Power and political interest pervade Peru’s land sector

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10 November 2014
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By Michelle Kovacevic, originally published at Forests Climate Change

Madre de Dios, a region of Peru best known for its gold fever, is not the only place in the country where a piece of land can be classified as a mining concession and farmer’s field at the same time.

Millions of hectares of land in Peru are subject to overlapping claims, giving some indication of the complexity of land-use classification and titling in the country. Decentralization is one of the reasons for this; land-use powers and responsibilities have started to be distributed across government agencies and directorates that often have competing mandates and powers related to land use.

A case in point is Peru’s Ministry of Environment, researchers and legal experts say. While it is tasked with advancing REDD+ and other environmental conservation agendas, it doesn’t have many of the powers and responsibilities necessary to fulfill that mandate (see our interactive infographic to explore this for yourself).

“Most key powers related to land-use classification, planning, titling, and permitting are housed in other ministries. This makes it challenging for the Ministry of Environment on its own to change business as usual and move the country towards lower emissions development,” said Ashwin Ravikumar from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), author of a forthcoming report on decentralization and land-use policy in Peru.

While Peru has shown enthusiasm and increased political will to address environmental and forestry issues in recent years, it also faces challenges of balancing priorities of economic growth, poverty reduction and sustainable land use.

The national government’s priorities have become clear in recent months, with the Ministry of Finance’s approved economic stimulus package or paquetazo (endorsed by Peru’s President Ollanta Humala) aiming to set the country clearly on a path of 5% economic growth per annum in the wake of an economic slowdown associated with lower mineral prices. The package also waters down the Ministry of Environment’s ability to enforce territorial planning for economically optimized and holistically designed land-use activities.

Institutions have been set up to improve coordination and resolve overlapping or conflicting power disputes between national, regional and local governments and across sectors but have had limited success, according to Pablo Peña from the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA).

“Some were set up with an initial excitement that has slowly faded away…they still formally exist but haven’t convened in years,” he said.

Peru will host the U.N. climate change negotiations in December, where the first draft of a post-2020 climate agreement is likely to emerge. Following intense discussion at a UN climate body meeting in June about how greenhouse gas emissions from land sectors can be addressed, it’s likely these issues will be at the forefront of the Peru meeting.

Why does land use matter?

The growing demand for resources in Peru and globally has seen the government introduce a range of policies to encourage agricultural production (palm oil, soybean) for national and international markets. This is the biggest cause of deforestation in the country and subsequently has led to an increase in carbon emissions; 61% of Peru’s emissions come from forestry, agriculture and land-use change.

Read more at Forests Climate Change

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