by just these designations in Liberia and Democratic Republic of Congo, as many as 1.3 million people could be displaced. Andy White, from the Rights and Resources Initiative, which is the group that is responsible for sponsoring the research, said; “Governments have targets to expand their protected areas, and now with new climate funding being available the risk is they will use this to expand in a way that doesn’t respect local rights,”

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The fact that this type of displacement has already occurred in places like sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and Latin America, with some of them ending in violent clashes makes the study more relevant. Constance Teague, from Liberia’s Sustainable Development Institute, says “I don’t think the international community wants to displace rural dwellers in Liberia – but I think if we go about it in the way we are talking about it right now, that is going to be the result,” The report also considers the cost of compensating people for the loss of their lands in both Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia, and the range covers a minimum of £137 million to more than £1 billion.


I am convinced the goals embodied in the Paris Climate Agreement are vital to the survival of our world, but governments must tread lightly on this issue and work to find ways to bring forest dwellers into the conversation rather than simply displacing them. The forest dwellers have always protected their forests and may simply need a nudge in the right direction and a little help to carry out the new changes to their lifestyles.