IFC Throws Lifeline to REDD+ Project-Shoring up World’s Largest Mining Co.

Kenya: International Finance Corporation throws lifeline to REDD+ project and provides greenwashing for the largest mining company in the world

BHP Billiton is the world’s largest mining and petroleum company running mines in 13 countries. Its main offices are in Melbourne, Australia, and in London, UK, where the company sells shares on the London Stock Exchange.

The London Mining Network, an alliance of human rights, development, environmental and solidarity groups, has compiled information about the many conflicts between the company and communities and workers affected by its mining operations and environmental disasters caused by the company’s mines. (1) These include the catastrophic flood of 40 million tonnes of toxic mud waste released into the Doce river in Minas Gerais, Brazil, in 2015 – the biggest environmental spill in the country’s history. (2) The toxic mud spread all the way to the sea, killing 19 people and requiring the evacuation of 600 more. Almost two years on, the Doce river still runs red from the iron ore in the water. BHP Billiton co-owns the mine with Brazilian mining firm, Vale. The two companies have faced public campaigns over inadequate clean-up efforts and compensation to those affected by the disaster. They also face fines and national and international legal cases over responsibility for the breach of the dam that was supposed to prevent their toxic waste from spilling into the river.

Bail-out for REDD+ project in Kenya provides greenwashing for BHP Billiton

In October 2016 – almost exactly one year after the toxic spill at the BHP Billiton mine in Brazil – the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) (3) raised US 152 million dollars from private investors through the sale of what they named “forests bond”. (4) Investment funds and banks could buy the “forests bond”. Buying the bond means they lend their money to the IFC for five years during which the IFC uses the money to fund infrastructure and other corporate projects. At regular intervals, usually every year, the buyers of the bond receive interest payments from the IFC. After five years, the IFC has to pay back the money to the bond buyers: the investors swap the bond again for the money they originally invested. The IFC calls the bond “forests” bond because buyers can choose to receive their annual interest payment either in cash or as carbon credits from a REDD+ project (5) in Kenya, called the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project that claims to protect forests.

Italian social and environmental justice group Re:Common and the European Counter Balance network visited the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project area in July 2016 and documented evidence of ongoing negative impacts on local peasant communities. (6) The report confirms findings published in an article in 2015 (7) that describes how the REDD+ project strengthens historical injustices over land allocation: those most affected by the restrictions the REDD+ projects puts on land use, mainly ethnic Taita communities, receive very few benefits while (absentee) ranch shareholders receive a guaranteed 1/3 of the revenues from REDD+ credit sales.

For the five years that buyers of the “forests bond” receive interest payments, IFC has committed to buying carbon credits from the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project (Phase I and II). If a buyer prefers to receive the interest payment in cash, BHP Billiton will buy the REDD+ credits from the IFC instead and thus provide the cash for the interest payment to the “forests bond” buyer. That means five years of guaranteed REDD+ credit sales for the California-based company Wildlife Works Carbon, which set up the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project and the financial architecture of it. The company had just months before seen a big REDD+ credit sales agreement with a Luxembourg-based carbon market fund (Althelia Climate Fund) collapse. Finding a replacement soon might well have been a question of survival for the REDD+ project.

For BHP Billiton, the commitment to buying REDD+ credits at a fixed price of US 5 dollars if buyers don’t want them, provides green cover for its dirty mining and an opportunity to deflect global attention away from its responsibility for Brazil’s largest environmental disaster that still has dire consequences for the local population along the Doce river. Also involved in the “forests bond” deal is Conservation International (CI), a US-based conservation NGO. CI advised BHP Billiton on the “forests bond”, sits on the Althelia Climate Fund’s Expert Board, is involved in a REDD+ project near the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project and is among the most vocal REDD+ supporters.

The IFC’s “forests bond” is a dubious new way of propping up private sector REDD+ projects that have been unable to sell their carbon credits. The misleading name “forests” bond also suggests that there is more private sector investment for “forests” than there really is as the capital invested does not go into forest-related activities. The actual money loaned to IFC – the US 152 million dollars it got from buyers of the “forests bond” – is invested in the sort of corporate projects the IFC usually funds. The bondholders only forego a portion of their interest payments they receive from the IFC and accept to take these in the form of REDD+ credits rather than cash – or if the bondholder does not want them, BHP Billiton will take them and make a cash payment to the bond holder. The IFC works with the conservation industry to re-label a corporate investment as a “forests bond”, even though only (part of) the interest IFC pays to the buyer of the “bond” is used to subsidise a forest / REDD+ project.

So, in addition to more investment that may well cause harm to local communities, the IFC throws a lifeline to a REDD+ project run by a private company that is severely restricting land use of ethnic Taita communities in Kenya’s Kasigau Corridor area. Moreover, it presents the world’s largest mining company with responsibility for Brazil’s largest environmental disaster, BHP Billiton, with an opportunity to greenwash its image by offering to buy any Kasigau Corridor REDD+ credits that buyers of the IFC “forests bond” may not want. A triple win for the corporate sector, the conservation industry and the World Bank, with the costs borne by local communities and the climate.

Jutta Kill, jutta [at] wrm.org.uy
Member of the WRM International Secretariat

(1) London Mining Network
(2) Brazil’s River of Mud. Aljazeera documentary film.
(3) The International Finance Corporation is the part of the World Bank Group that provides financing for the corporate sector.
(4) IFC Press release IFC Issues Innovative $152 Million Bond to Protect Forests and Deepen Carbon-Credit Markets.
(5) REDD+ stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. For more information, see http://wrm.org.uy/browse-by-subject/mercantilization-of-nature/redd/
(6) Counter Balance (2016): The Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya: A crash dive for Althelia Climate Fund. And: Re:Common (2016) Mad Carbon Laundering. How the IFC subsidies mining companies and failing REDD projects. Briefing in cooperation with Counter Balance.
(7) S. Chomba et al. (2016): Roots of inequity: How the implementation of REDD+ reinforces past injustices. Land Use Policy. Volume 50: 202–213.


Environmental racism and cap-and-trade in California

In July 2017, California voted to extend its cap-and-trade scheme until 2030. Some environmental groups and the oil and gas industry support the legislation. Environmental justice groups oppose it. This post summarises some of the responses to the continuation of cap-and-trade in California.

Carbon trading is no solution

Dr. Michael Dorsey and Jane Williams write that “Pollution trading will never be the climate solution for California — or anywhere”. They point to the more than a dozen major banks that have closed their carbon trading desks. They write that,

Carbon trading was born with one foot in the grave and another on the banana peel. Gov. Brown’s championing free-market claims of the efficacy of cap-and-trade are a hair removed from the “voodoo economics” of the Reagan-era.

Nowhere on earth — not in the largest market (the EU ETS), nor in the smaller regional markets from the New England Regional Greenhouse Initiative (RGGI) market to the California cap-and-trade market to the newly minted Chinese market — has the carbon price ever been sufficiently high enough to drive the technological innovation to fully stop carbon pollution.

The climate science is clear, Dorsey and Williams write. We have to reduce emissions from all sources as soon as possible, especially fossil fuels. “AB 398 completely ignores the consensus scientific mandate to keep fossil fuels in the ground.” Instead it relies on the fallacy that emissions can be offset.

Against environmental justice

California Environmental Justice Alliance directors, Strela Cervas and Amy Vanderwarker, look in detail at the implications of AB 398 from an environmental justice perspective. CEJA works with low-income communities and communities of colour, who live next to California’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants: refineries and power plants.

CEJA pushed for legislation that would have required California to reduce emissions directly rather than relying on a market-based cap-and-trade mechanism. In addition to being the most direct way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the legislation would have also improved local air quality in communities living on the frontlines of pollution.

Cervas and Vanderwarker write that AB 398 fails to meet any of the desired environmental justice outcomes. They highlight three major problems with AB 398:

  1. Regulatory rollbacks: Local air districts are prevented from enacting CO2 regulations on pollution sources covered by cap-and-trade. And the California Air Resources Board is prevented from enacting new regulations on oil and gas production facilities that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. Making it more difficult to achieve 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction goals: AB 398 aims to make it as cheap as possible for industry to comply, through offsets, price reductions in the cap-and-trade market, and locking in free allowances. AB 398 fails to address the over-allocation of allowances, which keeps prices low, and helps avoid emissions reductions because industry can buy up cheap allowances.
  3. Undermining climate revenues: A higher price of carbon might drive businesses to change. AB 398 “does nothing to help with that”, Cervas and Vanderwarker write. The bill includes tax breaks and a fee repeal that will reduce investments by about US$300-500 million per year.

Cervas and Vanderwarker conclude that,

In the coming years, CEJA, our members and partners will be working to minimize the negative impacts of these provisions. We will continue our fight for equitable climate policy, and hope that legislative offices, agencies and environmental organizations join our effort.

Millions of oily dollars behind cap-and-trade

Anne C. Mulkern writes on E&E News that business spent millions lobbying for the continuation of cap-and-trade in California:

At least seven oil companies and the petroleum trade group Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) together doled out more than $34 million to persuasion efforts from 2015 through the first quarter of this year. The parent companies of the three biggest investor-owned electric utilities spent a combined $9.1 million. Four agriculture groups bankrolled nearly $1.6 million.

Two days after Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 398, the California Air Resources Board approved a resolution 17-21. Writing on the website CALmatters, Julie Cart and Laurel Rosenhall note that a paragraph tucked away in this resolution “will likely result in benefits worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the oil and agriculture industries”. They write that,

The deal would provide maximum compensation to companies for the extra cost of doing business in a state with the nation’s toughest emissions standards. But some critics say it merely gives a lucrative financial leg-up to polluting firms that don’t need it—and by removing some of those firms’ incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, could even undermine cap and trade’s prime goal.

Environmental racism

Michelle Chan, Vice President of Programs at Friends of the Earth US, describes California’s climate bill as “a huge blow to the cause of environmental justice worldwide”.

In Richmond, California, Chevron plans a major refinery expansion to process tar sands crude. For several years, environmental justice activists have been campaigning against the expansion. They fought for the regional air pollution regulator, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), to establish a refinery-based cap on pollution, including greenhouse gases.

In May 2017, BAAQMD approved a motion to finalise a refinery pollution cap – the world’s strongest and most ambitious. Public health experts estimate that the cap could prevent between 800 and 3,000 deaths over 40 years.

Chevron killed the pollution cap through the cap-and-trade bill AB 398, which prevents local air quality agencies from establishing rules limiting greenhouse gases. This was one of the items on the Western States Petroleum Association’s wishlist for California’s climate legislation.

In Richmond, 80% of the people living within 1.6 kilometres of Chevron’s refinery are people of colour. The vast majority of the people that Chevron’s increased pollution will kill, will be people of colour. And that’s exactly what environmental racism looks like.

Source: REDD Monitor: http://www.redd-monitor.org/2017/08/18/environmental-racism-and-cap-and-trade-in-california/

Full disclosure: This post is part of a series of posts and interviews about California’s cap-and-trade scheme, with funding from Friends of the Earth US. Click here for all of REDD-Monitor’s funding sources.

From REDD+ projects to ‘jurisdictional REDD+’: more bad news for the climate and communities

World Rainforest Movement – Bulletin 231

For many people, REDD+ is about projects that save forests. In reality, however, REDD+ has never been about protecting forests and also no longer really is about projects but about programmes covering whole regions or provinces within a country. Though many REDD+ projects continue to exist, causing harm to indigenous peoples and forest communities by restricting their traditional forest use practises. (1)

The idea of REDD+ has its roots in the UN climate negotiations. It was negotiated as a tool that would allow companies and industrialized countries to continue burning petroleum, coal and natural gas while claiming the emissions this causes do not harm the climate. REDD+, its advocates claim, would provide cheap compensation for the release of these emissions into the atmosphere and provide money to finance forest protection. Companies in industrialized countries could burn fossil carbon at home, that is the carbon stored underground for millions of years, and pay someone in a tropical forest country to keep some trees standing as a replacement carbon store. (2)

The truth is that money alone doesn’t stop deforestation; that REDD+ isn’t tackling the actual causes of large-scale deforestation and that money from the private sector hasn’t been forthcoming at any scale. REDD+ advocates who had advertised REDD+ as a triple-win (cheap compensation for fossil fuel burning, extra money for forest conservation and supporting communities who live in and from the forest and contribution to climate protection that can be realized now while technology for move away from fossil fuel is developed) have also had to grudgingly acknowledge that halting deforestation is neither fast nor easy or cheap. Convincing evidence is missing that REDD+ has made a dent in deforestation despite claims to the contrary.

Another motivation behind REDD+ is the intention of industrialized countries to avoid paying the bill for tropical forest protection although a “development” debt remains. Industrialized countries are increasingly transforming ‘development aid’ grants into loans and private-public-partnership schemes where the main role of public money is to provide a risk buffer for private capital investments in so-called developing countries. (3) Two reports commissioned by the UK government – the Stern report 2006 and the Eliasch review 2008 – helped governments to claim that ‘private sector capital is needed to save tropical forests because public money alone will not be sufficient’ to cover the supposed cost of reducing deforestation. It was these two reports that established the unfounded claim that reducing emissions from deforestation is cheap, fast and easy.

For international conservation organisations and the World Bank, REDD+ also provides a tool to expand their ‘parks without people’ model of forest conservation and ensures corporate and public funding for their conservation projects and organisational budgets. Conservation NGOs and consultants based in industrialized countries have to date probably received the lion’s share of public money spent on REDD+ in the last ten years. Even though these groups claim to do ‘participatory REDD+’ and ‘community REDD+’ projects, REDD+ is not an idea that originated from communities. REDD+ is also not suitable to address the needs and threats that forest-dependent communities face, as experience has clearly shown during the past ten years. (4) Critics of REDD+, including WRM, have discussed these misconceptions and hidden motivations behind REDD+ many times.

Less has been written about the change of REDD+ from projects to programmes that cover whole regions or provinces within a country. These new kinds of REDD+ initiatives are expected to eventually cover whole countries. They are often called ‘jurisdictional REDD+’ because they will be implemented not just on the land assigned to individual REDD+ projects but across a whole jurisdiction, like a department, a province, a state or a whole country. This article looks at what is motivating this change from projects to ‘jurisdictional’ REDD+.

What is ‘jurisdictional REDD+’?

Because REDD+ is linked to the UN climate negotiations, the UN climate talks also determine what REDD+ looks like. REDD+ initiatives that want to sell their carbon credits to the UN carbon market, will need to comply with the UN climate agreement rules. In reality, pilot programmes such as the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and private sector REDD+ projects that already sell carbon credits to companies in the so-called voluntary carbon market, also have a big influence on these rules. Lobbyists from the World Bank and conservation NGOs are present at the UN climate meetings and meet with government officials that decide on the UN’s rules for REDD+.

From 2005, the World Bank, international conservation groups and private companies started to implement REDD+ projects that would be compatible with a mechanism more or less like the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism: individual projects or clusters of projects in countries without binding emission targets in the global South would sell carbon credits to companies and industrialized countries that have binding emission limits. But the UN Paris Agreement from 2015 turned out very different from the Kyoto Protocol (see also WRM Bulletin 228, January 2017). Under the Paris Agreement on climate change all countries have voluntary emission targets and will be presenting their national greenhouse gas balance sheet to the UN climate convention. These balance sheets will show how far a country has advanced in achieving the target they have set for their country. None of these Paris Agreement targets are binding. (5)

But carbon markets need binding targets, or some kind of pressure to limit emissions to function. The assumption that REDD+ could attract private sector funding if REDD+ projects are able to sell carbon credits in a global carbon market will not work anymore. Limits create the demand, hence: no (binding) limits, no demand for REDD+ credits from a UN carbon market.

Moreover, most tropical forest countries in the global South have included reductions in emissions from deforestation into their national commitments under the Paris Agreement. Therefore, they will have to calculate how much greenhouse gas emissions is happening in their country and present these figures in a national balance sheet. Most tropical countries decided to include emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in this national accounting sheet. And they will have to submit their national ‘carbon accounts’ regularly to the UN to demonstrate their progress towards the reduction goal they set for themselves (in UN climate language, these goals are called NDCs – nationally determined contributions).

From 2020, when the UN Paris Agreement comes into force, every carbon credit sold by a REDD+ project located in a country that also includes (carbon stored in) forests in its national carbon balance will have to be deducted from the country’s national carbon balance sheet. If the credit sold by the project is not deducted from the national balance sheet, there is what in UN climate language is called ‘double-counting’ because the buyer of the carbon credit will also claim a reduction in his own balance sheet – after all, that is why he bought the REDD+ credit. This means that the emissions look lower on paper than they are in reality. And that in turn increases the risk of dangerous climate change.

Double-counting will be very likely under the Paris Agreement if private sector REDD+ projects continue to sell carbon credits. (6) Even a report by the Gold Standard, a company certifying carbon credits, recently warned about this risk. (7) That continued selling of REDD+ carbon credits by private sector REDD+ projects will create a mess under these circumstances can already be seen in the Brazilian state of Acre. There, the German government is funding a ‘jurisdictional REDD+’ programme called ‘REDD Early Movers’.  (8)

The German government programme has paid a total of 25 million Euro between 2012 and 2016 to the government of Acre in return for the state of Acre submitting documents showing that emissions from deforestation in Acre had stayed below a level agreed in the REDD contract between the two governments. That level was very generous. It did not require additional emission reductions to those already achieved in previous years because the calculation included the high-deforestation years 2003-2005. Law enforcement measures by the Brazilian state had already led to steep reductions in deforestation rates in the following years. One could argue that the German government was paying Acre for emission reductions achieved in the past through non-REDD+ measures, or that Germany was paying Acre to maintain the forest carbon stock, a concept that had been rejected as unaffordable during the early years of UN negotiations about REDD+.

The state of Acre can use the money for any activity it deems necessary to reduce deforestation. A closer look at what the Acre government has decided to spend the money on reveals among others that much money has gone into consultancy reports and studies and very little has reached communities. This is mirroring many of the widely documented problems with REDD+ elsewhere.

What does REDD Early Movers in Acre tell us about ‘jurisdictional REDD’?

Looking at the ‘REDD Early Movers’ programme in Acre also reveals the contradictions that arise when ‘jurisdictional REDD’ programmes try to integrate private sector REDD+ projects that are already selling carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market. In Acre, at least three such projects exist: The Purus, Valparaiso and Envira REDD+ projects. The carbon balance sheet prepared by the government of Acre for the ‘REDD Early Movers’ programme with Germany deducts 10 per cent of the state’s emission reductions from the balance sheet to account for the carbon credits sold by these three REDD+ projects. Purus for example sold carbon credits to the FIFA for compensation of part of the emissions from the 2014 Football World Cup. Adding up the numbers, however, shows that these three projects are claiming far more than the 10 per cent deducted in the state’s carbon balance sheet. That means, it is possible, if not likely, that some of the reductions (if they happened at all) are counted twice: By the private sector REDD+ project selling carbon credits, as in the FIFA case, and by the state of Acre in its carbon balance sheet. From 2020, that risk will arise in many more countries. Particularly likely are such situations in countries like Peru, Kenya or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (9) with several or large existing private sector REDD+ projects already selling carbon credits and where the companies running these projects are involved in designing ‘jurisdictional REDD+’ programmes.

As the example of Acre shows, for communities, the impacts of ‘jurisdictional REDD’ programmes may well be much the same as those caused by individual REDD+ projects: being first in line to face restrictions on traditional forest use practises and last in line for receiving meaningful compensation or ‘benefits’ that REDD+ is supposed to generate for forest-dependent communities.

Jutta Kill, jutta [at] wrm.org.uy

Member of the International Secretariat of the WRM

(1) REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. See WRM’s Collection of REDD+ Conflicts, Contradictions and Lies for examples of the many ways in which REDD+ projects are harmful to forest-dependent communities.

(2) See “What do forests have to do with climate change, carbon markets and REDD?, http://wrm.org.uy/books-and-briefings/what-do-forests-have-to-do-with-climate-change-carbon-markets-and-redd/

(3) See also the book Licensed Larceny by Nick Hildyard. http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/resource/licensed-larceny

(4) How REDD projects undermine peasant farming. Report by GRAIN and WRM. https://www.grain.org/article/entries/5322-how-redd-projects-undermine-peasant-farming-and-real-solutions-to-climate-change

(5) It’s maybe also important to note that the total of these reductions that countries have committed to are far too low to avoid global temperature increases of less than 2 degrees Celsius: The USA, EU, China and India alone would take up the entire so-called carbon budget of fossil carbon that can still be released until 2050 to ensure a 50 per cent possibility that temperatures increase by no more than 2 degrees. And a good part of China’s emissions are from producing goods exported to the USA and the EU. http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/16/files/GCP_CarbonBudget_2016.pdf

(6) Who takes the credit? Report by Fern and Third World Network. http://www.fern.org/whotakesthecredit

(7) A New Paradigm for Voluntary Climate Action: Reduce Within, Finance Beyond. Gold Standard report. https://www.goldstandard.org/blog-item/new-paradigm-voluntary-climate-action-%E2%80%98reduce-within-finance-beyond%E2%80%99

(8) Economía Verde, Povos das Florestas e Territórios: violações de direitos no estado do Acre. Plataforma Dhesca Brasil. http://www.plataformadh.org.br/2015/09/22/2015-economia-verde-povos-das-florestas-e-territorios-violacoes-de-direitos-no-estado-do-acre/

(9) Rainforest Foundation UK: Logging in Congo’s rainforests: A ‘carbon bomb’ about to be primed by the Government of Norway? http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/media.ashx/drc-carbon-bomb-briefing-2017.pdf

Governor Jerry Brown is working with the oil industry on California’s climate policy

California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) expires in 2020. California’s governor, Jerry Brown, is holding a series of closed-door negotiations with the fossil fuel industry to re-write California’s climate change policy for the period 2021 to 2030.

Early in June 2017, two Assembly Bills (AB 151 and AB 378) failed to get past California’s Assembly.

AB 378 was authored by Christina Garcia and two other Democrat Assembly members. It was supported by the California Environmental Justice Alliance and other members of California’s Environmental Justice movement.

In an Assembly vote on 1 June 2017, AB 378 was rejected by AB-378 was rejected by 35 votes for to 39 votes against.

AB 151 was also authored by Democrat Assembly members – Autumn Burke and Jim Cooper. It was far more industry-friendly than AB 378, and was supported by the Western States Petroleum Association and other industry groups.

AB 151 has not been put to a vote in California’s Assembly.

A third bill, SB 775, is also supported by Environmental Justice organisations. It was put forward by state Senator Bob Wieckowskiand state Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León. The bill remains in the Senate.

SB 775 proposes a new cap-and-trade scheme that would not allow carbon credits to be carried forward from the existing scheme. It would include no offsets, no free pollution allowances, and a per-capita dividend. Under SB 775 carbon credits would be auctioned off. There would be a floor price of US$20 per ton, and a price ceiling of US$30. The floor would rise by US$5 each year and the ceiling by US$10, plus inflation. Credits cannot be carried over from one quarter to the next, so firms cannot “bank” credits.

By ruling out carbon offsets, SB 775 would also rule out the possibility of the oil industry and other polluters in California using REDD credits to continue polluting.

Carbon traders, the oil industry, and “environmental” groups like EDF, opposed SB 775.

In response to a question about the impact of SB 775 on carbon markets during a press conference, de León replied,

Let me go back to the folks who are actually holding the allowances right now, as we speak. Our goal and our responsibility and our objective is to create jobs and put people to work and expand the middle class. That’s our job. Our job is not for those who are speculating on the market right now, who are trying to profit and buy low and sell high. That’s not our responsibility. Our responsibility is for economic growth, create jobs, expand the middle class, create the necessary technologies that will actually help us meet our 2030 targets, and reduce carbon and other harmful pollutants that our children breathe into their lungs.

At the end of May 2017, Adam Gray and other business-friendly Democrats put forward their proposal for extending cap-and-trade beyond 2020.

Jerry Brown’s oily friends

This, then, is the political environment in which Governor Brown has turned to his friends in the oil industry. In These Times reports that leaked documents show that “California’s fossil fuel industry is trying to write state climate policy to its liking”. The evidence is pretty overwhelming.

And allowing the oil industry to be involved in writing climate policy is like asking the fox how big the holes in the fence around the chicken coup should be.

A previous post on REDD-Monitor looks at Brown’s cosy links with the oil industry – the industry that California’s climate policy is supposed to be regulating.

It’s also worrying that Brown appears not to understand how cap-and-trade works. Brown says that,

“Cleaning up the air where it’s most dirty makes a lot of sense. With cap and trade, we’ll have billions of dollars to achieve just that.”

Rather than the government paying to clean up the air, it’s obviously better to stop corporations from polluting in the first place. By allowing companies to buy carbon credits, cap-and-trade allows pollution to continue.

The irony is that California has reduced its emissions under AB 32. But not as a result of carbon trading. As David Roberts points out in an article about SB 775 on Vox,

Regulations, not carbon pricing, have been the main driver of California’s carbon reductions to date. In fact, they have been so effective, and carbon reductions so much cheaper than expected, that there hasn’t been much work left for the cap-and-trade program to do. Near-term emission goals are being reached without its help.

The logical way forward is to strengthen regulations and limit carbon trading. That’s more or less what SB 775 does. Even better would be abolishing carbon trading altogether, of course.

Brown wanted a decision on extending California’s cap-and-trade scheme by the end of budget negotiations in June 2017. That didn’t happen, but the Los Angeles Times reports that Brown’s advisers hope to get a vote on extending cap-and-trade in early July 2017. California’s lawmakers leave for their summer recess on 21 July 2017.

The Brown Administration’s draft proposals echo the oil industry’s wishlist

The Brown Administration’s latest draft proposals would continue California’s current cap-and-trade scheme. The draft proposals have not been publicly released, but are available here, here, and here. When asked by the Los Angeles Times about the proposals, Brown replied, “Can’t talk about it.”

The Western States Petroleum Association has produced a wish list of what it wants to see in California’s climate legislation:

The Brown Administration’s first draft proposal includes the following:

In adopting a regulation applicable from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2030 pursuant to this subdivision, the state board shall do all of the following:

(1) Establish a price ceiling at $63 per metric tonne in 2021, increasing by 2 percent plus the consumer price index annually thereafter. The price ceiling shall ensure compliance can be achieved at a price no greater than the ceiling, and monies generated through compliance at the price ceiling shall be used by the state board to achieve emissions reductions that are real, permanent, quantifiable, verifiable, enforceable by the state board and in addition to any greenhouse gas emission reduction otherwise required by law or regulation, and any other greenhouse gas emission reduction that otherwise would occur.

(2) Establish two price containment points at levels below the price ceiling. The state board shall offer to covered entities non-tradable allowances from the allowance price containment reserve for sale at these price containment points.

(3) Establish a limit of no greater than 6 percent of a covered entity’s compliance obligation that may be met by surrendering offset credits.

(4) Develop approaches to increase offset projects in California.

(5) Set industry assistance factors for allowance allocation commencing in 2021 set at the levels applicable in the 2015-2017 compliance period. Apply a declining cap adjustment factor to the industry allocation equivalent to the overall statewide emissions declining cap.

(6) In 2025, the state board shall assess changes in trade-exposure and the need to achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and may revise the requirements established in sections (1), (3), and (5) above based on this assessment.

The second draft proposal describes provisions to monitor air quality at selected location in California, including in disadvantaged communities, and at major pollutants such as oil refineries. It also includes a community plan programme aimed at reducing pollution, prioritising disadvantaged communities.

The third draft proposal is probably the most egregious. In its 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update, the California Air Resources Board proposes reducing emissions from oil refineries by 20%: “Direct regulations would be promulgated to improve efficiencies across the sector”.

The third draft proposal would replace the regulation of refineries (which would reduce emissions) with carbon trading (which would allow emissions to continue):

The state board shall designate the market-based compliance mechanism … as the rule for petroleum refineries and oil and gas production facilities to achieve their greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Having weakened how emissions from refineries are regulated, the third draft proposal then prevents local districts from regulating emissions of greenhouse gases from polluting corporations if those corporations are subject to the carbon trading mechanism.

Liza Tucker of Consumer Watchdog told In These Times why the oil and gas industry is so keen on carbon trading,

“They want to eliminate the possibility of direct regulation of their pollution, because that’s going to be more expensive … because of the advantageous way that the cap-and-trade system is currently structured, so they can view carbon trading as a flim-flam where they can keep doing business as usual.”

Brown as stenographer for Chevron

The Brown Administration’s draft proposals clearly echo the Western States Petroleum Association’s requests for loopholes to be built into California’s climate legislation.

RL Miller, Chair of the Environmental Caucus of the California Democratic Party, accuses Brown of “acting as the stenographer for Chevron”.

Miller has set up a petition, with over 10,000 signatures, demanding that Brown stops taking his climate negotiating points from Chevron.

SOURCE & Full disclosure: This post is part of a series of posts and interviews about California’s cap-and-trade scheme, with funding from Friends of the Earth US. Click here for all of REDD-Monitor’s funding sources.

Forest peoples in Brazil send a message to California: reject tropical forest offsets

California Governor Jerry Brown has aggressively positioned himself as a global climate leader to fill the vacuum created by the arrival of an ignorant climate change denier in the White House. But not all that glitters is green. The Governor has spent the last months promoting the expansion of complicated market-based carbon trading mechanisms, known as “Cap-and-Trade,” as a cornerstone of state and global climate policy — in a move that directly threatens vulnerable communities both in California and abroad.

California’s current Cap-and-Trade program is set to expire in 2020. Last summer the state legislature established ambitious and unprecedented emissions reductions goals for 2030, without extending the authorization of Cap-and-Trade. The Governor signed the emission reductions goals into law — but he made it clear that Cap-and-Trade was the primary option he would consider for meeting those goals.

Intertwined with Governor Brown’s persistent campaigning for Cap-and-Trade, the oil and gas lobby in California, along with a multitude of industrial manufacturers, the carbon-trading lobby, and a number of business friendly environmental organizations, have also been pushing hard to make the market-based mechanism the foundation of future California climate policy.

This summer Governor Brown has gone into a full-court press to pressure the California legislature to approve a Cap-and-Trade program that would rely heavily on “offsets” — a type of carbon “credit” that a polluter, such as an oil refinery can purchase to legally “neutralize” its pollution — despite the fact that the pollution still occurs. Regardless of the dubious science and documented injustices of offset schemes, Governor Brown, the oil and gas industry, and their allies among a few of the big green groups have continued to aggressively promote the use of offsets as a primary means to achieving California’s emission reductions goals.

Among the offset schemes that the Governor and fossil fuel companies such as Shell, BP, and Chevron want incorporated into the state’s Cap-and-Trade program are a variety of tropical forest carbon offset which would come from partner jurisdictions around the world, such as Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, or Cross River State, Nigeria. Governor Brown has also continued to operate from a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding signed between California and the states of Chiapas, México and Acre, Brazil back when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California. Acre is specifically highlighted in current proposals as the first tropical forest state with which California plans to “link” its carbon market. The linkage would be based on an international carbon trading program known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD. Due to conflicts and human rights concerns regarding indigenous land rights and violations of the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, REDD has become one of the most controversial and high-risk climate policy programs out there.

In facing the development of these market-based policies in far-away places like California, forest communities of the Brazilian Amazon recently held a gathering in the rubber tapper stronghold of Xapuri. Xapuri was the home of the internationally known labor and land rights advocate Chico Mendes, who was assassinated in the late 1980’s for opposing road building and other mega-projects in the Amazon. Representatives of indigenous and traditional communities that are currently and potentially affected by REDD projects and associated tropical forest management schemes came together in Xapuri at the end of May to discuss the impacts of climate policy on their access to territory, their forests, and their livelihoods.

Among the organizers of the gathering was Dercy Telles, who worked side by side with Chico Mendes in the years before his assassination. During the gathering Dercy was moved to make a brief video statement for California policy makers and climate activists who may not be aware of the problems with tropical forest carbon offset schemes, and for California activists on the frontlines of day-to-day pollution from California’s fossil fuel industry.

In her statement, Dercy describes how their forest communities must fight against policies like REDD that “aim to exterminate rural populations.” She minces no words in describing that their communities have come to see these climate policies as “nothing but a bunch of false solutions to global warming issues” “based on lies” and “on selling illusions to the less privileged.” The forest people of the Amazon, Dercy says, “want people in California to know that we are fighting the same fight in solidarity” and that “we are going to keep on fighting for as long as we have strength and courage.”

Xapuri Declaration: “We reject any form of climate colonialism”

From 26 to 28 May 2017, a meeting took place in Xapuri, in the state of Acre, Brazil. The meeting brought together Apurinã, Huni Kui, Jaminawa, Manchineri and Shawadawa indigenous peoples, representatives of traditional communities, rubber tappers, academics and supporting organisations. The meeting’s theme was, “The effects of environmental / climatic policies on traditional populations”.

The meeting was supported by Friends of the Earth International, the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the World Rainforest Movement.

In a short report about the meeting, Daniel Santini of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, writes that the participants reject the term “carbon credits”, because they are actually “pollution credits”. Trading pollution makes the climate problem worse by giving the illusion that something is being done, when in fact it allows pollution to continue.

Santini writes,

Instead of policies based on restrictions on the way of life of traditional peoples, the participants argued that the political-economic model of occupation of the region should be changed, with the suspension of generous public financing for agricultural expansion, industrial logging, and monoculture tree plantations.

Days before the meeting, in Rio Branco, the capital of Acre, corporate and state government representatives met to discuss the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). This is the aviation industry’s disastrous proposal to continue polluting, while using carbon credits to “offset” its emissions.

The World Bank is in talks with the International Civil Aviation Organization about using REDD credits in CORSIA.

Acre is one of the states from which California is looking to buy REDD credits as part of its cap-and-trade scheme. In April 2016, Dave Clegern, a Public Information Officer at the California Air Resources Board, said that,

“The projects that we’re looking at are supported by the locals. They are what is known as sector-based projects, which means that they would be run in conjunction with the government of that country which would provide the opportunity for regular monitoring, verification of the quality of the offsets.”

REDD-Monitor asked Clegern some questions about this statement, including whether a process of free, prior, and informed consent had been carried out about REDD in Acre. And if not, which “locals” was Clegern talking about?

REDD-Monitor is still waiting for Clegern’s reply.

At the end of the meeting in Xapuri, those attending produced the Xapuri Declaration, posted below in full in English and Portuguese:

Xapuri Declaration, May 28, 2017

We, forest dwellers, rubber tappers, Apurinã, Huni Kui, Jaminawa, Manchineri and Shawadawa indigenous people, members of supportive organizations and the Jesuit Travelling Team, teachers from different universities, united in the city of Xapuri in the Brazilian state of Acre from 26 to 28 May 2017, at the meeting “The effects of environmental / climatic policies on traditional populations”, declare:

– That, at this moment of resurgence, we are unifying the struggles of indigenous peoples and rubber tappers in the same cause. Our union is our main weapon against capital.

– That, aware of the history of resistance of the forest peoples and the legacy of Chico Mendes, we will stand firm in the defense of our territories. Like the ones that preceded us, we will continue to oppose attempts to expropriate our ways of life. We demand the demarcation and recognition of our rights to land and territory.

– We reject the ongoing initiatives materialized in policies that aim to convey our territories to private capital groups, including ranchers and loggers. We are concerned about the lack of transparency and the way that different mechanisms have been put forward, including payments for environmental services such as REDD and its variations, unsustainable forest management plans and mechanisms foreseen in the new Brazilian Forest Code, many of which are imposed through intimidation, blackmail, negotiations under false pretences and with bad faith.

– We express our indignation about the false solutions, which legitimize the continuity and expansion of a socially and environmentally destructive model. We reject initiatives to offset pollution. We do not accept mechanisms based on restrictions on our way of life, and we express solidarity with people living in the areas that are contaminated by companies seeking compensation (offsets). We stand by the people from other countries who live in the areas impacted by the pollution generated by destructive companies. No one should live in contaminated areas; it is time to end all kinds of racism, including environmental racism.

– We are being harmed by the arrangements and negotiations between the government of Acre and other states and countries in favor of corporations eager for pollution credits, including oil and mining companies, loggers and agribusiness companies. We are concerned about ongoing talks about aviation emissions compensation through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of Tropical Forests, the so-called REDD mechanisms. We refuse to use the term carbon credits, understanding that they are actually pollution credits, which aggravate rather than solve the problem. We reject any form of climate colonialism.

– We express total solidarity with women and men who, forced to fulfill impossible prerogatives, get fined, criminalized, indebted, without conditions to maintain their ways of life, trapped in schemes that refer back to semi-slavery and debt bondage of rubber tappers in colonial times. We also express solidarity with the residents of the rubber tree areas Valparaíso and Russas, who, coerced to submit to a REDD project, are threatened with expropriation of the lands that are rightfully theirs.

– Solidarity to the native community of Nova Oceania, of the Upper Tauhamanu River, in the municipality of Iberia, Peru. Our brothers and sisters Pyru Yini and other communities in isolation face the advance of deforestation, driven by timber concessions, which rely on the direct participation of businesspersons from Acre and others. These groups are involved in REDD projects and, while brokering international agreements with the support of Brazilian authorities, maintain predatory practices. We share the complaint that a village was destroyed, with 18 houses burned, in July 2014, with absolutely no action taken by the authorities, in an episode stained by impunity.

– We call on other rural and urban working people to reject this destructive pattern, marked by inequality and violation of the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional communities. We reiterate our unity in the struggle and willingness to resist to the end. Chico Mendes lives, not in the actions of governmental marketing, but in the struggle of the forest peoples.


Declaração de Xapuri, 28 de maio de 2017

Nós, moradores da floresta, seringueiras e seringueiros, indígenas Apurinã, Huni Kui, Jaminawa, Manchineri, Shawadawa, integrantes de organizações solidárias e Equipe Itinerante, professores e professoras de diferentes universidades, reunidos em Xapuri, no período de 26 a 28 de maio de 2017, no encontro “Os efeitos das políticas ambientais/climáticas para as populações tradicionais”, declaramos:

– Que, neste momento de retomada, estamos unindo as lutas dos povos indígenas e seringueiros em uma mesma causa. Nossa união é nossa principal arma de ação contra o capital.

– Que, cientes da história de resistência dos povos da floresta e do legado de Chico Mendes, nos manteremos firmes na defesa de nossos territórios. Assim como os que nos antecederam, seguiremos nos opondo às tentativas de expropriação de nossos modos de vida. Exigimos a demarcação e reconhecimento de nossos direitos a terra e território.

– Rejeição às iniciativas em curso materializadas em políticas que têm como objetivo entregar nossos territórios a grupos de capital privado, entre os quais fazendeiros e madeireiros. Manifestamos preocupação com a falta de transparência e maneira como diferentes mecanismos têm sido apresentados, incluindo pagamentos por serviços ambientais como REDD e suas variáveis, planos de manejo florestal insustentáveis, e mecanismos previstos no novo Código Florestal, muitos dos quais impostos por meio de intimidação, chantagem, negociações marcadas por estelionatos e má fé.

– Nossa indignação com as falsas soluções, que legitimam a continuidade e expansão de um modelo social e ambientalmente destrutivo. Rejeitamos as iniciativas voltadas para compensar a poluição. Não aceitamos os mecanismos baseados em restrições aos nossos modos de vida, e manifestamos solidariedade em relação às populações que vivem nas áreas contaminadas pelas empresas que buscam compensação. Somos solidários e estamos juntos das pessoas de outros países que vivem nas áreas impactadas pela poluição gerada por empresas destrutivas. Ninguém deve viver em áreas envenenadas, é hora de pôr fim a todo tipo de racismo, incluindo o ambiental.

– Que estamos sendo lesados pelos acordos pactuados e negociatas feitas entre o governo do Acre e outros estados e países em benefício de corporações ávidas por créditos de poluição, entre as quais petroleiras, mineradoras, madeireiras e empresas do agronegócio. Manifestamos preocupação com as conversas em curso sobre compensação de emissões da aviação através da Redução de Emissão por Desmatamento e Degradação de Florestas Tropicais, os chamados mecanismos REDD. Nos recusamos a usar o termo crédito de carbono, entendendo que são na verdade créditos de poluição, que agravam em vez de solucionar o problema. Rejeitamos toda e qualquer forma de colonialismo climático.

– Solidariedade total com as mulheres e homens que, forçados a cumprir prerrogativas impossíveis, acabam multados, criminalizados, endividados, sem condições de manter seus modos de vida, presos em esquemas que remetem às práticas de aviamento e barracão, incluindo escravidão por dívida. Manifestamos solidariedade também com os moradores do seringal Valparaíso e Russas, que, coagidos a se submeterem a um projeto de REDD, sofrem ameaças de expropriação das terras que são deles por direito.

– Solidariedade à comunidade nativa Nova Oceania, do Alto Rio Tauhamanu, no município Ibéria, no Peru. Nossos irmãos e irmãs Pyru Yini e outros grupos em isolamento enfrentam o avanço do desmatamento, impulsionado por concessões madeireiras, que contam com participação direta de empresários acreanos e outros. São grupos envolvidos em projetos de REDD, que, ao mesmo tempo que costuram acordos internacionais com apoio das autoridades brasileiras, mantém práticas predatórias. Compartilhamos a denúncia que uma aldeia foi destruída com 18 casas incendiadas em julho de 2014, sem absolutamente nenhuma providência por parte das autoridades, em um episódio manchado pela impunidade.

– Conclamamos outros povos, trabalhadores e trabalhadoras do campo e da cidade, a recusar esse padrão destrutivo, marcado pela desigualdade e pela violação dos direitos dos povos indígenas e comunidades tradicionais. Reiteramos nossa unidade na luta e disposição de resistir até o fim. Chico Mendes vive, não nas ações de marketing governamental, mas sim na luta dos povos da floresta.

New study adds urgency to end UN carbon offsetting scheme

– European Commission publishes new study on Clean Development Mechanism – Study finds 73% of potential offsets to be issued under the scheme between 2013 and 2020 are worthless –

Brussels 19 April 2017. The European Commission has released a new study showing major flaws in carbon offsets from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). As countries flesh out the rules to implement the Paris Agreement, Carbon Market Watch calls for an end to the scheme, and a shift away from offsetting as a climate policy approach.

The Commission’s study, carried out by the Öko-Institut, finds that 85% of projects covered in the analysis and 73% of the potential supply of CDM credits from 2013 to 2020 are unlikely to deliver “real, measurable and additional” emission reductions. If these carbon credits were to be used, this could lead to an increase in overall greenhouse gas emissions of over 3.5 billion tonnes of CO2 from 2013 to 2020 alone, equivalent to almost 2 years of emissions in the EU Emissions Trading System.

Flaws in offsetting

The study adds to a growing body of evidence that shows manifold problems with using carbon offsets. The findings follow a similar study from 2015 showing that the Joint Implementation offsetting system, led to increased emissions of approximately 600 million tonnes.

“These new findings are not surprising but they are another reminder that carbon offsetting has not worked as a reliable climate tool.” said Aki Kachi, Carbon Market Watch’s International Policy Director. “The CDM and the emissions shifting concept of offsetting are not fit for the climate challenges ahead – the Paris Agreement’s changed policy landscape calls for a new approach to international climate cooperation.”

Demand from aviation

The most probable buyers of these CDM credits could be the aviation industry through its recently established offset market: the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). The scheme intends to accept CDM and other UN credits that meet additional standards which the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) aim to finalise this year.

“It’s baffling to think that the aviation industry could potentially use credits that do nothing to compensate for their rapidly growing climate impact.  To avoid greenwashing, aviation’s new offset market has to exclude credits that have not proven to be effective.” Kelsey Perlman, Aviation Policy Officer at Carbon Market Watch.

Negotiations on the role of carbon market mechanisms under the Paris Agreement reconvene next month at the UNFCCC intersessional in Bonn, Germany.

Aki Kachi – International Policy Director
Tel: +49 157 868 00855

Kelsey Perlman – Aviation Policy Officer
Tel: +32 487 13 02 80

Andrew Coiley – Communications Director
Tel: +32 483 65 50 78

Notes to Editor:

  • Find Carbon Market Watch’s Briefing on the CDM phase out here
  • Find Transport & Environment’s statement on the study’s implications for aviation policy here
  • Local realities of CDM projects – A compilation of case studies here (Nov 2013).


OECD opens investigation into WWF in world first

This Baka girl was tortured by a WWF-funded anti-poaching squad in Cameroon early 2016.
She was 10 years old at the time.
© Survival International

In an unprecedented move, a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has agreed to investigate a complaint that the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has funded human rights abuses in Cameroon, beginning a process which until now has only been used for multinational businesses.

Survival submitted the complaint in February 2016, citing numerous examples of violent abuse and harassment against Baka “Pygmies” in Cameroon by WWF-funded anti-poaching squads. Survival also alleges that WWF failed to seek communities’ free, prior and informed consent for conservation projects on their ancestral land.

This is the first time a non-profit organization has been scrutinized in this way. The acceptance of the complaint indicates that the OECD will hold WWF to the same human rights standards as profit-making corporations.

WWF funds anti-poaching squads in Cameroon and elsewhere in the Congo Basin. Baka and other rainforest tribes have reported systematic abuse at the hands of these squads, including arrest and beatings, torture and even death, for well over 20 years.

Baka have been forced from large areas of their ancestral land, and face violence from WWF-funded anti-poaching squads if they hunt, forage, or visit sacred sites. © Survival International

Survival first urged WWF to change its approach in the region in 1991, but since then the situation has worsened.

Baka have repeatedly testified to Survival about the activities of these anti-poaching squads in the region. One Baka man told Survival in 2016: “[The anti-poaching squad] beat the children as well as an elderly woman with machetes. My daughter is still unwell. They made her crouch down and they beat her everywhere – on her back, on her bottom everywhere, with a machete.”

In two open letters Baka made impassioned pleas to conservationists to be allowed to stay on their land. “Conservation projects need to have mercy on how we can use the forest … because our lives depend on it.”

WWF has rejected Survival’s claims. It accepts that abuse has taken place but, in a statement in 2015, a spokesman stated that such incidents “appear to have tailed off” despite repeated testimonies from Baka themselves. In its response to the OECD, the organization cited political instability in the region and difficulties in the process of creating “protected areas” for wildlife conservation as the main reasons human rights abuses had taken place. It did not deny its involvement in funding, training and equipping guards.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “The OECD admitting our complaint is a giant step for vulnerable peoples. They can already use OECD Guidelines to try and stop corporations riding roughshod over them, but this is first time ever it’s agreed that the rules also apply to industrial-scale NGOs like WWF. WWF’s work has led to decades of pain for tribal peoples in the Congo Basin. It’s done nothing effective to address the concerns of the thousands of tribal people dispossessed and mistreated through its projects. That has to change. If WWF can’t ensure those schemes meet UN and OECD standards, it simply shouldn’t be funding them. Whatever good works it might be doing elsewhere, nothing excuses its financing of human rights abuses. The big conservation organizations must stop colluding in the theft of tribal land. Tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world. They should be at the forefront of the environmental movement.”

Many Baka are forced to live on roadsides. Rates of alcoholism and diseases like malaria have soared, and their diet has deteriorated.
© Survival International

Background briefing
– The OECD is an international body with 35 member countries. It has developed Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which are monitored by national contact points in each country, and offer one of the very few opportunities to hold MNEs to account if they fail to respect the human rights of communities affected by their projects.
– WWF International’s headquarters are in Switzerland, so Survival’s complaint was submitted to the Swiss contact point, as Cameroon is not a member of the OECD.
– In 2008, Survival International lodged a complaint against British-owned mining company Vedanta Resources when it was seeking to mine on the territory of the Dongria Kondh in India without the tribe’s consent. The OECD stated that Vedanta had broken its guidelines.
– WWF is the largest conservation organization in the world. According to the organization itself, only 33% of its income comes from individual donors. The rest is derived from sources including government grants, foundations, and corporations

Pygmy’ tribes like the Baka have lived in the rainforests of the Congo Basin for millennia. They are being illegally evicted in the name of conservation, but logging, poaching and other threats to endangered species like gorillas, forest elephants and pangolins continue. © Selcen Kucukustel/Atlas

– “Pygmy” is an umbrella term commonly used to refer to the hunter-gatherer peoples of the Congo Basin and elsewhere in Central Africa. The word is considered pejorative and avoided by some tribespeople, but used by others as a convenient and easily recognized way of describing themselves.

Read this online: http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/11538

Norway’s failed REDD experiment in Tanzania

Norway launched REDD in Tanzania in 2008, with a promise to fund US$83 million over a five year period. But in a recent article in Development Today, Jens Friis Lund, Mathew Bukhi Mabele and Susanne Koch argue that Norway’s involvement in REDD in Tanzania “failed to produce models that work”.

Lund, Mabele and Koch write that,

Norway’s effort has therefore not only wasted time and resources. It also represents a lost opportunity for forests and people in Tanzania. The reason, we believe, is that Norway fell into a common donor trap, disregarding on-going processes and setting up parallel structures that had to start from scratch.

In October 2016, REDD-Monitor wrote about a paper titled “Promising Change, Delivering Continuity: REDD+ as Conservation Fad”, published in World Development. Lund and Mabele were two of the authors of the paper, which argues that,

REDD+ represents a promise of change that is carefully managed to ensure a balance between discursive change and continuity in practice that allow certain actors within the development and conservation industry to tap into financial resources.

Susanne Koch, the third author of the Development Today piece, is the Chair of Forest and Environmental Policy of the Technical University of Munich. She has a forthcoming paper in Forest Policy and Economics titled, “International influence on forest governance in Tanzania: Analysing the role of aid experts in the REDD+ process”.

“Forest governance in many African countries is characterised by a blatant gap between policy and implementation,” Koch writes. But rather than explaining away this gap with arguments about not enough aid money or capacity weaknesses, Koch focusses aid as a cause of implementation failure.

Undermining democracy

The paper illustrates how donor experts use their position of power to push the latest “conservation fads” on governments of the Global South. Meanwhile, governments on the receiving end, as well as civil society and academia, use their international “partners” to pursue their own ends.

Although aid agencies have formally abandoned aid conditionality and don’t set priorities there is still “a persistent element of coercion conveyed by ‘advice’ which permits experts to enforce policy decisions without explicitly demanding them”, Koch writes.

This form of neo-colonial external influence undermines the legitimacy of democratic governments.

The research included interviews between 2012 and 2013 with government decision-makers and bureaucrats, representatives and technical staff of international agencies and an academic working in the field. Some of the most interesting parts of the paper are quotations from these interviews.

A Norwegian embassy official explained why Norway was interested in REDD in Tanzania:

Tanzania was already chosen as one of the countries that we wanted to try this out. And why Tanzania was chosen was because we wanted to have African countries and also wanted to have countries with dry forests (…). So very early the embassy here, the ambassador started dialogue with the government in this country to see if there was an interest. And it was.

REDD and carbon trading

While at first glance, the REDD process in Tanzania appeared to be participatory, Koch quotes from a 2014 evaluation, which found that,

the consultations have been of quite a general nature seeking to promote REDD+ rather than having more focused thematic consultations with different affected target groups, where actual critical inputs to the REDD+ Strategy process could have been collected. Moreover, much of the country-wide processes for the Strategy have been heavily focused on local government staff with few NGO participants and with no real representation of forest dependent communities and indigenous peoples organisations.

The main parties involved in REDD discussions were donors, the government, and NGOs.

A discussion about financial flows highlights some of the problems. The government preferred a central government-controlled trust fund. NGOs preferred a nested approach, arguing that linking local foresters with international carbon markets, would “provide a stronger incentive” and “ensure communities are rewarded for their individual efforts to reduce deforestation on lands under their control”.

As Koch points out, it would also allow NGOs to play a greater role in the REDD regime, particularly as brokers of carbon credits.

Norway did not officially take sides in this discussion. But Norway’s experts criticised the emphasis on a Trust Fund in the draft REDD+ Strategy for Tanzania, along with calls for more stakeholder engagement of civil society and the private sector, and social, environmental and governance safeguards.

As a Tanzanian government official pointed out,

Donors are part and parcel of the REDD development process, globally and nationally. And their comments at one particular point of time have to be considered (…). Because finally you don’t need to produce something which will be one-sided. REDD is not a one-sided business. We are talking of selling carbon and where are the markets for carbon? They are not in Tanzania.

REDD is a dangerous distraction

In their article for Development Today, Lund, Mabele and Koch conclude that,

[W]hile the intensive and widely shared enthusiasm about the REDD+ experiment in Tanzania has evaporated, the thorny problem of climate mitigation which REDD+ was supposed to address remains. Norway’s many millions have not done much to address that problem. Rather, as Chris Lang put it more than two years ago in these pages, Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative looks increasingly like a distraction from the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

Exactly. And the fact that Norway’s greenhouse gases increased by 1.1% in 2015, and have increased 4.2% since 1990, only reinforces this argument. Norway’s emissions from oil and gas have increased by 83% since 1990.

PHOTO Credit: “Article about corruption in Norwegian funded REDD project in Tanzania”, focali.se.

TAMS: Failed experiments with carbon in Madagascar

Andasibe, Madagascar: A laboratory for Green Growth. That’s the title of this video on Conservation International’s Madagascar website. Through a series of iconic images of lemurs, baobabs and deforestation – most of which do not belong to Andasibe, a small area located in the country’s eastern rainforest – we learn how “carbon programs are a new source of funding for Andasibe”, and that Andasibe itself is ”an important test site” where we can see how “forest carbon can work”. This is “a success story” according to Conservation International’s video.

Although the video doesn’t mention the name, the carbon project featured here is TAMS (Tetik’Asa Mampody Savoka, or “the project to restore the fallows”). For about two decades, the forests of Andasibe witnessed the birth, growth and decay of this forest carbon project.

Once hailed as a pilot carbon project for the whole of Africa, by the time this video was made, in 2010, TAMS was at a halt and would never resume. In its wake it left unfulfilled promises of forest restoration, work and revenue. Andasibe did indeed become a test site for carbon projects, but the results have not been as widespread as its original promises.

TAMS, the other story

The story of TAMS is an interesting one because it did not start life as a carbon project. Instead it transformed into one in its search for funding.

TAMS began as a small-scale idea in the early 1990s developed by Louise Holloway, an independent environmental researcher. She devised a project that would reconnect forest fragments caused by slash-and-burn agriculture – locally known as tavy – while providing farmers with agricultural techniques that would allow for a faster regeneration of the fallows, so they could keep practicing tavy without the need for further forest encroachment.

The project didn’t managed to secure funds until it began to be posed as a potential carbon sequestration project. It was at this point, around 2002, that TAMS came to Conservation International’s (CI) attention, later bringing the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund and the Government of Madagascar into the project.

TAMS had transformed into a Clean Development Mechanism project: it would reforest 3,000 hectares of degraded fallows and provide agricultural alternatives to participating farmers, many of whom gave land to the project in exchange for the promise of work and, some claim, the revenue from the sale of carbon credits.

Bringing carbon into play completely transformed the project that Holloway had devised, with serious consequences. As a CDM project, its main objective became the production of carbon offsets through reforestation.

This had the effect of relegating the agricultural techniques that had once been integral to the project to the background, as funds were dedicated to the costly process of reforestation and the heavy bureaucratic procedures of project preparation, carbon measurement and verification. The agricultural techniques were bundled into “Sustainable Livelihood Activities” (SLAs) but were only applied late and very timidly through some “demonstration” activities, never transforming into real alternatives for farmers. (One of these SLAs appears in the video, carried out by the village chief, or Tangalamena, on his own land).

The high-costs of producing carbon led to a profound transformation of TAMS, where only the one activity that was deemed profitable in carbon terms – reforestation – was properly carried out. Although this activity did provide employment for farmers in the area, its specific features meant that, while well paid, this source of work was highly unstable and temporary – very far from the “30 year relationship” that CI mentions in the video and which some farmers believed they were entering.

A similar thing happened with the carbon payments that farmers had been promised in exchange for giving up land for the project. Although direct payments to farmers had been on the table during the early days of TAMS as a carbon project, they were eventually ruled out when it transpired that the costs of setting up the project and producing carbon were too high to allow for payments to farmers.

As Holloway wrote in a 2005 project report, it was,

“ironic that low payments/tCO2 offered by the BioCF combined with high preparation costs (heavy bureaucracy and stringent eligibility criteria), make even the highest carbon generating activities too costly to allow the project to make direct carbon payments.”

Without carbon payments, SLAs became the main form of “compensation” to farmers, although these were never fully developed.

While largely useless to people, however, the SLAs did play an essential role in the production of offsets, because they became the “sustainable development” elements and “leakage measures” that TAMS required in order to comply as CDM project.

Carbon, imagined by Holloway as a tool to fund her project, had transformed TAMS into something else completely. Her premonitory comment in a report she wrote for CI in 2008 is highly revealing of the effects of incorporating carbon into a conservation/development project:

“TAMS is so much more than a carbon production machine…it is necessary to consider if we want to make the project fit a particular market or to harness a market to facilitate our project. … There is a danger that preoccupation with meeting the demands of the market could subsume the original goals, ultimately also threatening the viability of the carbon market aspect of TAMS.”


But even as carbon project, TAMS failed to survive.

The reasons for its demise are multiple and complex:

  • a dizzying network of actors with internal competition to lead the project and cash in on benefits;
  • unclear (and, up to a point, unclarifiable) land tenure;
  • lack of a legal framework to establish carbon ownership;
  • the government’s impasse in establishing a benefit-sharing agreement;
  • administrative duplicities;
  • complex and expensive verification practices; and
  • trees that refused to grow or even grew too fast.

In 2012 the BioCarbon Fund cancelled the Emissions Reductions Purchasing Agreement (ERPA), and although CI had hoped to keep the project going, partly to justify their bigger REDD+ project in the area of which TAMS was a kind of pilot, it never did.

In Mahatsara, a little village in the area of Andasibe were I carried out fieldwork and where people worked for, and gave land to the project, TAMS became known as a scam. After years of patiently waiting, and with no signs of carbon payments coming from anywhere, people felt that they had been tricked into giving their land.

The problem was that while knowing that TAMS had ended and would not provide any benefits, people were scared to clear the land because of the contracts they had signed with the project back in 2009. By now, they have probably been turned into arable land again.

While TAMS still features today in CI Madagascar’s website, the environmental and social benefits it claims to have created are nowhere to be seen.

PHOTO Credit: Sara Peña Valderrama, an abandoned TAMS tree nursery from 2011.

In 2016, Sara Peña Valderrama completed her PhD in social anthropology, where she studied a forest carbon project run by Conservation International in Madagascar. Her thesis is available on Durham University’s website: Entangling Molecules: an ethnography of a carbon offset project in Madagascar’s eastern rainforest. She submitted this Guest Post about what happened when the project changed to a carbon project. She is currently a Honorary Research Associate at Durham University.

Governor Ayade’s Contradictions on REDD in Cross River State, Nigeria

This week, Benedict Bengioushuye Ayade, the governor of Nigeria’s Cross River State, will be in Guadalajara, Mexico taking part in the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force Annual Meeting. The aim of the GCF is to link states and provinces running REDD programmes with carbon markets in the rich countries.

But before getting carried away with the REDD promotion tour in Guadalajara, it’s worth taking a quick look at Ayade’s record so far in Cross River State.

In April 2015, Ayade won the election to become governor of Cross River State. He quickly announced a series of massive infrastructure projects in Cross River State. The Calabar Deep Seaport. The biggest garment factory in Africa. Several new cities. And a six-lane, 260-kilometre-long superhighway.

The superhighway through the forest

The superhighway is particularly controversial. Construction started in October 2015, before an environmental impact assessment had been carried out. After complaints from the National Park authorities, the route of the road was changed, to avoid going through the Cross River National Park. But large areas of forest remain under threat, including the Ekuri Community Forest.

The road would cost US$3.5 billion, but it is unclear where the money would come from. Little is known about the company building the road and the deep sea port, Broad Spectrum Industries Limited, apparently has no experience of road construction. The company may be based in Israel, Germany, or Port Harcourt, depending on which news report you’re reading.

On 22 January 2016, a Public Notice of Revocation was published in a local newspaper. It was signed by the Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development. The Notice stated that,

“all rights of occupancy existing or deemed to exist on all that piece of land or parcel of land lying and situate along the Super Highway from Esighi, Bakassi Local Government Government Area to Bekwarra Local Government Area of Cross River State covering a distance of 260km approximately and having an offset of 200m on either side of the centre line of the road and further 10km after the span of the Super Highway, excluding Government Reserves and public institutions are hereby revoked for overriding public purpose absolutely”.

Which would look something like this:


In March 2016, construction of the road was stopped, until an environmental impact assessment is carried out. While an EIA has now been carried out, Nigerian environmentalist Emmanuel Unaegbu writes that it is “inadequate and lacks merit”.

In June 2016, in a post on the Cross River Facebook page, Eval Asikong, an advisor to Ben Ayade, explained that “The Government is not claiming 10 km of land from both sides of the Super-Highway”. Instead, he explains that the “essence” of 20 kilometre wide strip, was for development control where house structures and every piece of land that is contiguous to the super highway is managed for development control and aesthetic value addition. Government does not forbid individuals from building around this perimeter but strongly frowns at indiscriminate building of structures. Besides, the state government intends to build new cities all along the super highway. Government can even paint structures within those areas for the dwellers as long as they adhere to the control measures. Government intent to provide commercial and social infrastructures like hotels, filling stations, etc to improve the environment.

The impacts of REDD in Cross River State

Meanwhile, Cross River State has started to implement REDD programmes that are having an impact on local communities’ livelihoods.

A report by the Nigerian NGO Social Action exposes the costs to forest communities. A task force in the Forestry Commission has a mandate “to enforce a moratorium on forest activities as part of the implementation process”.

Social Action reports that,

With neither adequate consultation nor alternative livelihoods options for communities, the task force has been harassing community members that have depended on the forests for generations. Movement and trade of products deemed to have been derived from the forests are confiscated. At Nwanga Ekoi in Akpabuyo Local Government Area (LGA) for instance, the task force routinely seizes agricultural products like kola nuts and fruits meant for the market on account that they are derived from forests earmarked for REDD + . The harvesting of Afang leaves, a local vegetable consumed in West and Central Africa, is now banned in affected forests. The hunting for bush meat, a main source of protein in the communities, as well as the tapping of palm wine from the raffia palm and associated brewing of kaikai, a local beverage, have been stopped.

In 2008, Liyel Imoke, then-governor of Cross River State, put in place a logging moratorium – a complete ban on wood cutting in all forests. In effect, forests that were under the control of communities have become forest reserves, under the control of the government.

The moratorium also includes harvesting leaves for food and medicine, and subsistence hunting. Bush meat was an important source of protein for forest communities.

Chief Owai Obio Arong of the Iko Esa Community told Social Action that

“I and my people have suffered for five years now since government stopped us from entering our forest because REDD is coming and till now I have not received anything from them.”

Ayade: “The conservation of forests is only a small aspect of the bigger picture”

On 24 August 2016, in a speech at a UN-REDD meeting, Governor Ayade argued that, “The conservation of forests is only a small aspect of the bigger picture”.

Ayade acknowledges that for eight years, forest communities have not been allowed to benefit from the forests.

Ayade demonstrates his ability to say what his audience wants to hear:

“UN-REDD plus is not about finances, it’s not about gross carbon stock, it’s not about monitoring the forests. It’s about social safeguards. It’s about livelihood security of the people.”

He got a round of applause for that.

He spoke “from his soul”, urging UN-REDD to move into the implementation phase:

“That implementation phase will address the pain and neglect, the harrowing poverty of our people, who for the last eight years have suffered a complete ban on their dependence on their forests. Who will now begin to see a legacy of hope.”

Perhaps predictably, he wants more money:

“I understand from statistics that reached us so far that you are proposing about US$12 million in your initial fees in the REDD-ready plus phase and we will move into the implementation phase. US$12 million is very exciting. But the relationship of pain and agony of our people in the last eight years, the relationship to the responsibilities ahead of us, it is very insignificant.”

He asks UN-REDD to focus on tree planting:

“There is a delicate balance between conservation and management. That is what I am asking for UN-REDD plus to focus as they move into the implementation phase. To focus agressively on tree planting. Because when you do, you increase the amount of rainfall. When you do, you reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

Then he talks about the green economy, the decarbonisation of Africa and the world, and about stopping using fossil fuels. He gets quite excited:

“Africa is challenged to seek alternatives for our crude oil. While Africa is struggling with that, Africa is also told, stop cutting your forests.

“Africa therefore is a whipping child. Standing before the world. We don’t have the technology for alternative research.”

At the end of his little speech, Ayade tells us that,

“The modalities and procedures, the validation process must focus on African philosophy of protection of the environment. It must be indigenous. It must be customised to reflect African heritage. Then a man who owns the forest, that pays from the forest, you only teach him how to depend on the forest without exploiting it to the detriment of the future.”

But of course Ayade made no mention of his proposed 260 kilometre-long superhighway in his speech

Source: REDD Monitor

Beyond Cap-and-Trade: Many Environmentalists Say California Will Improve Climate Policy If It Reduces Emissions at Source

Gov. Jerry Brown has so far been unable to muster two-thirds of state legislators to vote to extend the program beyond its current 2020 expiration.

By Will Parrish

Environmentalists say cap-and-trade doesn’t cut enough emissions in the East Bay.

California’s cap-and-trade program is a cornerstone of the state’s effort to curb greenhouse gases. But it’s also in crisis.

Faced with Republican opposition, Gov. Jerry Brown has so far been unable to muster two-thirds of state legislators to vote to extend the program beyond its current 2020 expiration.

Meanwhile, the latest auction of carbon dioxide-emission allowances in May, which was supposed to generate more than a half-billion dollars for politicians to spend, brought in a paltry $10 million, as the California Air Resources Board sold a tiny fraction of the allowances it was offering.

The governor has negotiated with oil-industry leaders about the possibility of scaling back some of California’s climate-change programs in exchange for the industry’s support for extending cap-and-trade, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month. And the Western States Petroleum Association, the main lobbying group for oil corporations in six western states, is especially keen on repealing California’s low-carbon-fuel standard, which is the world’s first regulatory program to require oil suppliers to slash the carbon footprint of their motor fuel.

But environmentalists are urging Brown not to “send the state’s climate change policies backward,” as Amy Vanderwarker, a co-director of the Oakland-based California Environmental Justice Alliance, put it. She and other advocates say cap-and-trade’s recent stumbles actually open the door to far better climate change policies.

For instance, her organization is supporting Assembly Bill 197, introduced in June by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, a Democrat from Coachella. The proposed law deals at once with emissions, public health, and eco-injustice, activists say. It also encourages direct emissions reductions by the state’s oil refineries, fossil-fuel power plants, and other major industrial emitters, as well as from the transportation sector.
“The keys to addressing climate change and the environmental-health crisis in communities of color are fundamentally the same, and we’re pleased that Assemblymember Garcia’s bill recognizes that basic connection,” Vanderwarker said.

Under cap-and-trade, the number of metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions allowed in the state is capped, and the allowable levels of pollution are steadily reduced, creating an economic incentive for companies to cut emissions Industrial entities then buy and sell pollution “allowances,” which lets pollution increase in one area of the state — often in low income and minority communities — so long as it decreases it somewhere else. California’s version of cap-and-trade also lets companies avoid regional pollution reductions by purchasing a certain number of “offsets” from carbon-saving projects elsewhere in the United States or in Quebec.

But dozens of unregulated toxic chemicals are co-emitted with greenhouse gases, a fact that critics say cap-and-trade fails to address and that perpetuates environmental racism, since most of those living alongside these polluting installations are low-income people of color.

“When an oil refinery wants to expand under cap-and-trade, they buy cheap allowances or offsets from somewhere else, and the people who live in the vicinity get stuck with the pollution,” explained Brent Newell, a staff attorney at the Center on Race, Poverty, & the Environment. “It’s a way of saying to these communities: ‘You have to get in the back of the bus. You have to subsidize these major polluting industries with your lungs.'”

Mari Rose Taruc of Oakland, a longtime director with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, was part of a broad coalition that opposed cap-and-trade prior to its inception. “Environmental-justice communities do not consent to offsets. And I do not consent for my children’s lungs to be polluted even more so these industries can go buy offset credits somewhere else,” said Taruc, who is raising two children suffering from asthma.

A March study by CEJA found that the leading purchasers of offsets under California’s cap-and-trade program from 2013-14 include several companies that operate in the Bay Area, such as Chevron, Calpine, Shell, and Tesoro. For example, Calpine’s natural gas-fired power plant in Pittsburg has increased its greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 20 percent since 2011, but has used forests in North California and methane digesters on cattle ranches in Indiana to offset pollution increases.

An even more fundamental problem, environmentalists say, is that California’s cap-and-trade program is designed to ensure that it remains cheaper for oil and gas companies to continue burning fossil fuels than it would be to eliminate them.

Cap-and-trade proponents, by contrast, view the program as a balanced way of reducing pollution without unduly harming businesses and consumers. “Cap-and-trade helps ensure that the state and ratepayers don’t bear the costs” of greater expenses to industry, CARB spokesman Dave Clegern wrote in an e-mail. “Businesses also maintain flexibility in how they make actual reductions, which can improve their bottom line and keep the jobs they provide in California.”

Ninawa Huni Kui is a 35-year-old traditional indigenous leader of the Huni Kui people of forest-rich state of Acre in northern Brazil. In a conversation earlier this year via a Portuguese interpreter, his arguments against REDD offsets were reminiscent of California-based environmental-justice advocates that support on-site emissions reductions at polluting facilities rather than cap-and-trade. "Our perception of California is that they are coming here to deal with their own environmental problems, and they should be solving those at home," Huni Kui said.

Ninawa Huni Kui is a 35-year-old traditional indigenous leader of the Huni Kui people of forest-rich state of Acre in northern Brazil. In a conversation earlier this year via a Portuguese interpreter, his arguments against REDD offsets were reminiscent of California-based environmental-justice advocates that support on-site emissions reductions at polluting facilities rather than cap-and-trade.
“Our perception of California is that they are coming here to deal with their own environmental problems, and they should be solving those at home,” Huni Kui said.

According to a 2015 federal-government study, the minimum price for a ton of carbon that would encourage a phase-out of fossil fuels is $37. A study last year by Stanford University’s School of Earth Sciences placed the figure at $220 per ton. Yet the cost under California cap-and-trade has hovered between $11 and $14 per ton. Assemblymember Garcia’s bill features a provision that calls on CARB to consider the full social cost of carbon emissions in future regulatory decisions.

Fossil-fuel industries have offered mixed signals concerning current positions on cap-and-trade. In some situations, they have opposed the program on the grounds that it increases the cost of doing business.
But whenever threatened by more stringent regulations that go beyond cap-and-trade, industry leaders have spoken in favor of the program, with, Western States Petroleum Association president Catherine Reheis-Boyd stating a presentation to New Mexico oil-and-gas producers that her organization favors “a well-designed cap-and-trade program as a feasible and balanced approach to addressing GHG emissions.”

In addition to encouraging at-source emissions reductions, SB 197 would create a Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies consisting of three members of the Senate and Assembly each, who would provide greater oversight of CARB as part of an effort to increase that board’s transparency and accountability. Environmental justice groups and numerous other environmental groups have often complained about the agency’s lack of responsiveness to their concerns.

These groups have already scored a minor victory amid the uncertainty about cap-and-trade’s future. As the Express reported in January, the state’s leaders have been pushing to become the only jurisdiction in the world that offsets its climate pollution through investments in tropical forest regions in the Southern Hemisphere. The common name for such efforts is REDD.

CARB had planned to have a vote on linking its cap-and-trade program to Acre, Brazil, as early as spring 2017. But the agency issued a draft proposal last week to expand the greenhouse-gas cap-and-trade program beyond 2020, and this proposal does not include an international forest offset provision — a decision that postpones, but does not ultimately rule out, such a move.

Ninawa Huni Kui is a 35-year-old traditional indigenous leader of the Huni Kui people of forest-rich state of Acre in northern Brazil. In a conversation earlier this year via a Portuguese interpreter, his arguments against REDD offsets were reminiscent of California-based environmental-justice advocates that support on-site emissions reductions at polluting facilities rather than cap-and-trade.

“Our perception of California is that they are coming here to deal with their own environmental problems, and they should be solving those at home,” Huni Kui said.
In addition to SB 197, environmental-justice groups are backing Senate Bill 32, introduced by state Sen. Fran Pavley, a Democrat from Los Angeles. This bill would require a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions relative to 1990 levels by 2030. Each of these bills require simple majority votes.

But nothing is ever simple when it comes to emissions-reductions in California.

Calif. Carbon Plan Puts Rainforest Credits Down, Not Out

By Juan Carlos Rodriguez

Law360, New York (July 19, 2016, 9:53 PM ET) California air regulators said last week that the Golden State’s carbon trading program won’t allow companies to buy credits generated from the preservation of Mexican and Brazilian rain forests to offset their emissions, but experts say that idea may end up being part of carbon trading schemes in the future.

Last week, the California Air Resources Board air regulators unveiled a preliminary draft of proposed revisions to the state’s cap and trade program — in which CARB auctions off emissions allowances to refiners, utilities and other greenhouse gas polluters as the emissions cap gradually declines — that would extend the carbon emissions reduction scheme from 2020 to 2030 and envisions steeper annual emissions cuts. A plan to allow the sale of carbon credits earned by foreign governments was not included in the draft, highlighting the difficulties of getting the unorthodox concept off the ground.

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, or REDD, programs would work by allowing sub-national entities like Acre state in Brazil or Chiapas state in Mexico to generate carbon offsets by instituting programs that are subject to verification to save their tropical rain forests. The offsets could then be introduced into a cap and trade arrangement like the one in California.

Opponents of the idea include environmental justice and international human rights groups, as well as some environmental groups, that have argued that REDD programs can harm forest communities.

“The communities themselves don’t necessarily always distinguish between a REDD project or one that comes to cut the timber. At the end of the day, people can lose access,” said Gary Hughes, Friends of the Earth’s California advocacy campaigner.

He also said REDD, while potentially saving tropical forests, can simply allow companies in California to continue to pollute as they have in the past, meaning the communities around facilities in the state would see no improvement in their environment as a result of the program.

But Frances Seymour, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a think tank dedicated to reducing global poverty and inequality, said while CARB would certainly consider those concerns, the most likely reason a REDD program was left out of the draft proposal was that the carbon trade program itself is in need of rescuing. She said the California Legislature is currently deciding whether to authorize the 10year extension of the program.

“My understanding was that the goal this time around was to get the whole capandtrade system extended past 2020 to get past the Legislature. If there were bells and whistles that could be taken off to facilitate that in this round, that’s what CARB wanted to do,” she said. “But REDD is by no means dead. This is just a delay.”

The draft proposal said linkage with a state of the art, jurisdictional sector based offset program can provide “significant benefits” to California’s cap and trade
program by assuring an adequate supply of compliance offsets to keep the cost of compliance within reasonable bounds.

Linkage would also support California’s broad climate goals, as well as global biodiversity and tropical forest communities, CARB said. The agency said it will begin a new series of public meetings about REDD this fall.

Kevin Poloncarz, a partner at Paul Hastings LLP, said CARB has been working on a REDD program for years and that there is a lot of momentum to do it.

“I didn’t get a sense that this was slamming on the brakes,” he said of the draft proposal. Instead, he said the delay suggests California wants more time to coordinate with the governors of Quebec, which is already linked to California’s system, on what an appropriate sector based linkage would look like.

Another reason CARB may not want to start up a REDD program right away is that it may not be economically necessary right now, said Michael Wara, a professor at Stanford Law School. He noted that recent sales of allowances, or permits to pollute, have actually failed to generate healthy market activity.

“CARB really wants to create confidence in the market that there’s going to be a use for these allowances after 2020 as the caps fall. Right now, there’s real uncertainty about whether the program’s even going to exist after 2020. That question mark has reduced demand for allowances,” Wara said.

Offsets, like the ones that would come from a sector-based program in Acre or Chiapas to reduce emissions from deforestation, are like additional supply, he said, so CARB is now trying to create a belief among market participants that there’s going to be additional demand.

“They don’t want to create the belief that there’s going to be additional supply because that might reduce how many allowances they sell, and they desperately want to sell their allowances right now to restore the confidence — especially in the California Legislature — in the program,” he said.

He said it’s more likely that a REDD program will take off when CARB and the market have a firmer belief there are too many allowances and not enough emissions.

“They’ve been working on REDD for a really long time, and I think that they’re committed to it, but they’re fighting for their life right now,” Wara said. “So this has to be on the back burner because it’s a distraction from whether there’s a cap and trade program at all.”


Trading on Thin Air: Fictive REDD+ Carbon Chaos in the World’s Forests

The United Nations’ disastrous REDD+ offset program has hit the ground internationally. Its potential adoption by the California Air Resources Board will only make things worse.

Luan F. Makes Marks, Ph.D.

The Basics

Some state, national, and international governments, such as the State of California, limit pollutants and/or greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. Some governments also sell or allocate permits or allowances to emitting companies to help in compliance with those limits.

Permits allow an emitter who holds them permission to discharge a specific quantity of emissions within a period of time. These emissions permits can be bought and sold. In addition, offset projects that provide quantifiable emissions reductions may be developed for credits to offset emissions. These offset credits can also be bought and sold. The buying and selling of permits and offset credits are part of international emissions trade in these and similar commodities.

The State of California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) has developed various programs, called offset project protocols, to govern certain areas of potential GHG emissions reductions and the development of emissions offset projects. One particular area for offset projects is forestry, as living forests store carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and their destruction releases it into the atmosphere.

The United Nations has also developed a forestry carbon offset program, REDD, now REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). CARB has considered the adoption of REDD+ carbon offset project credits for approval under California’s cap-and-trade program, allowing international forestry carbon offsets to be used and traded by California emitters in compensation for their emissions.

The Seeds of Emissions Trade and Ecosystem Commodities

The vaunted promises of environmental salvation and new profits from the development and trading of offset permits and credits has spurred on, and been spurred on by, an immense new industry of insiders, corporate investors, environmental nonprofits, national and international government officials, and the emitting industries themselves.

Despite the financial softness of the carbon markets, carbon offsets, whether voluntary and mandatory, have become trading commodities that elicit huge investments, with the potential for gains and losses internationally. Its drivers are concerns for a changing climate as well as development opportunities and market returns. Now the influential CARB is set to adopt REDD+, which will further spread its flawed protocols.

The idea of emissions trading as a market-based incentive to control pollution first sprouted from the seeds of speculative theories, in 1966 by American economist Thomas D. Crocker and in 1968 by the Canadian economist John H. Dales.[1] Over the next five decades, these theories would be cultivated by Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, and California governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown.

In the decades since then, emissions trading has grown into a pollution-control mechanism in the United States. Twenty years ago, carbon emissions trading was incorporated into the Kyoto Protocol. REDD and its rebrand, REDD+, were initially cultivated at the international level through the United Nations as a market-driven mechanism to preserve, protect, and enhance the capacity of forests to sequester carbon. In actuality, “[t]he offset mechanism allowed an industrialized country or company in these countries to emit more CO2 than the Kyoto Protocol permitted.”[2]

Global carbon trading is slated to become a massive commodity market. A particular focus has been on the remaining tropical rainforests. But the burgeoning financialization of nature has expanded to include derivatives and futures of the entire commodity supply chain of ecosystem services. The Green Economy claims to salvage both the planet and capitalism’s claims of dwindling supplies of investments: “The [United Nations Environmental Programme], the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the World Bank and others . . . say that ‘green growth’ will address these multiple crises in one sweep.’”[3]

But the air we breathe, the water we drink, could have a value, be commodified, sold, and traded, while greenhouse gas emissions, development, and resource extraction continue relatively unabated: “Ecosystem service markets offer this permission [to pollute and destroy] in the form of offset credits.’”[4] This market may come to control the fabric of our lives at a profound cost.

REDD+ Victims

As the UN’s REDD/REDD+ became global policy, it was widely reported that the development and trading of international forest offset projects are infested with problems, including: no real progress in carbon sequestration; amplified resource extraction, development, and pollution; rampant carbon speculation; pervasive land grabs; endemic corruption; and extreme violation of rights, including forced removal of indigenous populations from their traditional lands, the reduction of their territories and territorial tenures, and violence.

REDD+’s victims have ranged from individuals to many governments and industries, all investing heavily in the idea that forest offset projects will somehow buffer lifestyle transgressions and fix the Earth’s atmosphere. But its biggest victims are the indigenous peoples who are traditional caretakers of the many forested lands now under siege. They are losing their homes, land rights, livelihoods, and lives. Their land tenure and rights are eroding whether through legislation, court decisions, government treaties, contracts and leases for resource extraction, seizures, and illegal occupancies, because those lands now offer speculative value as eco-resources. The promise of immense capital put into forest carbon project development has not trickled down significantly to indigenous peoples.

This is massive neocolonialization on the suddenly valued carbon frontier.

Other new epithets have grown up alongside carbon offset and REDD+ developments to articulate their negative reputations.

Carbon cowboy denotes a breed of con-artist speculator descending on indigenous peoples to quickly close fraudulent deals for land rights in indigenous communities.

Carbon violence was coined “to give context to the diversity of structural, social, political, economic, and cultural harms connected with the way carbon markets have evolved, and explores green resources’ role in the carbon violence experienced by the villagers and the local ecosystems they inhabit.”[5]

Carbon chaos aptly describes the worldwide disruptions of lives, communities, lands, governments, industries, and the markets through carbon trading and offset projects.

Nothing to Count On

Despite the many substantive critiques against emissions trading, carbon offset projects, REDD+, and the financialization of nature, the industry has continued unchecked, impelled by monied interests. REDD+ and the rest have become firmly entrenched for speculative profit, even though they are touted as a solution to climate change. The “solution” is false and empty; emissions trading and offsets fail to address the stated problem of carbon build-up in the planet’s atmosphere, while at the same time causing substantial harms.

Major criticisms are that such trading is fundamentally fraudulent, as a free-market mechanism developed under corporate, neoconservative/neoliberal agendas to serve a for-profit speculation in developing and non-developed communities at the expense of the environment. Emissions trading theory has been implemented without solid proof of efficacy, and it is currently failing to produce expected results. It is not leading to conservation of resources, but to extensive development, resource extraction, and concentration of wealth.

Global emissions trading and projects may represent environmental strangulation for the Earth, as more sustainable and effective solutions have been ignored and dismissed. Caught up by that web, indigenous peoples and environmentalist allies have risen in resistance internationally to mount their own critiques of social and environmental injustice.

Economist Thomas D. Crocker, who originally developed the theory of tradable emissions permits as a University of Wisconsin graduate student in 1966, indicated his own doubts in 2009 as retired academic, “‘I’m skeptical that cap-and-trade is the most effective way to go about regulating carbon,’ . . . He says he prefers an outright tax on emissions because it would be easier to enforce and provide needed flexibility to deal with the problem”:[6]

Mr. Crocker sees two modern-day problems in using a cap-and-trade system to address the global greenhouse-gas issue. The first is that carbon emissions are a global problem with myriad sources. Cap-and-trade, he says, is better suited for discrete, local pollution problems. “It is not clear to me how you would enforce a permit system internationally,” he says. “There are no institutions right now that have that power” . . .

The other problem . . . is that quantifying the economic damage of climate change—from floods to failing crops—is fraught with uncertainty.[7]

The other originator of emissions trading, John Dales, “was also a skeptic of using the idea to tame global warming.” “‘It isn’t a cure-all for everything . . . There are lots of situations that don’t apply.’”[8]

Carbon Emissions Accounting: Flawed and Fraud

Carbon emissions, carbon offset projects, REDD+ and the resulting schemes to commodify nature defy accurate accounting. There are inherent problems with attempting to measure and decide the many intangible facets of such enterprises, including the costs and damages of climate change and carbon offset project baselines, additionality, and leakage.

The difficulty of measuring the entire range, from atmospheric CO2 levels to emissions trading to financialization of nature, leads one to conclude that the project is like measuring the proverbial emperor’s new clothes.

Yet flawed carbon accounting has become institutionalized, per the following from wikipedia.org:[9]

[E]xamples for products based upon forms of carbon accounting can be found in national inventories, corporate environmental reports or carbon footprint calculators. Likening sustainability measurement, as an instance of ecological modernisation discourses and policy, carbon accounting is hoped to provide a factual ground for carbon-related decision-making. However, social scientific studies of accounting challenge this hope,[10] pointing to the socially constructed character of carbon conversion factors[11] or of the accountants’ work practice[12] which cannot implement abstract accounting schemes into reality[13]. . . The trustworthiness of accounts of carbon emissions can easily be contested.[14]

Ingmar Lippert, in his Enacting Environments, cited above, “establishes how carbon emission facts are produced and co-configure climate change realities.” Such facts are constructed “to stage the company, and in consequence capitalism, as in control over its relations to an antecedent environment.”[15]

Developing greenhouse gases and other ecosystem metrics and accounting has been deemed by many critics as an impossible task. Consider these further expert evaluations of the system:

A case in point is the continuing attempt . . . in various countries to tackle the riddle of “additionality” in offset markets (that is, how to prove that a project goes beyond business as usual), to which, as carbon trader Mark Trexler noted years ago, there is no correct answer. Constantly manufacturing and reaffirming the notion that offset projects’ shortcomings are due either to imperfect methodology or incorrect implementation, ten years of regulatory effort have only further skewed the political economy of the offset markets . . . in favour of corporations locked into fossil fuel use, since it is only they who have the resources necessary for navigating the regulatory mazes that the additionality debate has made ever more intricate. Ironically, of course, this is an effect which, logically speaking, should itself enter into calculations of carbon saved and lost . . . The recent establishment of a private carbon rating agency, as well as proposals for “programmatic” and “sectoral” carbon credits, which would help sidestep impossible “additionality” requirements, reflect a continuing commitment to “better calculation” in the face of irresolvable tensions between the needs for high-volume, predictable carbon credit output and for market credibility;[16]


The calculation of the number of offsets generated by a project is inherently problematic. The key difficulty lies in the need to compare the projects’ actual emissions to a counterfactual scenario reflecting another reality, one in which the activity is not implemented as an offset project. This scenario is referred to as the “baseline” scenario, and the number of generated credits is equal to the difference between emissions in the baseline scenario and emissions resulting from the project. There is no fail-safe way to divine what the baseline scenario would be. Various methodologies, protocols, and rules-of-thumb can be devised but ultimately the scenario cannot be known with certainty;[17]


[T]he damage caused to the global environment by each incremental emission of CO2 is very small and perhaps unknowable, making it very hard to put an accurate price on emissions.[18]

Carbon emissions accounting fraud has now entered the language of the accounting field.[19] It is an acknowledged problem that carbon fraud exists in carbon accounting. Even saying that there is an accurate and overarching carbon accounting standard for the industry is so untrue that it could be considered a form of fraud.

Analyst Chris Lang indicates the conflicts of interest and potential for fraud that are inherent in the industry in establishing carbon project metrics:

Clearly, it is in the REDD project developers’ interest to have a baseline that predicts a high rate of deforestation in the project area. The higher the rate of deforestation in the baseline scenario the more carbon credits will be generated. And the less the project will have to reduce deforestation.

Of course REDD project developers can’t pick their own baselines and hope that the rest of the world believes they are not just making things up. The methodology proposed by the project developers has to be validated and project has to be audited. This is where voluntary certification schemes come in, like the Verified Carbon Standard, Plan Vivo, CarbonFix Standard, and so on.

But there’s a catch. The voluntary certification schemes make their money from generating carbon credits. The more carbon credits generated, the more money they make.

And the validators and auditors that are accredited by the certification scheme are paid directly by the project developers. In order not to lose future work opportunities, auditors are unlikely to be too picky about approving their clients’ methodologies.

This is a blatant conflict of interest at the heart of the REDD mechanism.[20]

Lang also addresses the fraudulent natures of baseline metrics:

Baselines allow project developers to put an exact figure on the number of tonnes of carbon that have not been emitted as a result of their project. But this number is based on a fiction.

There is no way of testing whether a baseline scenario is true or not, because it is something that might have happened had the REDD project not gone ahead. As the authors conclude, “the baseline scenarios in REDD+ projects amount to untestable guesses”. . .

Fraud would be a better way of describing what REDD project developers are doing when they set bogus baselines. The voluntary certification systems, such as [Verified Carbon Standard], are complicit in this fraud.[21]

Seyller et als., in their study of REDD+ projects, concluded that these projects “resemble ‘virtual emission reduction machines’ designed to inflate the production of carbon credits and that they do not structurally change the local economy characteristics which drive deforestation.”[22]

The Gaming of Carbon Accounting

Despite negative critiques, individuals and organizations have continued to influence the establishment of standards for carbon accounting. Many have an inside track and may stand to profit or lose from future resolution of the current metric challenges. Indeed, we all may stand to profit or lose from it, since it is currently deemed pivotal to the issue of climate change.

It is not a simple or easy issue to resolve: “Accountancy can be a way of making things appear uncontroversial and non-political, but the technical debates about accountancy rules and standards sometimes involve intense power struggles.”[23]

Multiple, diverse offset standards (or protocols) now exist internationally:

Offset protocols for a wide variety of project types abound.  These protocols have been developed for offsets in voluntary carbon markets and the few mandatory carbon markets that exist, including under the Kyoto Protocol/United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  Protocols developed for use in the UNFCCC regime are by far the most numerous. [24]

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has established protocols and approved other organizations’ standards to govern development and operation of CARB offset projects.

The REDD+ program has been under consideration by CARB for a number of years, with opposition reported from environmental and social justice organizations, including CARB’s own Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (EJAC). EJAC’s initial draft recommendation was to not include REDD in CARB’s Scoping Plan update.[25]

Their final recommendation was:

ARB should minimize carbon offsets, and prevent use of international forestry offsets such as REDD, that could diminish direct emission reductions in disadvantaged communities in California and compromise [greenhouse gas (GHG)] reductions in-state. Any offsets used need to have accompanying data that verifies GHG reduction and that it is additional to business as usual.[26]

The EJAC’s request for data verifying greenhouse gas reduction and additionality is referential to some of the same, extant carbon accounting problems that remain unaddressed.

Next Nexus for Metrics

There has been a drive within the carbon industry since 2009 to provide a global, standardized carbon accounting system, based upon satellite monitoring and shared software. This drive has been spearheaded by Dr. D. James Baker, Director of the Forest and Land-Use Measurement Program of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Since at least 2007, Baker has held multiple titles in various metamorphoses of the Clinton Foundation’s programs, including the Global Carbon Measurement Program, Clinton Climate Initiative—Carbon and Poverty Reduction Program, Carbon Measurement Collaborative, and the Clinton Climate Institute.

Among his other achievements, Baker was appointed Under Secretary of Commerce and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1993 by Bill Clinton, serving in that capacity until 2001: “as the longest-serving official in that position, he significantly influenced U. S. climate and ocean policy.”[27] During his term of office, “he guided the completion of the modernization of the National Weather Service, initiated new climate forecasting services, and merged civil and military environmental satellite systems.”[28]

Baker was pivotal in the rise of global warming and climate change discourse. In 2013, he was a member of the Technical Advisory Panel for the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.[29] He has been a long-time advisor to Vice-President Al Gore.[30]

In the course of his career, Dr. Baker has lamented the difficulties of accurate metrics and pointed to the need to maintain

long term observations for the understanding and prediction of ocean and climate change. These observations have to be globally distributed and carried out over long periods of time. But a means of obtaining these observations . . . is not in place today. There is no global system of routinely funded long-term, high quality measurements to provide the necessary understanding of climate in general . . . Long term biological measurements are in an even more limited state of development.[31]

He has continued his interest in promoting observation and measurement through the Clinton Climate Initiative, which “helps countries comply with international measurement and reporting verification (MRV) standards, building a credible database on which to advance international agreements on deforestation.”[32]

As of January 2016, the “Clinton Climate Initiative [is] leading institutional arrangements”[33] in the anticipated development of second generation carbon estimating and reporting tools,” to be delivered and governed through a dedicated foundation, Moja Global:

A new second-generation integrating framework is under development that can greatly reduce duplication of future efforts by providing a generic platform that works with existing or new modules developed to address national circumstances. [34]
It remains to be seen what will develop out of the Moja Global foundation platform framework. After seven years of attempts to resolve accounting issues, the next generation has not yet been delivered.


The promotion of these new measurement tools cannot be allowed to eclipse the issues that have haunted REDD+ and other emissions offset-project developments. The very basis of emissions trading projects—measurement—is error prone no matter how the accounting system performs. There are irresolvable structural issues such as additionality, leakage, permanence, enforceability, verifiability, and validation. Systemic fraud and carbon violence against indigenous peoples will not go away under the REDD+ and other trading regimes.

Fraud also exists in the underlying premise that the free market can best resolve climate change crises, even those that were caused by the free market. It is extant in the basic premise that financial incentives will stop pollution better than consumer reductions, legislative restrictions, and tax increases. It is found when initial logging of forests to lower initial project baselines is preferable to leaving forests ecosystems and their indigenous caretakers alone and fossil fuels in the ground. It continues in the premise that the global market needs emissions trading and the financialization of nature as investment commodities to prevent economic collapse.

Emissions metrics and the emissions trading markets are fatally, systemically flawed and fraudulent, in theory and in practice. The international REDD+ and other offset projects are creating carbon violence and chaos. It is time for the California Air Resources Board to weed out REDD+ and carbon offsets permanently and to rectify the damages of carbon trading.

[1] www.britannica.com/technology/emissions-trading; www.wsj.com/articles/SB125011380094927137.

[2] www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Financialization-of-Nature-brochure-English.pdf, 5.

[3] Ibid., 2.

[4] Ibid., 6.

[5] Frédéric Mousseau and Shannon Biggs, “The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda: The Case of Green Resources’ Forestry-Based Carbon Markets,” (Oakland, CA: The Oakland Institute, 2014), 3, www.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files/Report_DarkerSideofGreen_hirez.pdf.

[6] Jon Hilsenrath, “Cap-and-Trade’s Unlikely Critics: Its Creators,” The Wall Street Journal (13 August 2009), www.wsj.com/article_email/SB125011380094927137-IMyQjAxMDI5NTEwMzExMTMzWj.html.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_accounting.

[10] Larry Lohmann, “Toward a Different Debate in Environmental Accounting: The Cases of Carbon and Cost–Benefit,” Accounting, Organizations and Society 34 (April 2009): 499–534.

[11] D. MacKenzie, “Making Things the Same: Gases, Emission Rights and the Politics of Carbon Markets,” Accounting, Organizations and Society 34 (April 2009): 440–455.

[12] Ingmar Lippert, “Extended Carbon Cognition as a Machine,” Computational Culture 1 (2011), computationalculture.net/article/extended-carbon-cognition; Ingmar Lippert, “Carbon Classified? Unpacking Heterogeneous Relations Inscribed into Corporate Carbon Emissions,” Ephemera 12 (2012): 138–161.

[13] Ingmar Lippert, “Enacting Environments: An Ethnography of the Digitalisation and Naturalisation of Emissions” (Ph. D. dissertation, University of Augsburg, 2013).

[14] Frances Bowen and Bettina Wittneben, “Carbon Accounting: Negotiating Accuracy, Consistency and Certainty across Organisational Fields,” Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal 24, no. 8 (2011): 1022–1036.

[15] Ingmar Lippert, “Enacting Environments: An Ethnography of the Digitalisation and Naturalisation of Emissions” (Ph. D. dissertation, University of Augsburg, 2013).

[16] Larry Lohman, “Neoliberalism and the Calculable World: The Rise of Carbon Trading.” In Kean Birch and Vlad Mykhnenko, eds., The Rise and Fall of Neoliberalism: The Collapse of an Economic Order? (London: Zed Books Ltd., 2010), www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/sites/thecornerhouse.org.uk/files/Neolib&Calc.pdf, 9, citing Mark Trexler, “A Statistically Driven Approach to Offset-Based GHG Additionality Determinations: What Can We Learn?” Sustainable Development, Law and Policy 6, no. 2 (January 2006).

[17] www.co2offsetresearch.org/consumer/Additionality.html.

[18] www.britannica.com/technology/emissions-trading.

[19] Shamima Haque and Muhammad Azizul Islam, “Carbon Emission Accounting Fraud,” in Corporate Carbon and Climate Accounting, ed. Stefan Schaltegger, Dimitar Zvezdov, Igor Alvarez Etxeberria, Maria Csutora, and Edeltraud Günther (Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2015), 243-257, papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2771580.

[20] Chris Lang, “The Virtual Economy of REDD: Conflicts of Interest, Hot Air, and Dodgy Baselines,” (2 June 2016), www.redd-monitor.org/2016/06/02/the-virtual-economy-of-redd-conflicts-of-interest-hot-air-and-dodgy-baselines/.

[21] Ibid.

[22] C. Seyller, S. Desbureaux, S. Ongolo, A. Karsenty, G. Simonet, J. Faure, and L. Brimont, “The ‘Virtual Economy’ of REDD+ Projects: Does Private Certification of REDD+ Projects Ensure Their Environmental Integrity?” International Forestry Review, 18, 2 (2016).

[23] Heather Lovell, Thereza Sales de Aguiar, Jan Bebbington, and Carlos Larrinage-Gonzalez, “Accounting for Carbon,” Research Report 122, Certified Accountants Educational Trust for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, in partnership with International Emissions Trading Association (London, 2010), www.accaglobal.com/content/dam/acca/global/PDF-technical/environmental-publications/rr-122-001.pdf.

[24] web.law.columbia.edu/climate-change/resources/international-resources/offsets-protocols.

[25] www.arb.ca.gov/cc/ejac/meetings/06062016/draft_ejac_recommendations052516.pdf, 7.

[26] www.arb.ca.gov/cc/ejac/meetings/041014/appendix_a.pdf, 32.

[27] vjel.vermontlaw.edu/files/2013/06/James-Baker.pdf.

[28] Committee on Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Cooperation on Space and Earth Science Missions, Space Studies Board, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, National Research Council, Assessments of Impediments to Interagency Collaboration on Space and Earth Science Missions, National Academies Press, 2011, 62.

[29] environment.harvard.edu/climate-extremes.

[30] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D._James_Baker.

[31] D. James Baker, Ray Schmitt, and Carl Wunsch, “Endowments and New Institutions for Long-term Observations,” Oceanography 28 (July 2007).

[32] theredddesk.org/countries/actors/clinton-foundation-clinton-climate-initiative.

[33] Werner A. Kurz, “Introduction to the Use of Carbon Accounting Models and How They Could Be Used to Determine a Reference Emissions Level,” at BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes Workshop to Discuss Landscape-Level Carbon Accounting Approaches (Washington, D. C., 2016), 29.

[34] Ibid., 33.

Decision on REDD in California postponed – for a couple of months

Screenshot 2015-04-15 22.21.54Yesterday, California’s Air Resources Board released a preliminary draft of proposed amendments to its Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) aimed at extending the cap and trade scheme beyond 2020. The big news for REDD watchers is that the ARB’s preliminary draft excludes making a decision on whether to allow REDD credits in California’s cap and trade scheme.

The preliminary draft is available here.

Tucked away on page 22 of the The 443-page preliminary draft is the following:

ARB staff is not proposing any regulatory amendments related to sector-based offset crediting or tropical forests in this rulemaking; rather, ARB staff anticipates that ongoing discussions with stakeholders will resume with additional informal public meetings outside of this rulemaking starting in the fall of 2016.

REDD, then, is being given a decision-making process outside the rulemaking process outlined in ARB’s preliminary draft. The REDD process will “resume” in Autumn 2016.

The rulemaking process

The process for the rulemaking (not including REDD) is as follows. On 19 July 2016, the Air Resources Board will present the preliminary draft to the Office of Administrative Law, which will conduct a review of the draft.

The Air Resources Board may revise the draft based on the Office of Administrative Law’s review. On 2 August 2016, the Air Resources Board will post the revised version of the draft on its website.

A formal public comment period will then run from 5 August to 19 September 2016.

On 22-23 September 2016, the Air Resources Board will hold a hearing to discuss the proposed amendments. A second hearing to vote on the proposed amendments will take place on 23-24 March 2017.

The REDD process

Here are the two paragraphs relevant to the decision about REDD in California:

4. Linkage with External Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Systems and Programs

b. Other Linkages and Linkage-Related Partnerships

Sector-Based Crediting Programs, including Acre, Brazil

As described in Chapter I of this Staff Report, ARB held public workshops on a number of topics that helped inform the amendments contained in this proposal. Four of those workshops addressed the potential of approving the use of sector-based offset credits from the tropical forestry sector within the Cap-and-Trade Program by developing a set of regulatory standards against which potential partner jurisdictions’ tropical forestry programs would be assessed for linkage. More information on these workshops is presented in Chapter IX and Appendix F of this Staff Report. ARB staff identified the jurisdictional program in Acre, Brazil as a program that is ready to be considered for linkage with California. ARB staff received numerous informal comments following the workshops. Some comments suggested specific recommended approaches, some opposed any action, some supported ARB staff’s initial thinking as outlined in an October 19, 2015 staff paper and as described in the four workshops, and some recommended that staff conduct additional stakeholder engagement before proposing any regulatory amendments.

ARB staff has presented information about how linkage with a state-of-the-art, jurisdictional sector-based offset program can provide significant benefits to California’s Cap-and-Trade Program by assuring an adequate supply of high-quality compliance offsets to keep the cost of compliance within reasonable bounds, up to the quantitative usage limit for sector-based offsets. Linkage would also support California’s broad climate goals, as well as global biodiversity and tropical forest communities. (ARB 2015a) After reviewing the workshop results, and in order to ensure coordination with Québec and Ontario, ARB staff is proposing to continue discussing with stakeholders and partner jurisdictions, including Acre and others in the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, on the regulatory path to optimize the multiple benefits of including sector-based offsets in California’s program, including through a linkage with Acre, in time to be used to meet compliance obligations incurred in the third compliance period and thereafter. ARB staff is not proposing any regulatory amendments related to sector-based offset crediting or tropical forests in this rulemaking; rather, ARB staff anticipates that ongoing discussions with stakeholders will resume with additional informal public meetings outside of this rulemaking starting in the fall of 2016. These meetings will also solicit and consider additional tools the State of California could employ to mitigate tropical deforestation, including measures to encourage sustainable supply chain efforts by public and private entities.

So discussions on REDD in California will re-start in Autumn 2016, separate from the rulemaking process outlined above.

ARB’s pro-REDD, pro-carbon trading, pro-neoliberal bias

The bias in the second paragraph is blatant. As is the bias in the White Paper on REDD that the Air Resources Board produced in October 2015.

The ARB makes no mention in this second paragraph of the problems associated with REDD, just the “significant benefits” to California’s cap and trade scheme of providing cheap carbon credits.

According to the ARB, REDD would support California’s climate goals. Of course the ARB doesn’t mention the awkward fact that carbon trading does not reduce emissions. For every REDD credit sold from Brazil, an additional tonne of CO2 would be emitted in California.

The ARB argues that REDD will benefit “global biodiversity” and tropical forest communities. Then again, it could undermine peasant farming and lead to increased land conflicts, without protecting biodiversity.

The ARB does not mention the low-income communities and communities of colour in California who are opposed to letting polluting industry continue to poison their air.

Kicking the REDD can down the road

Nevertheless, ARB staff are not proposing making a decision on including REDD in this preliminary draft. Instead ARB proposes discussions with “stakeholders and partner jurisdictions”,

on the regulatory path to optimize the multiple benefits of including sector-based offsets in California’s program, including through a linkage with Acre, in time to be used to meet compliance obligations incurred in the third compliance period and thereafter.

The third compliance period runs from 2018 to 2020.

One possible reason for the ARB’s decision to delay a decision on REDD is to try to avoid additional controversy. The most recent auction sold only 10% of the allowances put up for sale. The cap and trade scheme faces a lawsuit from the Chamber of Commerce that argues that allowance auctions function as a tax – an unconstitutional tax since it was introduced without the two-thirds majority in the Legislature that is required for new taxes.

Brown in talks with big oil

Meanwhile, oil industry leaders are talking to California Governor Jerry Brown’s administration. The purpose of the talks, according to Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, is “to improve the state’s current climate change programs.” WSPA has spent US$12.8 million on lobbying in the 2015-2016 legislative period, making it the top spending lobby group in California.

As Dan Bacher points out,

Underneath California’s reputation as a “green leader” is a dark and oily reality—the state is the third largest petroleum producer in the nation, and the oil industry is California’s largest and most powerful political lobby.

No wonder Brown’s administration is so keen on REDD and carbon trading.