Cool Earth is the charity that works alongside indigenous villages to halt rainforest destruction.
We know that local people are the forest’s best possible custodians and are the key to halting deforestation.
This is why we work from the ground-up with indigenous villages, helping to put them back in control of their forest.
We don’t spend money on reserves or fences. We don’t buy land. Instead we secure the land tenure for the people who already live there.
Our partner villages are at the centre of all of our projects. They approach Cool Earth and choose where to spend Cool Earth’s funds through their community associations. As well as being spent on rainforest protection, funds also go towards community investments.
These investments build better incomes, better schools and better clinics, giving our partner villages the resources they need to keep their forest intact.
Unlike many conservation charities, Cool Earth focuses on at-risk rainforest on the frontline of deforestation, rather than forest in the interior. This protected forest forms a shield to make the neighbouring forest inaccessible to loggers – saving millions of acres of adjacent forest.
Cool Earth currently has four active partnerships.
Our Asháninka partnership is our largest, where we work alongside fifteen villages in the Ené Valley of Peru to halt illegal logging.
Our Awajún partnership works with six villages along the Rio Marañon in the north of Peru, close to the Ecuadorian border where oil extraction is the key threat.
The Lubutu partnership was our first outside of the Amazon. Situated in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, this partnership is working with communities to protect forest between two National Parks.
Our most recent expansion has been to Papua New Guinea where our Orangerie Bay Partnership is working with three coastal villages to save their rainforest from palm oil conversion. This now means that Cool Earth’s community-led model has been successfully replicated in all three of the world’s major rainforest basins.
Cool Earth also has two completed projects that are fully-funded. Our Democracia project in Brazil completed in 2010 and our Awacachi project in Ecuador completed in 2013.
Saving rainforest with Cool Earth is not the same as buying rainforest. Sponsorship is a form of donation that goes to our partner communities. Alongside funding rainforest protection on the ground, the communities also allocate funds towards community investments such as schools and clinics.
Each sponsor receives a personalised certificate of sponsorship with details of the partnership they’ve supported, and an online dashboard with the latest updates and stories from the supported partnership. After a year each donor will get a personalised report detailing the impact they’ve made.
As well as using satellite imagery to monitor rainforest protection, Cool Earth’s partner communities use boats and regular treks and radio communications to monitor access points and the forest itself.
Most importantly, all of Cool Earth’s partnerships are collaborations with communities whose livelihoods depend upon keeping the forest standing and who are its best possible custodians. They have the most to lose from deforestation but the most to gain from its protection.
All payments made to Cool Earth are classified as donations towards our charitable activities and are non-refundable. The only circumstance in which refunds will be made is where unauthorised use of your payment card is proven.
Cool Earth never buys rainforest and it never will. Instead, we help the local communities take legal control of their forest by securing the land tenure.
Rainforest communities whose forest is under threat are, by definition, vulnerable to exploitation, manipulation and abuse by outsider interests. This is why Cool Earth always puts the community in control of every stage of partnership development. This makes us unique amongst rainforest conservation charities.
Five golden rules lie at the heart of all of our work to ensure indigenous people’s rights are protected and that Cool Earth always exceeds the highest standards required by the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN-DRIP). These are:
Cool Earth does not approach communities but instead, capacity and funding is provided for people in the rainforest who wish to seek assistance in their efforts to protect rainforest learn more about the charity.
Communities are always privileged above intermediaries and, wherever possible, meetings are conducted in the community, in as open and inclusive a way as possible.
All community partners are guaranteed their right to cease agreements at any time and must choose to renew their consent to work alongside Cool Earth on at least an annual basis.
No requirements are made on the use of funds aside for an undertaking that budgets are approved by the community as a whole and fall under one of six general spending categories. These are: poverty, health, education, micro-credit, sustainable incomes and conservation training. Each community forms its own legal association and spending is decided democratically at a community meeting to ensure forest protection goes hand in hand with better livelihoods.
Cool Earth will never hold land rights and will always support the indigenous communities in establishing their rights over the forest.
Put together, these rules ensure all rainforest people who apply to Cool Earth for funding have given their free, prior and informed consent to the project. Even more importantly, they also protect the rights of the communities throughout any partnership. One very important consequence of this approach is that almost every new community partnership comes through the recommendation of our existing community partners.
Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is a mechanism for rewarding countries that do just that. It has been developed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and receives funding from the Green Climate Fund (a pot of money the UN manages), the aviation industry and the voluntary carbon market. The voluntary carbon market is made of businesses that want to reduce carbon emissions beyond what they can do on their own.
REDD+ is without doubt an important tool for encouraging countries to tackle the contribution of forest loss to climate change.
It is also a very complex one that focuses on action conducted at the national level. The benefits go to that level as well. This makes sense because a great deal of money has been pledged by governments without rainforest; £10bn at the last count. It also means there are many controls in place. The verification process, for example, is lengthy and expensive. It frequently takes up to five years to complete.
This makes REDD+ an avowedly top-down approach.
In contrast, Cool Earth champions a bottom-up methodology. We believe that the people who live in the forest have most to lose from its loss. They are also best placed to address the rapid, informal degradation that now accounts for a staggering 70% of all tropical forest loss.
This is not just our opinion. Indigenous peoples and other local communities are described as “effective biodiversity and conservation managers”, and the “primary custodians of most of the world’s remaining tropical forests and biodiversity hotspots.” Indigenous Peoples and local communities manage at least 24 percent (54,546 MtC) of the total carbon stored above ground in the world’s tropical forests, a sum greater than 250 times the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global air travel in 2015.
The relative absence of forest people from the REDD+ has been a long-standing criticism. 1 So too has been the pace of implementation which, in the worst examples, can take a decade.
This makes REDD+ very different to Cool Earth’s approach. We only work with communities that have forest that is at immediate threat of destruction. This is because even a small gang of illegal loggers can clear forest at an alarming rate. For every tree removed up to 30 more can be severely damaged by the timber harvesting operation itself.
This is not to say that our partnerships can be created instantaneously. The process of establishing free and prior informed consent takes at least a year and must be repeated on a regular basis. But our process of measurement is certainly less involved than the methodology used by the UNFCCC. We use satellite analysis and ground-truthing with the result that we have an up to date and verifiable evidence of carbon stored in the protected forest.