The foundations promised that by the end of 2022, they would provide at least US$459 million in support of land-based solutions to climate change.
The Swift Foundation, one of the foundations that signed on to the statement, issued an open letter yesterday, clarifying its interpretation and commitment to the statement. In the open letter, the Swift Foundation explicitly rejects REDD, and carbon trading schemes of any kind, as false solutions.
A press release from the Swift Foundation is available here, and below is the open letter, dated 11 March 2019, in full:
We want to share the following open letter, formally being released today, written in response to “Foundations Stand Together in Support of Forests, Rights and Lands for Climate” and the almost half a billion dollar commitment signed by 17 philanthropies during the Climate Summit in San Francisco, California, on September 11, 2018:
What we mean when we say “Supporting Forests, Rights, and Lands for Climate”
By Sonja Swift on behalf of the Swift Foundation staff and board of directors.
We signed on. In advance of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco last September, the Swift Foundation was approached and agreed to become a signatory on an almost half-billion dollar pledge by 17 foundations to “step up our support to protect, restore, and expand forests, make land use more sustainable, and secure the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, who are the best stewards of their lands, territories, and forests.”
Supporting Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their territory means investing in processes of governance and collective leadership that engage communities to manage their territories in ways that reflect their priorities and worldview. This work is not a “quick fix” for carbon (dioxide) sequestration, but rather involves years of long-term partnerships that build up relationships and create resilient and inclusive models of community management in which diverse actors play a role.
There is a brutal and ineffective legacy of “conservation” kicking people off their homelands in order to “protect” Nature for the sake of recreationists and elites. This is premised on a misguided Euro-colonial idea of Nature as separate from people/culture. Working from a framework of biocultural diversity seeks to mend this imposed split and prioritize support for Indigenous Peoples’ territories, not protected areas.
Oil, gas, coal, large scale infrastructure, mega-dams, industrial logging and agribusiness are the main causes of deforestation (not smallholder farmers or peasant agriculture) and must be held accountable. Strategies for holding these energy and agribusiness industries accountable include shareholder activism, divestment, and funding watchdog and advocacy groups.
Agribusiness, with its perverse promotion and use of GMO seeds and crops, chemical inputs (war chemicals turned into pesticides), land grabbing and free trade agreements (NAFTA, CAFTA, etc.) is a major contributor to climate change. Agroecology, on the other hand, is a science, practice and movement for social change that is central to food sovereignty and the healthy use, as well as preservation and restoration of remaining intact ecosystems. Therefore agroecology is an effective conservation strategy for communities living in and around forests.
Essential to the broader change in economy that we need is making a “Just Transition,” that is, a shift from an extractive economy to a local, regenerative and living economy. We acknowledge that as a foundation this is why we must continue to transition our endowment away from extractive industries so our investments do not perpetuate the very problems we seek to address.
There are plenty of alternatives to extraction including community-led renewable energy, energy saving and efficiency. Community-led action is at the heart of any of these strategies, if they are to be just and durable. Clean energy projects that don’t respect indigenous land rights are not solutions.
The death toll of indigenous environmental defenders, and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, is directly related to extractive industries as well as industrial agriculture. This is why applying a human rights based lens with regard to climate funding must be a priority because the issues are intrinsically and devastatingly related.
Swift Foundation rejects the privatization and commodification of Nature and REDD+
Given that carbon market schemes have for years been promoted in concert with “protecting forests” and “recognizing indigenous people’s rights” we want to make clear we do not support carbon trading programs within our interpretation of the commitment.
We explicitly and resolutely reject carbon trading schemes of any kind and consider these agendas to be false solutions. This includes REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) and/or by any name including: carbon pricing, cap and trade programs, carbon tax when used to create further infrastructure for carbon trading schemes, forest offsets, and California’s proposed Tropical Forest Standard. We agree with grant partners that it would be far more effective to focus on stopping subsidies that go toward agribusiness and extractive energy industries.
REDD schemes have already caused divisiveness, land grabbing and violence. One of the core issues is that in the majority of researched cases in which REDD has been implemented, the results have been negative for the community due to noncompliance with FPIC. In other words, REDD schemes have denied Indigenous Peoples their territorial and legal rights, leading to food insecurity, illegal land grabs, the increase of monoculture farming, and invasive stakeholders.
Ironically, REDD does not incentivize protection of forests and biodiversity, as forests can qualify as an offset while being clear-cut and replanted as monocultures. This means that REDD does not reduce emissions, but rather enables polluters to continue to increase greenhouse gas emissions, with particularly acute impacts on communities where those polluters are located.
Swift Foundation board and staff simply do not support this kind of greenwash of extractivism and privatization of Nature. Forests are alive, they are more than just “carbon.” To avoid ecological collapse, we must definitively halt further extraction; cut emissions at the source; leave fossil fuels and rare earth minerals in the ground and in the oceans; shut down the Canadian Tar Sands; stop pipelines destined to transport Tar Sands and fracked oil; stop fossil fuel subsidies, including agribusiness subsidies for agrofuels, and cease carbon and biodiversity offset projects that continue to allow polluters to pollute.
Providing extractive industries the option to buy offsets through carbon trading rather than cutting emissions at the source does nothing to address climate change, and only further imperils our children’s future and the future of Life on Earth.
Core to our role as a foundation is discernment, through listening and ideally also through accountability to our partners, such that we do not perpetuate ineffective or harmful initiatives through our funding. We believe we must work with urgency, while also slowing down enough to support those that protect their own cultural and intellectual diversity.
For Swift Foundation, this means supporting grassroots leadership on the frontlines, while also showing more active leadership among our own institutions in disrupting false solutions to climate change. We recognize this as a pivotal moment in history when there is no more time for distractions or compromises, and we invite other foundations to join us in clarifying their own approaches to addressing the critical role of Indigenous Peoples in protecting and sustaining living forests.
 The Wet’suwet’en Nation territorial governance of their Yintah, or homeland, is relevant not just because of the current attack by TransCanada (now TC Energy)/Coastal Gas Link but also because Swift Foundation has funded the Office of Wet’suwet’en for years, so we offer this as an example. For further background see: Knight, Natalie, “Wet’suwet’en Strong”: Indigenous Resistance in Canada, https://portside.org/2019-02-18/wetsuweten-strong-indigenous-resistance-canada, (February 18, 2019).
 Two examples of indigenous led homeland protection include the Parque de la Papa in Peru and the Edéhzhíe in the Northwest Territories, Canada.
 For further background on concerns regarding TFS see the following comments to the California Air Resources Board: Indigenous Environmental Network, https://www.arb.ca.gov/lists/com-attach/5-tfs2018-UzpXNFQ7WFQDKAJd.pdf (October 22, 2018) & Amazon Watch https://www.arb.ca.gov/lists/com-attach/57-tfs2018-UzIAcQBeUGADZAh6.pdf (October 29, 2018). NOTE: letters of support came from entities with entrenched interests, including Shell Oil and PG&E as well as large conservation organizations.
Kenya: International Finance Corporation throws lifeline to REDD+ project and provides greenwashing for the largest mining company in the world
BHP Billiton is the world’s largest mining and petroleum company running mines in 13 countries. Its main offices are in Melbourne, Australia, and in London, UK, where the company sells shares on the London Stock Exchange.
The London Mining Network, an alliance of human rights, development, environmental and solidarity groups, has compiled information about the many conflicts between the company and communities and workers affected by its mining operations and environmental disasters caused by the company’s mines. (1) These include the catastrophic flood of 40 million tonnes of toxic mud waste released into the Doce river in Minas Gerais, Brazil, in 2015 – the biggest environmental spill in the country’s history. (2) The toxic mud spread all the way to the sea, killing 19 people and requiring the evacuation of 600 more. Almost two years on, the Doce river still runs red from the iron ore in the water. BHP Billiton co-owns the mine with Brazilian mining firm, Vale. The two companies have faced public campaigns over inadequate clean-up efforts and compensation to those affected by the disaster. They also face fines and national and international legal cases over responsibility for the breach of the dam that was supposed to prevent their toxic waste from spilling into the river.
Bail-out for REDD+ project in Kenya provides greenwashing for BHP Billiton
In October 2016 – almost exactly one year after the toxic spill at the BHP Billiton mine in Brazil – the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) (3) raised US 152 million dollars from private investors through the sale of what they named “forests bond”. (4) Investment funds and banks could buy the “forests bond”. Buying the bond means they lend their money to the IFC for five years during which the IFC uses the money to fund infrastructure and other corporate projects. At regular intervals, usually every year, the buyers of the bond receive interest payments from the IFC. After five years, the IFC has to pay back the money to the bond buyers: the investors swap the bond again for the money they originally invested. The IFC calls the bond “forests” bond because buyers can choose to receive their annual interest payment either in cash or as carbon credits from a REDD+ project (5) in Kenya, called the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project that claims to protect forests.
Italian social and environmental justice group Re:Common and the European Counter Balance network visited the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project area in July 2016 and documented evidence of ongoing negative impacts on local peasant communities. (6) The report confirms findings published in an article in 2015 (7) that describes how the REDD+ project strengthens historical injustices over land allocation: those most affected by the restrictions the REDD+ projects puts on land use, mainly ethnic Taita communities, receive very few benefits while (absentee) ranch shareholders receive a guaranteed 1/3 of the revenues from REDD+ credit sales.
For the five years that buyers of the “forests bond” receive interest payments, IFC has committed to buying carbon credits from the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project (Phase I and II). If a buyer prefers to receive the interest payment in cash, BHP Billiton will buy the REDD+ credits from the IFC instead and thus provide the cash for the interest payment to the “forests bond” buyer. That means five years of guaranteed REDD+ credit sales for the California-based company Wildlife Works Carbon, which set up the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project and the financial architecture of it. The company had just months before seen a big REDD+ credit sales agreement with a Luxembourg-based carbon market fund (Althelia Climate Fund) collapse. Finding a replacement soon might well have been a question of survival for the REDD+ project.
For BHP Billiton, the commitment to buying REDD+ credits at a fixed price of US 5 dollars if buyers don’t want them, provides green cover for its dirty mining and an opportunity to deflect global attention away from its responsibility for Brazil’s largest environmental disaster that still has dire consequences for the local population along the Doce river. Also involved in the “forests bond” deal is Conservation International (CI), a US-based conservation NGO. CI advised BHP Billiton on the “forests bond”, sits on the Althelia Climate Fund’s Expert Board, is involved in a REDD+ project near the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project and is among the most vocal REDD+ supporters.
The IFC’s “forests bond” is a dubious new way of propping up private sector REDD+ projects that have been unable to sell their carbon credits. The misleading name “forests” bond also suggests that there is more private sector investment for “forests” than there really is as the capital invested does not go into forest-related activities. The actual money loaned to IFC – the US 152 million dollars it got from buyers of the “forests bond” – is invested in the sort of corporate projects the IFC usually funds. The bondholders only forego a portion of their interest payments they receive from the IFC and accept to take these in the form of REDD+ credits rather than cash – or if the bondholder does not want them, BHP Billiton will take them and make a cash payment to the bond holder. The IFC works with the conservation industry to re-label a corporate investment as a “forests bond”, even though only (part of) the interest IFC pays to the buyer of the “bond” is used to subsidise a forest / REDD+ project.
So, in addition to more investment that may well cause harm to local communities, the IFC throws a lifeline to a REDD+ project run by a private company that is severely restricting land use of ethnic Taita communities in Kenya’s Kasigau Corridor area. Moreover, it presents the world’s largest mining company with responsibility for Brazil’s largest environmental disaster, BHP Billiton, with an opportunity to greenwash its image by offering to buy any Kasigau Corridor REDD+ credits that buyers of the IFC “forests bond” may not want. A triple win for the corporate sector, the conservation industry and the World Bank, with the costs borne by local communities and the climate.
Jutta Kill, jutta [at] wrm.org.uy Member of the WRM International Secretariat
For many people, REDD+ is about projects that save forests. In reality, however, REDD+ has never been about protecting forests and also no longer really is about projects but about programmes covering whole regions or provinces within a country. Though many REDD+ projects continue to exist, causing harm to indigenous peoples and forest communities by restricting their traditional forest use practises. (1)
The idea of REDD+ has its roots in the UN climate negotiations. It was negotiated as a tool that would allow companies and industrialized countries to continue burning petroleum, coal and natural gas while claiming the emissions this causes do not harm the climate. REDD+, its advocates claim, would provide cheap compensation for the release of these emissions into the atmosphere and provide money to finance forest protection. Companies in industrialized countries could burn fossil carbon at home, that is the carbon stored underground for millions of years, and pay someone in a tropical forest country to keep some trees standing as a replacement carbon store. (2)
The truth is that money alone doesn’t stop deforestation; that REDD+ isn’t tackling the actual causes of large-scale deforestation and that money from the private sector hasn’t been forthcoming at any scale. REDD+ advocates who had advertised REDD+ as a triple-win (cheap compensation for fossil fuel burning, extra money for forest conservation and supporting communities who live in and from the forest and contribution to climate protection that can be realized now while technology for move away from fossil fuel is developed) have also had to grudgingly acknowledge that halting deforestation is neither fast nor easy or cheap. Convincing evidence is missing that REDD+ has made a dent in deforestation despite claims to the contrary.
Another motivation behind REDD+ is the intention of industrialized countries to avoid paying the bill for tropical forest protection although a “development” debt remains. Industrialized countries are increasingly transforming ‘development aid’ grants into loans and private-public-partnership schemes where the main role of public money is to provide a risk buffer for private capital investments in so-called developing countries. (3) Two reports commissioned by the UK government – the Stern report 2006 and the Eliasch review 2008 – helped governments to claim that ‘private sector capital is needed to save tropical forests because public money alone will not be sufficient’ to cover the supposed cost of reducing deforestation. It was these two reports that established the unfounded claim that reducing emissions from deforestation is cheap, fast and easy.
For international conservation organisations and the World Bank, REDD+ also provides a tool to expand their ‘parks without people’ model of forest conservation and ensures corporate and public funding for their conservation projects and organisational budgets. Conservation NGOs and consultants based in industrialized countries have to date probably received the lion’s share of public money spent on REDD+ in the last ten years. Even though these groups claim to do ‘participatory REDD+’ and ‘community REDD+’ projects, REDD+ is not an idea that originated from communities. REDD+ is also not suitable to address the needs and threats that forest-dependent communities face, as experience has clearly shown during the past ten years. (4) Critics of REDD+, including WRM, have discussed these misconceptions and hidden motivations behind REDD+ many times.
Less has been written about the change of REDD+ from projects to programmes that cover whole regions or provinces within a country. These new kinds of REDD+ initiatives are expected to eventually cover whole countries. They are often called ‘jurisdictional REDD+’ because they will be implemented not just on the land assigned to individual REDD+ projects but across a whole jurisdiction, like a department, a province, a state or a whole country. This article looks at what is motivating this change from projects to ‘jurisdictional’ REDD+.
What is ‘jurisdictional REDD+’?
Because REDD+ is linked to the UN climate negotiations, the UN climate talks also determine what REDD+ looks like. REDD+ initiatives that want to sell their carbon credits to the UN carbon market, will need to comply with the UN climate agreement rules. In reality, pilot programmes such as the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and private sector REDD+ projects that already sell carbon credits to companies in the so-called voluntary carbon market, also have a big influence on these rules. Lobbyists from the World Bank and conservation NGOs are present at the UN climate meetings and meet with government officials that decide on the UN’s rules for REDD+.
From 2005, the World Bank, international conservation groups and private companies started to implement REDD+ projects that would be compatible with a mechanism more or less like the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism: individual projects or clusters of projects in countries without binding emission targets in the global South would sell carbon credits to companies and industrialized countries that have binding emission limits. But the UN Paris Agreement from 2015 turned out very different from the Kyoto Protocol (see also WRM Bulletin 228, January 2017). Under the Paris Agreement on climate change all countries have voluntary emission targets and will be presenting their national greenhouse gas balance sheet to the UN climate convention. These balance sheets will show how far a country has advanced in achieving the target they have set for their country. None of these Paris Agreement targets are binding. (5)
But carbon markets need binding targets, or some kind of pressure to limit emissions to function. The assumption that REDD+ could attract private sector funding if REDD+ projects are able to sell carbon credits in a global carbon market will not work anymore. Limits create the demand, hence: no (binding) limits, no demand for REDD+ credits from a UN carbon market.
Moreover, most tropical forest countries in the global South have included reductions in emissions from deforestation into their national commitments under the Paris Agreement. Therefore, they will have to calculate how much greenhouse gas emissions is happening in their country and present these figures in a national balance sheet. Most tropical countries decided to include emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in this national accounting sheet. And they will have to submit their national ‘carbon accounts’ regularly to the UN to demonstrate their progress towards the reduction goal they set for themselves (in UN climate language, these goals are called NDCs – nationally determined contributions).
From 2020, when the UN Paris Agreement comes into force, every carbon credit sold by a REDD+ project located in a country that also includes (carbon stored in) forests in its national carbon balance will have to be deducted from the country’s national carbon balance sheet. If the credit sold by the project is not deducted from the national balance sheet, there is what in UN climate language is called ‘double-counting’ because the buyer of the carbon credit will also claim a reduction in his own balance sheet – after all, that is why he bought the REDD+ credit. This means that the emissions look lower on paper than they are in reality. And that in turn increases the risk of dangerous climate change.
Double-counting will be very likely under the Paris Agreement if private sector REDD+ projects continue to sell carbon credits. (6) Even a report by the Gold Standard, a company certifying carbon credits, recently warned about this risk. (7) That continued selling of REDD+ carbon credits by private sector REDD+ projects will create a mess under these circumstances can already be seen in the Brazilian state of Acre. There, the German government is funding a ‘jurisdictional REDD+’ programme called ‘REDD Early Movers’. (8)
The German government programme has paid a total of 25 million Euro between 2012 and 2016 to the government of Acre in return for the state of Acre submitting documents showing that emissions from deforestation in Acre had stayed below a level agreed in the REDD contract between the two governments. That level was very generous. It did not require additional emission reductions to those already achieved in previous years because the calculation included the high-deforestation years 2003-2005. Law enforcement measures by the Brazilian state had already led to steep reductions in deforestation rates in the following years. One could argue that the German government was paying Acre for emission reductions achieved in the past through non-REDD+ measures, or that Germany was paying Acre to maintain the forest carbon stock, a concept that had been rejected as unaffordable during the early years of UN negotiations about REDD+.
The state of Acre can use the money for any activity it deems necessary to reduce deforestation. A closer look at what the Acre government has decided to spend the money on reveals among others that much money has gone into consultancy reports and studies and very little has reached communities. This is mirroring many of the widely documented problems with REDD+ elsewhere.
What does REDD Early Movers in Acre tell us about ‘jurisdictional REDD’?
Looking at the ‘REDD Early Movers’ programme in Acre also reveals the contradictions that arise when ‘jurisdictional REDD’ programmes try to integrate private sector REDD+ projects that are already selling carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market. In Acre, at least three such projects exist: The Purus, Valparaiso and Envira REDD+ projects. The carbon balance sheet prepared by the government of Acre for the ‘REDD Early Movers’ programme with Germany deducts 10 per cent of the state’s emission reductions from the balance sheet to account for the carbon credits sold by these three REDD+ projects. Purus for example sold carbon credits to the FIFA for compensation of part of the emissions from the 2014 Football World Cup. Adding up the numbers, however, shows that these three projects are claiming far more than the 10 per cent deducted in the state’s carbon balance sheet. That means, it is possible, if not likely, that some of the reductions (if they happened at all) are counted twice: By the private sector REDD+ project selling carbon credits, as in the FIFA case, and by the state of Acre in its carbon balance sheet. From 2020, that risk will arise in many more countries. Particularly likely are such situations in countries like Peru, Kenya or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (9) with several or large existing private sector REDD+ projects already selling carbon credits and where the companies running these projects are involved in designing ‘jurisdictional REDD+’ programmes.
As the example of Acre shows, for communities, the impacts of ‘jurisdictional REDD’ programmes may well be much the same as those caused by individual REDD+ projects: being first in line to face restrictions on traditional forest use practises and last in line for receiving meaningful compensation or ‘benefits’ that REDD+ is supposed to generate for forest-dependent communities.
Jutta Kill, jutta [at] wrm.org.uy
Member of the International Secretariat of the WRM
(1) REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. See WRM’s Collection of REDD+ Conflicts, Contradictions and Lies for examples of the many ways in which REDD+ projects are harmful to forest-dependent communities.
(5) It’s maybe also important to note that the total of these reductions that countries have committed to are far too low to avoid global temperature increases of less than 2 degrees Celsius: The USA, EU, China and India alone would take up the entire so-called carbon budget of fossil carbon that can still be released until 2050 to ensure a 50 per cent possibility that temperatures increase by no more than 2 degrees. And a good part of China’s emissions are from producing goods exported to the USA and the EU. http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/16/files/GCP_CarbonBudget_2016.pdf
This week, Benedict Bengioushuye Ayade, the governor of Nigeria’s Cross River State, will be in Guadalajara, Mexico taking part in the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force Annual Meeting. The aim of the GCF is to link states and provinces running REDD programmes with carbon markets in the rich countries.
But before getting carried away with the REDD promotion tour in Guadalajara, it’s worth taking a quick look at Ayade’s record so far in Cross River State.
In April 2015, Ayade won the election to become governor of Cross River State. He quickly announced a series of massive infrastructure projects in Cross River State. The Calabar Deep Seaport. The biggest garment factory in Africa. Several new cities. And a six-lane, 260-kilometre-long superhighway.
The superhighway through the forest
The superhighway is particularly controversial. Construction started in October 2015, before an environmental impact assessment had been carried out. After complaints from the National Park authorities, the route of the road was changed, to avoid going through the Cross River National Park. But large areas of forest remain under threat, including the Ekuri Community Forest.
The road would cost US$3.5 billion, but it is unclear where the money would come from. Little is known about the company building the road and the deep sea port, Broad Spectrum Industries Limited, apparently has no experience of road construction. The company may be based in Israel, Germany, or Port Harcourt, depending on which news report you’re reading.
On 22 January 2016, a Public Notice of Revocation was published in a local newspaper. It was signed by the Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development. The Notice stated that,
“all rights of occupancy existing or deemed to exist on all that piece of land or parcel of land lying and situate along the Super Highway from Esighi, Bakassi Local Government Government Area to Bekwarra Local Government Area of Cross River State covering a distance of 260km approximately and having an offset of 200m on either side of the centre line of the road and further 10km after the span of the Super Highway, excluding Government Reserves and public institutions are hereby revoked for overriding public purpose absolutely”.
Which would look something like this:
In March 2016, construction of the road was stopped, until an environmental impact assessment is carried out. While an EIA has now been carried out, Nigerian environmentalist Emmanuel Unaegbu writes that it is “inadequate and lacks merit”.
In June 2016, in a post on the Cross River Facebook page, Eval Asikong, an advisor to Ben Ayade, explained that “The Government is not claiming 10 km of land from both sides of the Super-Highway”. Instead, he explains that the “essence” of 20 kilometre wide strip, was for development control where house structures and every piece of land that is contiguous to the super highway is managed for development control and aesthetic value addition. Government does not forbid individuals from building around this perimeter but strongly frowns at indiscriminate building of structures. Besides, the state government intends to build new cities all along the super highway. Government can even paint structures within those areas for the dwellers as long as they adhere to the control measures. Government intent to provide commercial and social infrastructures like hotels, filling stations, etc to improve the environment.
The impacts of REDD in Cross River State
Meanwhile, Cross River State has started to implement REDD programmes that are having an impact on local communities’ livelihoods.
A report by the Nigerian NGO Social Action exposes the costs to forest communities. A task force in the Forestry Commission has a mandate “to enforce a moratorium on forest activities as part of the implementation process”.
Social Action reports that,
With neither adequate consultation nor alternative livelihoods options for communities, the task force has been harassing community members that have depended on the forests for generations. Movement and trade of products deemed to have been derived from the forests are confiscated. At Nwanga Ekoi in Akpabuyo Local Government Area (LGA) for instance, the task force routinely seizes agricultural products like kola nuts and fruits meant for the market on account that they are derived from forests earmarked for REDD + . The harvesting of Afang leaves, a local vegetable consumed in West and Central Africa, is now banned in affected forests. The hunting for bush meat, a main source of protein in the communities, as well as the tapping of palm wine from the raffia palm and associated brewing of kaikai, a local beverage, have been stopped.
In 2008, Liyel Imoke, then-governor of Cross River State, put in place a logging moratorium – a complete ban on wood cutting in all forests. In effect, forests that were under the control of communities have become forest reserves, under the control of the government.
The moratorium also includes harvesting leaves for food and medicine, and subsistence hunting. Bush meat was an important source of protein for forest communities.
Chief Owai Obio Arong of the Iko Esa Community told Social Action that
“I and my people have suffered for five years now since government stopped us from entering our forest because REDD is coming and till now I have not received anything from them.”
Ayade: “The conservation of forests is only a small aspect of the bigger picture”
On 24 August 2016, in a speech at a UN-REDD meeting, Governor Ayade argued that, “The conservation of forests is only a small aspect of the bigger picture”.
Ayade acknowledges that for eight years, forest communities have not been allowed to benefit from the forests.
Ayade demonstrates his ability to say what his audience wants to hear:
“UN-REDD plus is not about finances, it’s not about gross carbon stock, it’s not about monitoring the forests. It’s about social safeguards. It’s about livelihood security of the people.”
He got a round of applause for that.
He spoke “from his soul”, urging UN-REDD to move into the implementation phase:
“That implementation phase will address the pain and neglect, the harrowing poverty of our people, who for the last eight years have suffered a complete ban on their dependence on their forests. Who will now begin to see a legacy of hope.”
Perhaps predictably, he wants more money:
“I understand from statistics that reached us so far that you are proposing about US$12 million in your initial fees in the REDD-ready plus phase and we will move into the implementation phase. US$12 million is very exciting. But the relationship of pain and agony of our people in the last eight years, the relationship to the responsibilities ahead of us, it is very insignificant.”
He asks UN-REDD to focus on tree planting:
“There is a delicate balance between conservation and management. That is what I am asking for UN-REDD plus to focus as they move into the implementation phase. To focus agressively on tree planting. Because when you do, you increase the amount of rainfall. When you do, you reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
Then he talks about the green economy, the decarbonisation of Africa and the world, and about stopping using fossil fuels. He gets quite excited:
“Africa is challenged to seek alternatives for our crude oil. While Africa is struggling with that, Africa is also told, stop cutting your forests.
“Africa therefore is a whipping child. Standing before the world. We don’t have the technology for alternative research.”
At the end of his little speech, Ayade tells us that,
“The modalities and procedures, the validation process must focus on African philosophy of protection of the environment. It must be indigenous. It must be customised to reflect African heritage. Then a man who owns the forest, that pays from the forest, you only teach him how to depend on the forest without exploiting it to the detriment of the future.”
But of course Ayade made no mention of his proposed 260 kilometre-long superhighway in his speech
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 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.
A 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+).
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.
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
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.
The 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.”
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
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
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
“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
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
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.
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.
AB 32 REDD, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (or AB 32) requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. A cap and trade mechanism is part of AB 32. In 2013, the cap was set at 2% below the emissions forecast for 2013. In 2014, it was set at 2% lower.
Every year from 2015 to 2020, the cap reduces by 3%. The first thing to note about these emissions reductions targets is that they are pathetically low. Better than nothing perhaps, but not by much. AB 32 was passed in 2006. The first emissions reduction targets were seven years later.
In 2011, Kevin Anderson wrote that “Annex 1 nations need 8 to 10% p.a. emission reductions”, in order to “remain within their fair contribution to the 2°C carbon budget”. His analysis was based on recorded emissions from 2009/10, since when emissions have increased. By 2014, Anderson was arguing that reductions need to be more than 10% per year:
“if we are serious about avoiding the 2°C characterization of dangerous climate change, then those absolute reductions need to be in double figures (i.e. over 10% p.a.).”
(The “we” in Anderson’s sentence refers to “companies, governments and individuals, at least the wealthier among us”.)
The low targets are further weakened by the “trade” part of California’s cap and trade scheme. Instead of reducing their emissions, companies covered by AB 32 can buy carbon offsets to meet 8% of their emissions target. AB 32 sets limits for the total number of carbon offsets that can be used in each compliance period:
In total, 200 million carbon offsets can be used between 2013 and 2020. That’s 200 million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution that will not be cleaned up in California.
The companies that benefit from carbon offsets are some of the most polluting companies in California. Recently, the California Environmental Justice Alliance listed the top ten offset users in California:
The California Environmental Justice Alliance is a community-led alliance that works to reduce pollution in California. The organizations vision is a future in California without fossil fuels and dirty energy, where the lives of people and communities are more important than corporate profits, and without discrimination against low-income communities and communities of color.
The California Environmental Justice Alliance is campaigning against the inclusion of REDD offsets in California’s cap and trade scheme:
In reality, offsets are a huge loophole that give big corporations a cheaper way to pollute without making real emissions reductions on site – or at all. Offsets are also dangerous because they do nothing to reduce our burning of fossil fuels that cause irreversible damage to our biosphere.
REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) are international offset projects that claim to preserve forests in tropical countries. Despite widespread critique of offsets and REDD, California is poised to adopt REDD forestry offset credits into its Compliance Offset Program in 2016.
The California Environmental Justice Alliance is encouraging people to write to the California Air Resources Board opposing REDD.
An infographic explains why:
The California Environmental Justice Alliance puts forward the following arguments against REDD:
Why do we need to keep REDD out of California?
1. Big Businesses Win While Communities Suffer
Since California’s top offset buyers are the state’s most profitable oil companies and big utilities, those standing to gain the most from REDD are big corporations, carbon consultants (offset brokers), and speculators. Offsets also discourage California-based polluters from making greater emissions reductions on site, which threatens our state’s most vulnerable communities. While nearly half of all Californians live within six miles of a polluting facility, they are disproportionately people of color (62 percent compared to 38 percent of whites).
2. Human Rights Violations Against Indigenous Peoples Around the Globe
REDD gives governments, loggers, miners, lawyers, traders, brokers, and Wall Street an opportunity to control and profit off of Indigenous Peoples’ forests. Many Indigenous groups living in REDD territories face the threat of land grabs, institutional violence, evictions, and imprisonment for continuing their cultural practices on the land.
3. Increased Deforestation and Toxic Emissions
REDD does not equal less emissions: The idea behind all offset projects is that they must create actual reductions in emissions that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, but all these additional emissions reductions, are difficult – if not impossible – to prove.
REDD creates the perverse incentive of designating more forests for clearcutting: Governments are encouraged to cut down more trees now in order to claim that they are reducing deforestation later.
Protections for forests can be reversed: Even when a government pledges to “avoid deforestation” in an area for a certain number of years, it can later turn around and cut down that same forest after that period is over.
REDD doesn’t make scientific sense: When fossil fuels are extracted and then burned, it increases the net amount of carbon circulating in the biosphere. Trees are also part of the natural carbon cycle, unlike fossil fuels. So no amount of planting or saving trees can make up for all the CO2 that gets added to our climate when fossil fuels are burned.
While REDD is edging its way into the Paris Outcome, a series of protests and statements against REDD have taken place at the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris. Here’s a round-up, with photographs, of some of the No REDD! activities in Paris over the past two weeks.
A crime against humanity
On 30 November 2015, the Indigenous Environmental Network put out a press release under the headline: “UN Paris Accord could end up being a Crime against Humanity and Mother Earth”. REDD is one of the false solutions targetted in the press release.
Nnimmo Bassey, co-coordinator of the No REDD in Africa Network, says,
“REDD may result in the largest land grab in history. It steals your future, lets polluters off the hook and is new form of colonialism. We demand that states and corporations stop privatizing nature!”
It’s a (No REDD) rap
Jendog Lonewolf produced a No REDD video:
Here’s what she says on her website about the video:
Jendog Lonewolf’s “No REDD” video, in conjunction with Indigenous Rising and the Indigenous Environmental Network critiques the UN’s REDD program that works as a poison pretending to be cure– destroying the biodiversity, forests, and local economies it feigns to protect. Through carbon credits, the program allows corporations to pollute even more while land grabbing and violently keeping Indigenous Peoples from their lands.
Against the REDD-ification of Africa
At a side-event in Paris, the No-REDD in Africa released a book titled, “Stopping the Continent Grab and the REDD-ification of Africa”. You can download the book here.
This publication by the No REDD in Africa Network aims to demystify REDD and REDD-type projects, and all their variants, and show them for what they are: unjust mechanisms designed to usher in a new phase of colonization of the African continent. From examples presented, it is clear that the REDD mechanism is a scam and the polluters know that they are buying the “right” to pollute.
California’s governor heckled
California’s governor Jerry Brown was heckled at the end of a speech in Paris. Protesters chanted “No REDD!”. As he left, Brown told the protesters, “I agree with you.”
No REDD protest at Solutions 21 Concert
The Indigenous Environmental Network staged an action in coordination with Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuhat the corporate funded Solutions 21 Concert. For his last song, Xiuhtezcatl invited representatives of the Global Grassroots Justice Alliance and the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Indigenous Rising to the stage, where they made a statement against fracking and REDD.
“I am standing in solidarity with the front lines communities affected by fossil fuel extraction, as an indigenous youth representing the generation most affected by climate change. I strongly stand against false solutions such as fracking, carbon trading and REDD.”
REDD is a disaster for the environment
Friends of the Earth International, Global Alliance against REDD, Indigenous Environmental Network, Grassroots Global Justice, No REDD+ in Africa Network held a protest outside the conference centre.
Isaac Rojas, Friends of the Earth International Forest and Biodiversity Program Coordinator, describes REDD as a disaster for the environment:
“Forests are not simply groups of trees and inert materials that can be reduced to ‘carbon stocks,’ commodities that can be traded on stock exchanges and markets. REDD could also create adverse incentives for deforestation. As REDD offset credits are only supposed to be generated when deforestation or forest degradation has been avoided, governments and corporations are supposed to demonstrate that, at a given time, they were planning to log or clear certain areas of forest. It is thus in their interest to be able to maintain high levels of planned deforestation.”
REDD is a contradiction and violation of the sacred
“This COP will determine how Africa will be In this interview by WST TV Boaventura Monjane, a journalist and activist from Mozambique speaks about the outcomes of the Paris Climate Talks, COP21 and argues that most of the solutions proposed by Conference Of the Parties and Corporations are marketed oriented and that mechanisms like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) are a new form of colonialism for Africa
The Jari Amapá REDD+ project covers an area of 65,980 hectares in the Jari Valley in the state of Amapá, Brazil. The project is run by three companies, one of which, Jari Florestal, has just had its Forest Stewardship Council certificate suspended after being caught in an illegal timber scheme.
The three companies are Biofílica Investimentos Ambientais, Jari Florestal, and Jari Celulose. The latter two companies are part of Grupo Jari (the first is a logging company, the second a pulp company). Biofílica is a São Paulo-based company. Here’s how it describes what it does:
Aiming to contribute to the creation and development of a solid and reliable environmental market, Biofílica invests in an innovative business model that promotes the reduction of deforestation, valuation of standing forests and their environmental services, protection of biodiversity and reduction of carbon emissions.
In 2010, Biofílica presented a proposal to Grupo Jari for the REDD project, and is running the project on land belonging to Jari Celulose. Carbon credits from the project are sold on the voluntary market. In 2011-2012, the project generated 200,000 credits, but only managed to sell 40,000 of them. 15% of the money from the carbon credits goes to Biofílica and 85% to Jari Florestal.
But before looking at the REDD project and the illegal logging, we should take a look at the strange history of the Jari pulp mill.
The Jari Project
In 1967, a US billionaire called Daniel K. Ludwig paid US$3 million for 1.6 million hectares of land in the Jari Valley. His plan was to build a pulp mill.
In 1978, Ludwig shipped a pulp mill and power plant from Japan to Brazil. (It took 12 weeks to transport.) He built roads, an airport, a deep water port, a hospital, four schools, and 3,000 houses for company employees in Monte Dourado. As well as pulp production, he planned kaolin and bauxite mining, buffalo ranching and rice cultivation.
Here’s a video about the construction of the pulp mill:
Ludwig established monocultures of Gmelina arborea to feed the pulp mill. But the trees were attacked by a fungus and the plantations failed.
The Brazilian military dictatorship initially supported Ludwig’s plans, but in the 1980s followingnewspaper reports that Ludwig was creating his own army, smuggling gold and diamonds, destroying the forest, and using slave labour, the military dictatorship became worried about the US colonisation of the Amazon.
in 1982, after investing US$1.3 billion, Ludwig handed over his Jari operations to a consortium of 23 Brazilian companies. No money changed hands, but the consortium took on the company’s debts. The Brazilian Development Bank, BNDES, supported the consortium with a US$180 million loan.
In 2000, the company was sold to the Orsa Group. The pulp mill was renamed Jari Celulose, and the Orsa Group is now called Grupo Jari.
Ludwig’s Jari Project had huge social and environmental impacts. The construction of the pulp mill attracted people looking for work. In 2001, the company employed 3,500 people, but 70,000 people lived in the area, many in shanty towns along the Jari River. Social problems include prostitution, drugs, poor sanitation, poor housing conditions, fires from faulty electrical installations, floods, and violence.
In addition, huge areas of forest were cleared to make way for plantations and to feed the pulp mill when the plantations failed. Local communities lost their land to plantations and many families moved to more remote areas, or to urban areas.
The company now has 120,000 hectares of mainly eucalyptus plantations, certified under the FSC system.
The Jari Amapá REDD+ project
The Jari Amapá REDD project is one of the projects reviewed by CIFOR in its “REDD on the ground” report. CIFOR’s researchers, Marina Cromberg, Mariana G Pereira, and Renata B Caramez, writethat in the area of the REDD project,
The rural population that has re-settled this area over the past decade suffers from a lack of formal land tenure and pollution from Jari Celulose (one of the companies of Grupo Jari), including contamination of soils and water from pesticides used in the eucalyptus plantations and siltation of streams from trucks transporting logs.
CIFOR notes that the REDD project developers see the threats to the forests to be “small-scale swidden agriculture, small- and medium-scale cattle ranching, and illegal small-scale logging by people living both inside and outside the area”.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the REDD project developers do not see the industrial tree plantations as a threat to the forests. Neither do they include the greenhouse gas emissions from the pulp mill, “because they are outside the scope of its REDD+ initiative”, CIFOR’s researchers note. They add that, “the industrial cellulose pulp production realized by Jari Celulose is a major emitter of GHGs”.
The project was certified in 2013 by VCS. The baseline was deforestation from 2000 to 2010, conveniently ignoring the removal of forests to make way for industrial tree plantations – that are clearcut every five years. The project has also applied for CCBA certification.
Here’s a small part of the REDD project on Google maps, showing a pattern of industrial tree plantations and remnants of forest:
In 2014, Rebeca Lima of Biofílica told CIFOR that,
“Our biggest challenge is land tenure clarification. It’s not only a problem we only have in Amapá but is an Amazon-wide issue. If land tenure’s not clear, we can’t distribute the benefits from the forest fairly—and without it, smallholders aren’t able to access rural credits.”
In three of the five villages where CIFOR’s researchers carried out interviews, people said that their first recommendation for the project would be to resolve land tenure. Nearly half of the people interviewed had insecure land tenure. Some of the villager’s comments reveal the tension with Grupo Jari:
“If Grupo Orsa (Grupo Jari) wanted to help, they would already have done that. They have forestry engineers, rural technicians, they have everything.”
“Grupo Orsa (Grupo Jari) is here with IMAP, giving fines…. It would be easier if they helped the families.”
“See the contradiction, the company from São Paulo (Biofílica) and the Fundação Jari come here to discuss a project that depends on the land tenure that Orsa (Grupo Jari) does not want to clarify.”
Illegal logging and the suspension of Jari Forestal’s FSC certificate
Jari Florestal is a logging company, with 545,000 hectares of FSC certified operations. But on 8 December 2015, FSC Brazil announced that Jari Forestal’s certificate had been suspended.
The suspension follows an investigation by Brazil’s Federal Public Ministry, Federal Police, the Brazilian Institute of Environment (IBAMA) and Federal Justice. The investigators call this sort of scheme “timber washing”. Under Brazilian law, forest management plans are allowed to log a certain amount of timber and the timber is given a tracking number.
Timber washing involves logging illegally, but using the tracking number from another logging operation to give the appearance of legality. The timber can then be exported, as if it were legal.
The illegal logging involved two species: ipe and maçaranduba. IBAMA discovered that 81% of the illegally logged timber was intended for Jari Florestal. For example, Jari claimed to have received two shipments totalling almost 9,000 cubic metres, from a logging operation 500 kilometres away in Juruti, Para. Transporting so much timber would need over 220 logging trucks.
Despite the large volume of timber, and the long distance involved, company records show that the timber arrived in only two days, which is impossible, not least because there is no road between Juruti and Jari Florestal’s sawmills in Munguba.
Between December 2014 and February 2015, more than US$7.1 million worth of timber was transported from just one of the fraudulent management plans.
In September 2015, Jari Florestal was fined US$1.5 million following another investigation by IBAMA, which revealed Jari Florestal’s involvement in illegal logging. The fraud included transactions with companies that did not exist.
Jari Florestal was also fined for building an open port for timber shipments on the River Aruanã. The ramp destroyed an area of 3,500 square metres in a conservation area and silted up the river. This photograph (from IBAMA) shows the scale of Jari Florestal’s illegal port on the River Aruanã:
Today, Daniel K. Ludwig’s purchase of 1.6 million hectares of the Amazon rainforest would be described as a land grab. The fact that Brazil had a military dictatorship at the time only makes matters worse.
One of Biofílica’s criteria when it was looking for possible REDD projects, was clear land tenure. But Jari’s land tenure is clear only because the rights of the people living there were completely ignored when Ludwig bought the land.
The FSC and VCS certification schemes have failed to improve the land rights of the people living in Grupo Jari’s plantation and logging operations. Just as they failed to reveal Jari Florestal’s involvement in a large scale illegal logging scheme.
The Jari Amapá REDD project is in any case something of a farce, since it excludes the emissions from the Jari Celulose pulp mill from the REDD project emission calculations. But what happens now?
Will Jari Celulose lose its FSC certificate? Will the VCS certification of the REDD project be withdrawn? Will the emissions from Jari Florestal’s involvement in illegal logging be taken into account in the REDD emissions calculations? Will some or all of the carbon credits already sold from the Jari Amapá REDD project be recalled?
Paris witnessed both explicit terrorism by religious extremists on November 13 and a month later, implicit terrorism by carbon addicts negotiating a world treaty that guarantees catastrophic climate change. The first incident left more than 130 people dead in just one evening’s mayhem; the second lasted a fortnight but over the next century can be expected to kill hundreds of millions, especially in Africa.
But because the latest version of the annual United Nations climate talks has three kinds of spin-doctors, the extent of damage may not be well understood. The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) generated reactions ranging from smug denialism to righteous fury. The first reaction is ‘from above’ (the Establishment) and is self-satisfied; the second is from the middle (‘Climate Action’) and is semi-satisfied; the third, from below (‘Climate Justice’), is justifiably outraged.
Guzzling French champagne last Saturday, the Establishment quickly proclaimed, in essence, “The Paris climate glass is nearly full – so why not get drunk on planet-saving rhetoric?” The New York Times reported with a straight face, “President Obama said the historic agreement is a tribute to American climate change leadership” (and in a criminally-negligent way, this is not untrue).
Since 2009, US State Department chief negotiator Todd Stern successfully drove the negotiations away from four essential principles: ensuring emissions-cut commitments would be sufficient to halt runaway climate change; making the cuts legally binding with accountability mechanisms; distributing the burden of cuts fairly based on responsibility for causing the crisis; and making financial transfers to repair weather-related loss and damage following directly from that historic liability. Washington elites always prefer ‘market mechanisms’ like carbon trading instead of paying their climate debt even though the US national carbon market fatally crashed in 2010.
In part because the Durban COP17 in 2011 provided lubrication and – with South Africa’s blessing – empowered Stern to wreck the idea of Common But Differentiated Responsibility while giving “a Viagra shot to flailing carbon markets” (as a male Bank of America official cheerfully celebrated), Paris witnessed the demise of these essential principles. And again, “South Africa played a key role negotiating on behalf of the developing countries of the world,” according to Pretoria’s environment minister Edna Molewa, who proclaimed from Paris “an ambitious, fair and effective legally-binding outcome.”
Arrogant fibbery. The collective Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – i.e. voluntary cuts – will put the temperature rise at above 3 degrees. From coal-based South Africa, the word ambitious loses meaning given Molewa’s weak INDCs – ranked by ClimateActionTracker as amongst the world’s most “inadequate” – and given that South Africa hosts the world’s two largest coal-fired power stations now under construction, with no objection by Molewa. She regularly approves increased (highly-subsidized) coal burning and exports, vast fracking, offshore-oil drilling, exemptions from pollution regulation, emissions-intensive corporate farming and fast-worsening suburban sprawl.
A second narrative comes from large NGOs that mobilized over the past six months to provide mild-mannered pressure points on negotiators. Their line is, essentially, “The Paris glass is partly full – so sip up and enjoy!”
This line derives not merely from the predictable back-slapping associated with petit-bourgeois vanity, gazing upwards to power for validation, such as one finds at the Worldwide Fund for Nature and Climate Action Network, what with their corporate sponsorships. All of us reading this are often tempted in this direction, aren’t we, because such unnatural twisting of the neck is a permanent occupational hazard in this line of work.
And such opportunism was to be expected from Paris, especially after Avaaz and Greenpeace endorsed G7 leadership posturing in June, when at their meeting in Germany the Establishment made a meaningless commitment to a decarbonized economy – in the year 2100, at least fifty years too late.
Perhaps worse than their upward gaze, though, the lead NGOs suffered a hyper-reaction to the 2009 Copenhagen Syndrome. Having hyped the COP15 Establishment negotiators as “Seal the Deal!” planet-saviours, NGOs mourned the devastating Copenhagen Accord signed in secret by leaders from Washington, Brasilia, Beijing, New Delhi and Pretoria. This was soon followed by a collapse of climate consciousness and mobilization. Such alienation is often attributed to activist heart-break: a roller-coaster of raised NGO expectations and plummeting Establishment performance.
Possessing only an incremental theory of social change, NGOs toasting the Paris deal now feel the need to confirm that they did as best they could, and that they have grounds to continue along the same lines in future. To be sure, insider-oriented persuasion tactics pursued by the 42-million member clicktivist group Avaaz are certainly impressive in their breadth and scope. Yet for Avaaz, “most importantly, [the Paris deal] sends a clear message to investors everywhere: sinking money into fossil fuels is a dead bet. Renewables are the profit centre. Technology to bring us to 100% clean energy is the money-maker of the future.”
Once again, Avaaz validates the COP process, the Establishment’s negotiators and the overall incentive structure of capitalism that are the proximate causes of the crisis.
The third narrative is actually the most realistic: “The Paris glass is full of toxic fairy dust – don’t dare even sniff!” The traditional Climate Justice (CJ) stance is to delegitimize the Establishment and return the focus of activism to grassroots sites of struggle, in future radically changing the balance of forces locally, nationally and then globally. But until that change in power is achieved, the UNFCCC COPs are just Conferences of Polluters.
The landless movement Via Campesina was clearest: “There is nothing binding for states, national contributions lead us towards a global warming of over 3°C and multinationals are the main beneficiaries. It was essentially a media circus.”
Asad Rehman coordinates climate advocacy at the world’s leading North-South CJ organization, Friends of the Earth International: “The reviews [of whether INDCs are adhered to and then need strengthening] are too weak and too late. The political number mentioned for finance has no bearing on the scale of need. It’s empty. The iceberg has struck, the ship is going down and the band is still playing to warm applause.”
And not forgetting the voice of climate science, putting it most bluntly, James Hansen called Paris, simply, “bullshit.”
Where does that leave us? If the glass-half-full NGOs get serious – and I hope to be pleasantly surprised in 2016 – then the only way forward is for them to apply their substantial influence on behalf of solidarity with those CJ activists making a real difference, at the base.
Close to my own home, the weeks before COP21 witnessed potential victories in two major struggles: opposition to corporate coal mining – led mainly by women peasants, campaigners and lawyers – in rural Zululand, bordering the historic iMfolozi wilderness reserve (where the world’s largest white rhino population is threatened by poachers); and South Durban residents fighting the massive expansion of Africa’s largest port-petrochemical complex. In both attacks, the climate-defence weapon was part of the activists’ arsenal.
But it is only when these campaigns have conclusively done the work COP negotiators and NGO cheerleaders just shirked – leaving fossil fuels in the ground and pointing the way to a just, post-carbon society – that we can raise our glasses and toast humanity, with integrity. Until then, pimps for the Paris Conference of Polluters should be told to sober up and halt what will soon be understood as their fatal attack on Mother Earth.
Indigenous Peoples: UN Paris Accord could end up being a Crime against Humanity and Mother Earth
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dallas Goldtooth +33 75 1413 823 USA: 708 515 firstname.lastname@example.org
Kandi Mossett +33 75 1414 195 email@example.comNovember 30, 2015 (Paris) – Indigenous Peoples from the Americas attending the United Nations World Climate Summit in Paris warn that the Paris climate accord will harm their rights, lands and environment and do nothing to address climate change.“We are here in Paris to tell the world that not only will the anticipated Paris Accord not address climate change, it will make it worst because it will promote false solutions and not keep fossil fuels from being extracted and burned. The Paris COP21 is not about reaching a legally binding agreement on cutting greenhouse gases. In fact, the Paris Accord may turn out to be a crime against humanity and Mother Earth,” according to Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network based in Minnesota on Turtle Island also known as the United States. Goldtooth recently won the Gandhi Peace Award.
According to Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Alberta, Canada “After 21 years of these climate conferences, our First Nation wants to be hopeful this agreement truly stops a history of CO2lonialism and business-as-usual with expansion of fossil fuel exploitation on and near indigenous territories. We are here to protect, defend and renew our Mother Earth, not to rubber stamp an agreement that allows polluters to continue to burn the planet. False solutions such as carbon trading, carbon offsets, agrofuels and nuclear energy will probably be the basis of the Paris Accord and the so-called decarbonization of the global economy. False solutions to climate change instead of solving the climate crisis, are resulting in land grabs, human rights violations and will allow global warming to spiral out of control.” Lameman is featured in the film, “This Changes Everything” directed by Avi Lewis and based on the book by Naomi Klein.
Indigenous leaders throughout the world are particularly concerned about REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), a United Nations carbon offset mechanism that uses forests, agriculture and many other ecosystems as sponges for northern industrialized countries pollution instead of reducing emissions at source.
“Our world is melting. Climate change and global warming is a reality in my home,” says Allison Akootchook Warden from Kaktovik, a village in the Alaska arctic. “The failure of the United States, Canada and world leaders to take real action to address the climate crisis violates our rights. The draft Paris Accord is full of carbon market mechanisms that are already causing harm to the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic Circle.”
Kandi Mossett, Tribal Citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations in North Dakota and campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network, whose home is surrounded by coal-fired power plants and inundated with fracking and flaring of natural gas states, “The current US Clean Power Plan allows the US to continue with carbon trading schemes such as REDD+ designed to allow more extraction and combustion of fossil fuels for a profit. The whole concept is a false solution to the climate crisis because it allows the US to buy up “carbon credits” often on Indigenous lands in other countries while simultaneously destroying Indigenous homelands in the US essentially making us sacrifice zones for the good of the economy; Indigenous peoples are not expendable and will not sit idly by and allow this desecration to continue without a fight.”
According to the Global Alliance against REDD, “Instead of cutting CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, the UN, the US, the EU, China, Norway and climate criminals like BP, Total, Shell, Chevron, Air France and BHP Billiton are pushing a false solution to climate change called REDD.”
According to Nnimmo Bassey, co-coordinator of the No REDD in Africa Network, “REDD may result in the largest land grab in history. It steals your future, lets polluters off the hook and is new form of colonialism. We demand that states and corporations stop privatizing nature!”
Here are some photos of the It Takes Roots Delegation in the Human Chain Action on November 29th in Paris.
(Dec 1, 2015) Indigenous leaders, Tom Goldtooth, Gloria Ushigua, Alberto Saldamondo, and Berenice Sanchez spoke at the COP 21 at a Press Conference on how REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) violates Natural Law and the Sacred. REDD, a carbon offset mechanism with forests and ecosystems, is a major part of the false solutions to climate change promoted by the United Nations draft climate agreement at the world climate summit in Paris.
•Berenice Sanchez, Food Sovereignty Expert
•Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network
•Gloria Ushigua, President of Sapara Women’s Association
•Alberto Saldamando, International Indigenous Rights Lawyer