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.”

Epilogue

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:

Proposed_Super_Highway-1

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.”

http://www.law360.com/articles/819284/calif-carbon-plan-puts-rainforest-credits-down-not-out

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]

And:

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]

And:

[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.

Analysis

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.

The virtual economy of REDD: Conflicts of interest, hot air, and dodgy baselines

By Chris Lang
REDD Monitor

In order for REDD projects to generate carbon credits, a “baseline scenario” has to be created. This is supposed to reflect what would have happened under business-as-usual, or what would have happened in the absence of the REDD project.

The baseline is also necessary to show that the REDD project is additional, that the reduced emissions would not have happened without the project.

Conflicts of interest

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.

A new paper published in the International Forestry Review, looks at two REDD projects and asks a series of questions:

  • What can we learn from the study of baseline settings in REDD+ projects?
  • Does it sufficiently address the issues of permanence and additionality?
  • More importantly, can certification standards provide a legitimate guarantee that chosen baselines are reliable measures for predicting CO 2 emissions’ reductions in the long term?

The paper is titled “The ‘virtual economy’ of REDD+ projects: does private certification of REDD+ projects ensure their environmental integrity?“, and the authors are Coline Seyller, Sébastien Desbureaux, Symphorien Ongolo, Alain Karsenty, Gabriela Simonet, Jean-François Faure, and Laura Brimont.

The two projects that the paper looks at are the Mai Ndombe REDD project in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Corridor Ankeniheny-Zahamena REDD project in Madagascar. Both of these projects were certified under the VCS system, in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

The authors note that,

It is tempting for project developers to design a ‘convenient’ baseline scenario to generate more credits in order to seek financial profit or, as currently appears to be the most frequent case, to render a high-cost REDD+ project financially viable.

Mai Ndombe, DRC

The baseline for Mai Ndombe was established, not by looking at historical trends of deforestation in the project area and extrapolating into the future, but by using a reference area.

According to VCS guidelines the reference area does not have to be adjacent to the project area. In the case of Mai Ndombe, the reference area is about 600 kilometres away: the Mayombe forest in Bas-Congo province.

The authors point out that there are important differences between the two areas. Mai Ndombe is a dense, humid forest. Mayombe is a mosaic forest. Mai Ndombe is about 50% further from Kinshasa, the capital of DRC, than Mayombe. Mayombe is close to major shipping harbours. Bas-Congo province has a high population density. Mai Ndombe is sparsely inhabited.

The authors describe the reference area as “a dubious choice”.

The developer of the Mai Ndombe project, Wildlife Works, chose the following baseline scenario:

Where deforestation is initiated by the primary agent through legally-sanctioned commercial harvest and the area is ultimately converted to non-forest by the secondary agent through unplanned deforestation (e.g. subsistence agriculture)…

The authors question the assumption that in the absence of the REDD project, the forest would be logged (legally) and then converted to agriculture by local communities:

Ultimately, the loss of forest cover in DRC depends on many drivers including commercial or illegal logging, mining, farming and industrial agriculture. The weight of each driver on deforestation and forest degradation may reflect the degree of compliance with the law by logging/mining/agricultural companies, the local context of poverty and land tenure, and overall, the capacity of state bureaucracies to implement an efficient command and control system.

Corridor Ankeniheny-Zahamena, Madagascar

The CAZ project, set up by Conservation International, also uses a “questionable” reference area. The reference area in this case is 22 times the size of the project area.

Differences between the reference area and the project area include elevations and slopes, farming practices, and population density (the reference area is more densely populated than the project area). The authors conclude that, “there are major differences between the CAZ project area and its reference area.”

There are differences in the deforestation rates in the two area. The reference area has an annual deforestation rate between 1% and 1.26%. In the project area the annual rate is somewhere between 0.5% and 0.6%.

In its project design document, Conservation International takes the higher rate of deforestation for the reference area as a baseline scenario. And then assumes this same rate to be the historical rate of deforestation in the project area!

“The deforestation rate inside a well-established protected area is 0.20%/yr, being an 84% reduction of the historical deforestation rate within CAZ 1.26%/yr).”

The authors point out that without doing anything on the ground, Conservation International could, on paper at least, reduce deforestation by half. This, the authors note, with a hint of academic dryness, “could lead to the so-called ‘hot air’ phenomenon”.

Baselines are “untestable guesses”

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”.

[W]ith REDD+ projects there is a kind of irreducible uncertainty regarding what the ‘right reference scenario’ should be. Our case studies show that only small differences in baseline scenarios – whether designed intentionally or not – can have severe financial (positive for business actors) and environmental (negative for the climate) consequences. The interest of the project developers is obvious: as the market price of carbon credits falls, the financial viability of a project (that relies on the carbon market for financing) declines. ‘Optimizing’ the parameters, notably those related to baseline settings, seems to be the only way to maintain the viability of a project’s business model.

The authors of the paper are careful to talk about project developers “optimizing the parameters” or using a “convenient baseline scenario”.

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 VCS, are complicit in this fraud.

Greenpeace opposes REDD offsets in California. But that’s not what EDF’s Steve Schwartzman wants you to think

by Chris Lang – REDD Monitor

At a recent workshop in Sacramento, Environmental Defense Fund’s Steve Schwartzman was waving around copies of a letter in favour of California using REDD offsets in its cap and trade scheme. Following the letter was a list of NGO logos, including that of Greenpeace Brazil. But Greenpeace has consistently opposed REDD offsets in California. How did Greenpeace’s logo appear on a letter supporting REDD?

California’s Air Resources Board is currently considering whether to include REDD offsets in its cap and trade scheme (AB 32). The ARB is holding a series of technical workshops about this proposal, one of which took place in Sacramento on 28 April 2016.

The day before the workshop, Carlos Rittl, Executive Secretary of the Climate Observatory, a coalition of 40 NGOs in Brazil, sent a letter to California’s Governor, Jerry Brown. The letter was in support of California including REDD in AB 32:

We write to express the support of the Brazilian Climate Observatory to the State of California for its significant efforts to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions domestically, and also for considering the importance of tropical forest conservation and the involvement of local communities in these efforts.

A day after the workshop in Sacramento, Steve Schwartzman, Senior Director of tropical forest policy at the Environmental Defense Fund referred to the letter in a tweet:

Schwartzman
The link in Schwartzman’s tweet is to the letter from Carlos Rittl, posted on EDF’s website.

Manufacturing consent

For the meeting in Sacramento, Schwartzman printed out copies of the letter. Schwartzman’s version of the letter was the same as that on EDF’s website, but with one very important difference. Schwartzman had added several pages to the letter, featuring the logos of the member organisations of Climate Observatory – including Greenpeace Brazil.

A few days later, Jonah Busch at the Center for Global Development, tweeted about Schwartzman’s version of the letter:

Busch
A colleague sent REDD-Monitor a link to Busch’s tweet, with the following comment:

“I have to admit that I’m more than average surprised that Greenpeace supports to include REDD+ as an offset mechanism in California.”

I was also surprised, given Greenpeace’s vocal opposition to California’s REDD plans.

So I asked Greenpeace about this. And Greenpeace asked Climate Observatory. Very soon, a clarification letter appeared from Carlos Rittl. It turns out that the original letter to California’s Governor Brown was signed by Rittl only. It was a “network-led initiative that contains its single signature”.

Rittl’s explanatory letter is posted below. Busch, at least, tweeted Rittl’s clarification.

Schwartzman didn’t bother.

2016-05-31-152458_828x965_scrot

To whom it may concern.

The Brazilian Climate Observatory (OC) is a network comprising a broad spectrum of Brazilian civil society organizations. OC’s positions and recommendations on any issue are developed after consultation processes among its members aiming to reach consensus.

OC’s position about any given issue represents the average views of its members, and does not necessarily correspond to any individual organizations’ views or positions on the same specific subject.

OC has recently submitted a letter to the Honorable Governor of California, Mr. Jerry Brown, expressing its support for the inclusion of REDD+ activities on the States’ AB32 program. That letter was a network-led initiative that contains its single signature.

It has come to our attention that third parties have shared that letter with stakeholders from different groups in the United States alongside a list of OC members, without previous consent of any or all network members. Unfortunately, that could have been mistakenly understood as a list of associated signatures to the letter from each individual OC member. That was not the case. The referred members list does not represent a list of additional signatures to the letter.

Greenpeace Brazil is one of OC members. Its well-known public positions, as well as the positions Greenpeace International, Greenpeace US or any other Greenpeace national organization, have not changed and do not endorse the inclusion of REDD+ activities in any offset mechanism or legislation worldwide. However, during the Climate Observatory internal consultation process, Greenpeace Brazil has kindly not expressed its opposition to the OC letter to the Governor of California as a matter of respect to the views of some other members.

In last few days, external stakeholders have approached Greenpeace USA about the issue with questions related to its positions on the subject of the letter. Therefore, I hereby certify what has been already stated above. The letter to Governor of California expresses the average views of OC members for its own position on the issue only. It was not signed by OC individual members and do not necessarily expresses the position of each network’s member organizations.

2016-05-31-152715_828x965_scrot

Indigenous Peoples denounce carbon offsets at United Nations; Demand Cancellation of REDD+

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 18, 2016

New York – A false solution to climate change known as REDD+ causes conflict and is a new form of colonialism and must be immediately canceled, Indigenous Peoples denounced at the United Nations. REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is a carbon offset mechanism that uses Nature as a sponge for greenhouse gas pollution instead of cutting emissions at source.

“The sacred air we breathe is being sold to the highest bidder. We implore the UN to have compassion for humanity and Mother Earth by immediately canceling carbon trading, carbon offsets, and REDD+ projects in or near Indigenous Peoples’ lands and territories” said Calfin Lafkenche of the Mapuche Nation in Chile.

“We are here today in the UN to stop the offensive of the Green Economy and its market systems of carbon trading, carbon offsets, the Clean Development Mechanism, and REDD+, which constitute a new form of colonialism and have caused conflicts, forced relocation, threats to the cultural survival and violations of the rights of Indigenous peoples, especially the rights to life, to lands and territories, and to free, prior and informed consent,” said the Mapuche leader.

Over 1500 native leaders are attending the 15th session of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which is addressing conflict and climate today.

“For centuries, Indigenous Peoples have suffered from colonialism and genocide. Now the United Nations itself is promoting false solutions to climate change that imperil the very survival of our peoples and Mother Earth. We are on the frontlines of protracted conflicts with governments and extractive industries that want to steal our land, territories and resources. We are also on the frontlines of climate change and the false solutions to climate change like REDD. As Guardians of Mother Earth we should be protected and honored not persecuted and threatened with new forms of genocide,” noted Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director, of Indigenous Environmental Network.

“To really address the issues of conflict, the UN needs to heal its relation with Mother Earth and stop promoting false solutions to climate change that threaten the survival not only of our peoples but of all of humanity. The UN’s Paris Agreement on climate does not cut emissions at the source and treats Nature as capital with no real nor effective safeguard mechanisms that could guarantee the prevention of land grabs and the protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples. The Paris Agreement is a crime against humanity and Mother Earth.”

“The Paris Agreement is a trade agreement, nothing more. It promises to privatize, commodify and sell forest and agriculture lands as carbon offsets in fraudulent schemes such as REDD+. These offset scams provide financial laundering mechanisms for developed countries to launder their carbon pollution in the Global South. Case-in-point, the United States’ climate change plan includes 250 million megatons to be absorbed by oceans and forest offset markets. Essentially, those responsible for the climate crisis not only get to buy their way out of compliance but they also get to profit from it as well,” says Alberto Saldamando, human and Indigenous rights expert and attorney with the Indigenous Environmental Network.

####
Learn more at: no-redd.com

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
UNHQ, New York, May 18, 2016

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

On behalf of the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Indigenous Educational Network of Turtle Island,

I would like to make the following recommendation to stop the offensive of the Green Economy against Indigenous Peoples that is creating new sources of conflict for Indigenous Peoples by commodifying, privatizing and selling the sacred air that we breath, the sky, the forests, the soil, the fields, the wetlands, the mangroves and even the deserts, as well as promoting genetically engineered trees, and greenwashing extractive industries like Shell Oil, Chevron and the Rio Tinto mining company.

The recommendation reads as follows:

1. The Permanent Forum recognizes that carbon trading, carbon offsets, the Clean Development Mechanism, and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) even in its pilot phase, constitute a new form of colonialism and have caused conflicts, forced relocation, threats to the cultural survival and violations of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, consecrated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, especially the rights to life, to lands and territories, and to free, prior and informed consent.

2. With compassion for humanity and Mother Earth, the Permanent Forum recommends the immediate cancellation of carbon trading, carbon offsets, the Clean Development Mechanism and REDD projects in or near Indigenous Peoples’ lands and territories, including those to be implemented under the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Convention Framework on Climate Change as “results-based payments” and the emerging Global Market-Based Mechanism, as well as under voluntary carbon markets including under the auspices of the aviation industry.

California EPA Live Webcasts – Cap-and-Trade Workshop – Sector based

Cap-and-Trade Workshop – Sector based – English:

CalEPA Headquarters, Byron Sher Auditorium, 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM – Coordinator: Sean Donovan sdonovan@arb.ca.gov File: 491820

Video: http://www.calepa.ca.gov/broadcast/player/?group=LiveVideo&source=byron&id=491820

Audio: http://www.calepa.ca.gov/broadcast/player/?group=LiveAudio&source=byron&id=491820

Cap-and-Trade Workshop – Sector based – Spanish:

Video: http://www.calepa.ca.gov/broadcast/player/?group=LiveVideo&source=vtc01&id=497698

Audio: http://www.calepa.ca.gov/broadcast/player/?group=LiveAudio&source=vtc01&id=497698

Seeing REDD: Communities, Forests and Carbon trading in Nigeria – New Report

Forest-REDD-NigeriaA new report released today highlights how forest dependent communities in Cross River State, southeast Nigeria, are losing rights and livelihoods, as their forests are being locked down by the government, which seeks cash through a United Nations backed ‘carbon trading’ scheme, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT HERE.

The report, ‘Seeing REDD: Communities, Forests and Carbon trading in Nigeria’, by Nigerian organisation, Social Action, was presented today in Lima, Peru at an event at the People’s Summit on Climate Change, which coincides with the 20th Conference of Parties (COP20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in the Peruvian capital city.

The report shows how the implementation of the REDD+ mechanism is having a devastating effect on the economies of affected communities around the Cross River forests. With neither adequate consultation nor alternative livelihood options, community members, who have depended on the forests for generations, are now being victimised by government agents following a ban imposed on economic and cultural activities in the delineated forests. Thus, REDD+ has restricted access to forests where indigenous communities gather food, medicine and energy. Local nutrition and livelihoods are seriously threatened and the attendant scarcity of food products caused by government’s actions have led to increase in the prices of basic food products. Ironically, higher wood prices, occasioned by REDD+, is encouraging illegal logging in the forests.

The report shows how communities are grappling with being implicated in the false solutions to the problem of climate change. While community members suffer the negative effects of climate change which they did not create, they are, through schemes like REDD, liable to being criminalised in the process of enforcing carbon market policies.

“The reduction of emissions from fossil fuels should be the main goal. But measures like REDD+ are diversionary market schemes which are driven by those who cannot see beyond profits”, according to Isaac ‘Asume’ Osuoka, Director of Social Action. “Communities that depend on the forests are at risk of human rights violations, as authorities could now see them as impediments to maintaining the carbon marketing potentials of forests. Unfortunately, there is no corresponding mitigation of climate change, as we are seeing.”

With REDD+, greenhouse gas polluting countries and companies in the developed world could pay for schemes that promise to reduce deforestation in the developing countries. Thus, developing countries, especially African countries having vast expanse of tropical forests, become ‘sinks’ for greenhouse gases, most of which are emitted from developed countries.

“This is a new form of colonialism”, according to Nnimmo Bassey, Coordinator of Health of the Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF). “REDD+ is subjugating African communities and driving new land grabs akin to the colonisation of the continent.”

With the ongoing UN climate conference seeking agreements for global action including the implementation of REDD+ mechanism, citizens groups at the People’s Summit are demanding people-oriented measures that will actually curtail climate change worldwide.

Other speakers at the event included Ruth Nyambura of the African Biodiversity Network, Kenya, Tom Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network, USA and Cassandra Smithies, a researcher/campaigner on climate justice.

Download the Report here

Source: http://www.premiumtimesng.com/regional/172824-new-report-highlights-problems-forest-carbon-trading-scheme-nigeria.html

INVESTIGATION: How a $4 million UN climate programme impoverished Nigerian communities

April 21, 2016
Ini Ekott

 

A patch of forest in Akamkpa, Cross River State. The state holds over half of Nigeria's standing rainforest

A patch of forest in Akamkpa, Cross River State. The state holds over half of Nigeria’s standing rainforest

Things were looking up for William Obio when he decided to invest more in his logging business. For the first time in years, his nine children and three brothers were eating well, and he could support his over half-a-dozen team of machine operators, saw men, scouts, and wood carriers.

Such success, rare in Owai, a heavily forested and impoverished community less than 20 kilometres from Nigeria’s southern border with Cameroon, emboldened Mr. Obio. He took a chance and purchased a small cassava crushing machine and got more saws.

“God answered our prayers; things really changed,” said the part-time pastor.

Everything indeed changed in 2008, Mr. Obio said, when the Cross River government imposed a sweeping ban on forest use in the state’s 18 local government areas, including Mr. Obio’s Akamkpa – where Owai is located.

Governor Liyel Imoke had said wealthy merchants, mostly from outside the state, were taking advantage of lax laws to deplete the state’s forest cover.

The site of more than half of Nigeria’s remaining rainforest, the governor warned, Cross River needed to save its green stock to boost investment and tourism. Under this plan, the state would become Nigeria’s pilot site for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), a United Nations climate change mitigation programme that offers payment to states and communities for conserving their forest.

For a state that had lost monthly federal payments to oil producing states, following the ceding of oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon in 2008, the proposal drew wide support. Besides, Cross River’s forest cover had declined from 7,920 to 6,102 square kilometres between 1991 and 2008, according to figures from Nigeria’s Ministry of Environment.

In the years that followed, the government fiercely enforced the embargo and chased out local traders like Obio, seized wood, and raided timber markets. Officials also stopped locals from hunting game and fetching bush mango and afang – popular delicacies in the region.

William Obio sits in front of a small shop he managed to set up after the forest ban cut off his source of livelihood

William Obio sits in front of a small shop he managed to set up after the forest ban cut off his source of livelihood

As the new policy disrupted traditional livelihoods many forest communities relied on, the government failed to provide alternative means of support, despite making clear that promised benefits from REDD+ payments would take years to come.

Michael Eraye, Cross River State’s Commissioner of Environment told PREMIUM TIMES that the government did make efforts to equip those affected with new skills, but poor funding affected the plans. He said the government built roads in affected areas, as part of its compensation plans.

Salisu Dahiru, Nigeria’s UN-REDD Coordinator, said efforts to find affected communities and determine how their livelihoods are linked to the forest, were ongoing. But he acknowledged that training programmes had yet to commence nearly eight years after the first ban, and four years after the start of the REDD+ programme.

Meanwhile, only a few years after the REDD+ initiative got underway in Cross River State, Governor Imoke, who had once championed the programme, quietly began to back away even as the ban continued. In May 2015, days before leaving office after eight years as governor, Mr. Imoke told shocked officials that REDD+ did not return on investment.

“I got to the point when I felt that it was not worth my effort,” Mr. Imoke said, according to the UN-REDD National Programme Semi-Annual Report January to June 2015 edition. Two senior officials who attended the meeting confirmed the former governor made those remarks. They said the governor directed his comments at Odigha Odigha, head of the state forestry commission at the time.

The report said months before the meeting, state officials demonstrated diminishing interest in REDD+, and the ambitious programme began to stall.

The first phase, known as the Readiness Phase, is now set to end in December 2016, nearly two years later than originally intended. Local communities will have to wait much longer for REDD+ resource-based payments, if they ever come. While they wait, little to no help has come from the state.

A PREMIUM TIMES’ examination of Cross River State’s anti-deforestation and climate change mitigation programme, which began in 2008, shows how the implementation of an otherwise well-intentioned policy deprived forest-dependent communities of their primary source of livelihood. It also provides a glimpse into the abuse and policy missteps that characterised the government’s execution of the programme.

For this report, this newspaper reviewed relevant documents on the project and interviewed several state and national officials, community members and leaders, traders, civil society members, and officials of the United Nations’ REDD programme over a period of three months.

Living off the forest

Forests play an integral role in regulating the amount of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. When present, they absorb carbon emitted by human activity—an estimated 25 per cent of these emissions over the past four decades—and help moderate the effects of climate change. When lost through deforestation, they release carbon back into the atmosphere and are responsible for up to 20 per cent of global manmade carbon dioxide emissions.

REDD+ is a global mechanism designed to reward governments in developing nations for preserving forests and constraining the impacts of climate change. To date, REDD+ has pledged nearly US$ 10 billion to developing countries, with $4 million allocated for Nigeria’s National Programme, of which Cross River State is a pilot model.

TimelineThe first formal steps taken by the Governor Imoke administration toward monetizing Cross River State’s vast forest resources began in October 2009, a year after the forest embargo went into effect. Mr. Imoke worked with the then Minister of the Environment, John Odey, a Cross River native, to apply to be part of REDD+.

In addition to joining the Governors’ Climate and Forest Task Force, based in the United States, Mr. Imoke attended COP 15 in Copenhagen later that year, where he announced efforts to protect Cross River’s tropical forests.

In April 2010, Nigeria became a UN-REDD partner country, and from then, followed through with a series of REDD+ programmes.

Despite such efforts, the government failed to provide economic relief for the local population and did not fully engage with them before and after the ban, those interviewed told PREMIUM TIMES.

Tony Attah, in charge of the Cross River forestry commission’s outreach programmes, acknowledged that the ban and initial phase of REDD+ were not well communicated. Despite initial missteps, he said that extensive community engagements were carried out by the state between January and August 2014.

Many environmentalists who support forest conservation, however, have taken issue with the REDD+ programme, blaming it for loss of indigenous land rights and branding it as property colonisation by developed nations. They also argue that the programme lacks mechanisms to ensure pledged payments reach affected people and are not pocketed by greedy politicians or other representatives.

They argue that forest-dependent communities like Mr. Obio’s Owai, who have yet to receive any payments years after the forest ban went into place, are made to pay more than their fair share for environmental clean-up, and for the pollution caused by developed countries.

“REDD is a dangerous eco-business,” said the NGO group, Environmental Rights Action, as Cross River State entered the early stages of preparing to implement the programme. “It enriches polluters and impoverishes forest community people who have conserved the forests over the years.”

Uncertain futures

The Cross River timber union has said thousands of its members and affiliate workers, lost their livelihood—some, allegedly, even their lives—after the ban. They include timber dealers, machine operators, saw men, scouts, and carriers.

“Our members lost out when the ban started, some died of shock. Many lost everything they had,” said David Essien, the head of Akim Timber Market union, the biggest timber market in the state.

Reliable statistics depicting such damage are hard to come by in the state, but studies conducted in the area paint a gloomy picture.

Workers seen at Akim timber market, Calabar, Cross River State

Workers seen at Akim timber market, Calabar, Cross River State

The Social Development Integrated Centre, a Port Harcourt-based policy analysis group, in a 2014 report on the impact of REDD in Cross River, concluded that “the move towards REDD has been made without any clear community development programme that addresses livelihoods and income generation alternatives for forest dependent communities”.

Before 2008, to harvest timber in Cross River, the state required loggers to pay between N20, 000 (US$102) and N50, 000 (US$254)—of which 70 per cent went to communities as royalty. Dealers were also required to plant five seedlings as replacement, and be cleared or “stamped” by forestry commission officials that harvested timber was mature.

The ban stopped the royalty and kept communities from harvesting wood even to build their homes, said Oyi Akama, the village head of Owai. Importantly, it kept many youth out of work.

Stephen Mbeh, head of nearby Oban town, told PREMIUM TIMES how a government task force twice seized timber he harvested to construct a home. He succeeded the third time after young people in the town helped ward off the enforcers.

“This is our own oil. This is all we have, and even to cut mango at your backyard, we could not,” he said..

Oyi Akama, the village head of Owai community, Akamkpa, Cross River

Oyi Akama, the village head of Owai community, Akamkpa, Cross River

Mr. Obio began his lumber business in Owai, a small community with no access road, electricity or potable water, in 1998. His mother, the family’s breadwinner, had died five years earlier.

After getting clearance from the government to harvest from areas with mature timber, Obio logged at least once a week and sold to buyers from distant towns. “We were beginning to do well a little. I even paid fees for my brothers,” he said.

By the time the ban came into force, Mr. Obio’s business was booming. He purchased six sawing machines and had broken ground on a block family home—a rarity in Owai where the majority of people live in mud houses.

He initially brushed off the news as rumour when he heard about the ban on the radio—as many others did—in August 2008. Two days later, he says, he saw members of the state anti-deforestation task force rounding up a man who frequently bought timber from him. The operatives confiscated the logs and forced the man to drive to Calabar, the state capital.

“That was when I knew it was serious,” Mr. Obio said.

In the days that followed, a brutal crackdown unfolded. The taskforce barred Obio and others from removing harvested wood from the forests. This claim was echoed by other timber dealers PREMIUM TIMES interviewed in the region.

Anietie Bassey, vice president of a timber market in Calabar, said the task force not only seized his timber, but also seven of his sawing machines during a raid in 2010. Mr. Bassey suffered a stroke shortly after the incident, an ailment he says was brought on by the loss of his business. He is yet to fully recover.

“I am a dead man…a dead man!” Mr. Bassey said repeatedly during an interview recently. “What can I do?”

Mr. Obio said he lost four of his six sawing machines in a similar raid.

Anietie Bassey, vice president of MCC timber market, Calabar

Anietie Bassey, vice president of MCC timber market, Calabar

“A lawless task-force”

Seized machines and timber were never recovered. Those arrested were freed after the payment of fines ranging between N150, 000 to N1 million, dealers said.

Those interviewed, including government officials, community leaders, timber traders and activists, accused the armed taskforce of violating people’s rights—even attacking dealers with supplies from outside the state—and arbitrarily detaining people and seizing their equipment for years after the ban went into effect.

The head of the taskforce at the time, Peter Jenkins, told PREMIUM TIMES he could not immediately respond to the claims without knowledge of where they originated from. The communities, he said, initially told the government they needed roads and some were indeed provided. Though he defended the government’s policy, he acknowledged that more could have been done to ease the impact of the ban.

Asked about allegations of highhandedness, Odigha Odigha, the former chairman of Cross River’s forestry commission, told PREMIUM TIMES that the taskforce refused to submit to his supervision.

He said Mr. Jenkins repeatedly told him, “Odigha you know I don’t report to you, I report to the governor.”

Odigha Odigha, former chairman, Cross River’s Forestry Commission

Odigha Odigha, former chairman, Cross River’s Forestry Commission

Two senior forestry commission officials in Calabar, who asked not to be named, told PREMIUM TIMES that they believed both the ban and its implementation were flawed.

“The ban on logging was wrong, but its implementation was worse. The anti-deforestation task force was supposed to be under the forestry commission, but it was lawless, reporting directly to the governor,” the first official said.

“REDD did not say don’t cut down trees, it is a wrong perception. You can’t say don’t cut down the forest without alternatives,” said the second. She also spoke of a “lawless taskforce”.

Edem Edem, the programme coordinator of Green Concern for Development, an environmental advocacy group in Abuja, said he initially supported the ban until “they started violating people’s rights”.

“That was when I backed off,” Mr. Edem said.

Dangote gets concession, communities don’t

Initial funding for the $4 million project was meant to finance preliminary REDD+ processes like preparing an action plan, training officials, providing environmental and social safeguards, and others. The money was not meant for the communities. Mr. Edem said the state spent much of its budget organising endless “workshops and seminars”.

Regarding community engagement, the Nigerian National Programme’s Annual UN-REDD Report for 2014 said, “few initiatives exist, yet they are dispersed, with no guidelines and no funding for community REDD+ projects and for REDD+ pilots.”

Bridget Nkor, the state coordinator of REDD+, told PREMIUM TIMES that the state was worried about not providing alternatives for the affected communities. “That is one area that raised a lot of concerns,” she said.

Due to the structure of the REDD+ programme, it’s likely that any economic benefit for affected people could take years to materialise.

But Mr. Dahiru, the national coordinator for the programme, used the example of a charcoal vendor to illustrate the impacts that REDD+ programs can have on local communities.

Instead of continuing to use wood—which destroys the forest—REDD will support the person with needed skills to grow bamboo, he said.

“The bamboo can mature in one year, and reach full maturity to give you charcoal in three years,” Mr. Dahiru said. “And bamboo, once planted, will continue to grow. When you harvest this year, the other offshoot will continue to grow, and there is almost no limit to what you can do to the bamboo.”

The only problem is that the REDD+ programme would not directly support the funding needs of such initiatives. Though it could help those trained receive support from donors at the later Investment Phase, this third stage could take five or more years to attain.

Such trainings in Cross River State are currently targeted at only 30 pilot communities. Even so, they remain mere proposals seven years after the first ban started. An October 2015 UN-REDD progress report said proposals had been submitted and approved, but implementation would not start until late 2016, four years after the REDD+ project started.

Activists say a rapid response should come from the state government, which so far has done little in support of the communities.

Despite the ban on community use of the forest, the state government under Mr. Imoke granted bigger business interests access to the same land, and allowed it to harvest and sell timber to local dealers.

One firm given such a concession is Dansa Allied Agro, a subsidiary of the Dangote Group that is owned by Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man. The company secured over 75,000 hectares of land at Oban community for its pineapple farm, used as the fruit base for the popular Dansa beverage.

Tons of timber sourced from the land during clearing process were sold to local dealers, for months under the protection of the government taskforce, PREMIUM TIMES confirmed from several government officials and traders.

Dansa Company did not deny it sold timber, when contacted.

Pressed on the propriety of such deal when locals had been barred with no alternatives, a senior Dangote group official told PREMIUM TIMES that the company has helped the community in many other ways, like providing jobs and palm seedlings to farmers. The company promised a formal response to our questions, but never followed up.

The forestry commission explained the concession, saying that despite the ban, the Ministries of Land and Agriculture retained the right to licence promising investors.

The Dangote group got the sprawling property with a promise to provide 10,000 jobs to locals, build a five-star hotel, roads, schools, and a mini market. The company has yet to make good on many of its promises.

At an elaborate event March 2014, Governor Imoke praised Dansa Allied Agro for donating 8,000 palm oil seedlings to host communities and constructing a bridge to link Oban, Okarara, Ekong Anaku, Neghe, and Ekpene Eki communities.

Mr. Dangote’s brother, Sani Dangote, who runs the Dansa affiliate, promised that the company would provide more oil palm seedlings and said Dansa was planting five trees for every one harvested during the clearing.

“Not worth my effort”

Overall, steps that could have quickened the delivery of REDD+ benefits to the communities and the state faced delays and haphazard implementation due to “dwindling political will”, according to the UN’s 2015 progress report.

An earlier progress report in 2014 noted that the programme “has suffered an important delay in delivery of outputs and finance, due to a mix of factors, some internal and some external”.

One senior official said part of the problem was because the forestry commission had “serious leadership problems”.

“For example, a politician was named as head of the REDD board, and when the board was dissolved, there was no replacement,” the official told PREMIUM TIMES. Nearly two years would pass before the state finally reconstituted the REDD+ board in October 2015.

As Governor Imoke prepared to leave office in May 2015, he issued a scathing criticism of the state’s REDD+ programme.

The time it would take to receive results-based payments was “ridiculously long for anybody to earn anything,” said Mr. Imoke during his handover remarks before top level civil servants and his successor, Ben Ayade.

Alluding to the violation of the state’s deforestation ban by large corporations, Mr. Imoke said although there was an “opening for sustainable management within the framework of REDD+,” the forestry commission lacked the capacity to manage sustainable logging in the face of “corporations [that] come in with so much money they can corrupt anyone.”

Sources say the governor admitted that he “got to the point when I felt that it’s not worth my effort…I won’t insist on sustaining it to the incoming governor, because it’s not giving any return.”

Mr. Odigha, the former forestry commission chairman, whom officials said was the focus of the governor’s criticisms during the meeting, told PREMIUM TIMES that everyone involved in the programme had been well advised that the REDD+ programme takes years to yield benefits.

When asked about claims that he might have misadvised the governor, Mr. Odigha said that “anyone saying that does not know how REDD works. All over the world, REDD is not implemented as a stand-alone.”

The UN report for October 2015 supported the notion that senior forestry commission staff also became detached from the programme—ostensibly following the governor’s example.

“Despite participation in various one-off training and workshop events, only a handful of FC staff understand the fundamentals of REDD+ and fewer have shown interest in the programme,” the report noted.

Mr. Imoke did not respond to multiple calls for comments. He requested questions to be sent via text message, but he ultimately did not respond to our inquiry.

On shaky ground

Former Cross River Governor, Liyel Imoke

Former Cross River Governor, Liyel Imoke

Mr. Imoke’s successor, Ben Ayade, only agreed to continue with REDD+ after the national coordinator, Salisu Dahiru, intervened.

The new governor initially relaxed the ban and replaced the anti-deforestation task force with the “green police,” which was made up of members from all local government areas of the state. He left coordination of the partial ban to the forestry commission.

Since taking over, Mr. Ayade also named a ministry in charge of climate change – the only state in Nigeria to do so. The commissioner in charge of that ministry, Alice Eku, did not also respond to request for comment.

Despite the relaxed embargo, Obio William told PREMIUM TIMES that he would never return to timber trading, as the government could always reinstate a full ban. “I don’t want to die,” he said.

He foresaw tomorrow. About two weeks after we interviewed him, the Ayade administration reinstated a full ban on forest use in late October 2015 after a five-month hiatus.

Mr. Ayade courted additional controversy with a plan to build a 260 kilometre “superhighway” through the protected forests. Initial plans to construct the highway straight through Cross River National Park, however, were changed after President Muhammadu Buhari learned that a required environmental impact assessment had not been filed. The new route will come within seven kilometres from the border of the park, which some environmentalists say still poses risk.

The governor has also revoked the occupancy rights of thousands of more forest dependent villagers on ancestral lands on either side of the six lane 260 kilometre super highway.

Mr. Odigha, who now runs a nongovernmental environment advocacy, warned that the government’s superhighway could deny the state carbon credit under the REDD+ programme.

“The REDD Programme had $12 million dollars for carbon credit paid to any country and community that meets its requirements for reducing carbon emission through forest conservation,” he was quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria as saying on March 12, 2016. “Even the rural people would benefit from this carbon credit, and it would serve as means of their livelihood.”

In Owai, Mr. Obio—who said he could barely feed himself and family after the ban in 2008—now sells pepper, salt and other food ingredients. He depends on Ekum Obio, his brother he helped train, to send his children to school.

Outside where he lives sits a rundown cassava grating machine he bought before the ban. The machine became useless after he could no longer replace parts. Nearby, the block house he had proudly started constructing at the height of his timber business sits unfinished and overgrown with weeds.

Ubong Edet contributed to this investigation.

 

We Denounce and Resist the Green Economy’s Impacts on Women and Forests

Declaration by the World Rainforest Movement (WRM), March 2016

To Berta Cáceres and the Lenca People, the struggle continues!

In March, the world commemorates two important dates: International Women’s Day (March 8) and International Day of Forests (March 21).  Women play a key role in the conservation of and struggles to defend forests, water and land.  The misnamed “Green Economy,” rooted in the patriarchal capitalist system, generates and deepens gender injustice—especially and disproportionately impacting women.
In recent years, “official” discussions on the importance of forests have gained such notoriety, that the United Nations General Assembly decided to launched the International Day of Forests in 2013, with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of forests.  However, these discussions do not address the direct and underlying causes of deforestation, quite the opposite.  Forests and the biological diversity they contain have been reduced to providers of “ecosystem services,” which can be assigned an economic value; allowing for the expansion of corporate opportunities for profit.  This process is part of the “Green Economy,” (1) and it is intensified by the United Nations’ and FAO’s erroneous definition of forests, which does not distinguish them from monoculture tree plantations. (2)

The “Green Economy” does not mean transforming the current economy into a non-harmful one that respects forests and recognizes the importance of the people who depend on them.  On the contrary, its proponents seek something very different.  The forests of the “Green Economy” reinforce the colonial notion of “preserving” a collection of species that must remain untouched by humans.  Denying the role that people have played in forest conservation over thousands of years especially impacts women.  It is precisely women who have played a key role in the conservation and traditional use of forests, the transmission of traditional knowledge, and the provision of food, water and medicine for their communities.  They also have a leading role in resistance struggles to defend their territories.

The “Green Economy” has facilitated the spread of offset projects, such as REDD+ and biodiversity compensation mechanisms, where polluting companies responsible for deforestation can continue their activities by claiming they are “offsetting” the destruction they cause.  Thus, forests are in service to the same oppressive and patriarchal economy that continues unabated, with its attendant destruction.

And what has happened to women in this “Green Economy” push?

“Conservation” projects like REDD+ tend to impose a host of restrictions on communities’ traditional use of forests, arguing that these traditional uses are the main cause of deforestation.  Meanwhile, they allow the expansion of oil, gas and mining exploitation, industrial monoculture plantations, the construction of mega highways and dams, among other projects.

Experience with REDD+ and similar projects and programs has shown how these projects drastically change the lives of forest-dependent communities.  They are imposed without proper consultation, let alone consent, and they have deprived communities’ access to their territories and forests vital to their survival (3).  Communities that have lived in forests for countless generations now face laws, regulations and contracts that seek to prevent them from continuing their traditions, livelihoods and ways of life.  And those communities facing growing capitalist exploitation must continue fighting eviction, pollution and the violence that this entails.  In this context, women are greatly affected.

The dominant patriarchal system has assigned to women the tasks of food provision, housework and family care. Prohibiting and restricting their use of forests implies a greater and more difficult workload for women, in order to carry out the tasks of subsistence farming, collecting water and medicines, etc.  In addition, the increased workload further limits women’s possibilities to actively participate in decision-making processes, to which they are invaluable and which are important to women, too. The Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on Climate Change against REDD+ states that “REDD+ clearly constitutes a new form of violence against women, because it limits or prevents their access to land where they grow and harvest food and obtain water for their families.” (4)  In rural communities throughout the world, such activities are mostly in women’s hands; even as they own less, inherit less and generally have less access to community assets.

Another negative impact of the “Green Economy” specifically affecting women is the increase in violence by police forces that companies or states hire to monitor these projects.  There are numerous accounts of women telling of violence police exert upon breaking into houses and carrying weapons without authorization (5).

An attack on food sovereignty, territory and communities’ autonomy is a direct attack on the vital role of women.

The logic of the “Green Economy” increases economic and political interests in land. On the one hand, offset mechanisms facilitate extractive activities, plantations, dams, infrastructure, etc.—intensifying the destruction.  And on the other hand, land grabbing of forest areas for “conservation” projects that house “ecosystem services,” craved by capital interests, further increases pressure on territories. This double land grabbing has consequently led to an increase in conflict and sparked resistance struggles. This in turn has led to militarization and the use of satellite and drone technologies to conduct surveillance on communities living in forest areas that have been designated as “ecosystem services” providers. This significantly increases the violence.

Women are central in processes of resistance to the “Green Economy,” just as they are in processes of building other paths toward radical, supportive and restorative social transformation.  As Berta Cáceres, defender of the Lenca people asserted: In our worldview, we are beings that come from the earth, the water and the corn. The Lenca people are ancestral custodians of the rivers, and we are protected by spirits of the girls who teach us that giving life in many ways to defend rivers is giving life for the good of humanity and this planet….Merely contemplating the self-destruction caused by capitalist, racist and patriarchal pillaging will shake our consciences.

There are countless examples of organizations and struggles led by the strength of women—walking together, learning, building solidarity and inventing new ways of creative and courageous resistance.

We stand in solidarity with the struggles of women defending forests and land.

  1. See WRM Newsletter 222. “The Green Economy: giving
    (2) Watch WRM’s video about the FAO’s promotion of the International Day of Forests , http://wrm.org.uy/other-relevant-information/in-relation-to-water-plantations-are-not-forests-either/
    (3) See WRM’s book, “REDD: A Collection of Conflicts, Contradictions and Lies” http://wrm.org.uy/es/libros-e-informes/redd-una-coleccion-de-conflictos-contradicciones-y-mentiras/
    (4) http://www.ienearth.org/global-alliance-of-indigenous-peoples-and-local-communities-on-climate-change-against-redd-and-for-life/
    (5) http://wrm.org.uy/es/articulos-del-boletin-wrm/seccion1/economia-verde-en-brasil-mujeres-relatan-los-impactos-del-proyecto-redd-de-spvs-y-de-un-area-protegida-de-la-fundacion-boticario/