Norway’s failed REDD experiment in Tanzania

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

Lund, Mabele and Koch write that,

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

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

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

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

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

Undermining democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

REDD and carbon trading

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a Tanzanian government official pointed out,

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

REDD is a dangerous distraction

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

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

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


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

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

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

The preliminary draft is available here.

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

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

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

The rulemaking process

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

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

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

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

The REDD process

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

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

b. Other Linkages and Linkage-Related Partnerships

Sector-Based Crediting Programs, including Acre, Brazil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kicking the REDD can down the road

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

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

The third compliance period runs from 2018 to 2020.

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

Brown in talks with big oil

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

As Dan Bacher points out,

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

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

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

By Chris Lang
REDD Monitor

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

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

Conflicts of interest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The authors note that,

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

Mai Ndombe, DRC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corridor Ankeniheny-Zahamena, Madagascar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baselines are “untestable guesses”

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

There is no way of testing whether a baseline scenario is true or not, because it is something that might have happened had the REDD project not gone ahead.

As the authors conclude, “the baseline scenarios in REDD+ projects amount to untestable guesses”.

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

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

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

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

by Chris Lang – REDD Monitor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manufacturing consent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schwartzman didn’t bother.

2016-05-31-152458_828x965_scrot

To whom it may concern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016-05-31-152715_828x965_scrot

Will Paris save the climate? Of course it won’t

2015-07-09-124824_1037x1026_scrot“U.N. climate deal in Paris may be graveyard for 2C goal,” is the headline of a recent Reuters article, which points out that the chances of keeping global warming below 2°C are rapidly disappearing.

The article includes a quotation from Oliver Geden, of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs:

“It’s just not feasible. Two degrees is a focal point for the climate debate but it doesn’t seem to be a focal point for political action.”

Christine Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, disagrees. Reuters reports her as saying that new mechanisms for future rounds of pledges, perhaps in 2025 and 2030, can hit the 2°C mark. “You don’t run a marathon with one step,” Figueres comments.

It’s an interesting metaphor. Paris will be the 21st Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC. That’s 21 years of negotiations. And, to paraphrase Figueres, you don’t run a marathon for 21 years.

It’s not surprising that Figueres argues that COP21 is just another step on the way towards addressing climate change. She knows that there will be no decision that comes out of Paris that will come anywhere near keeping emissions below 2°C. And it’s understandable that the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC doesn’t want to admit that the UNFCCC is failing abysmally.

But it is perhaps surprising to read that Joe Romm supports Figueres’ position. Romm is the Founding Editor of Climate Progress. He believes that action is urgently needed to address climate change. Yet in February 2015, he wrote,

“I don’t think one can call Paris a failure merely because it doesn’t create an agreement that would limit warming to 2°C, much as we ultimately need to keep to that limit.”

Romm recycled his article yesterday in response to the Reuters article.

Romm argues that it is impossible to get onto what Figueres calls “the 2°C pathway” in Paris, “without every major player agreeing to specific and serious post 2030 cuts, an outcome that was never on the table”.

This is crazy. Romm is a climate hawk who has worked tirelessly for action on climate change for many years. Yet his vision of success involves emissions reductions targets 15 years in the future. The fact that even targets way off in the future were never on the Paris table is a sure guarantee that the meeting will fail.

Romm compares the climate negotiations to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. His point is that the negotiations were difficult, the initial targets too weak, and it took a long time. But in the end, the Montreal Protocol.

The first problem with the comparison is that, as Romm acknowledges, reducing CFCs is a lot simpler than reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But the differences between the climate negotiations and the ozone negotiations are more interesting than the similarities. When the Montreal Protocol was negotiated, there wasn’t a massive, well-funded misinformation campaign attempting to sabotage any chance of a successful outcome.

The Montreal Protocol reduced CFC concentrations in the atmosphere by banning CFCs. There was no CFC trading programme in the Montreal Protocol.

And the meetings leading up to the Montreal Protocol were not sponsored by companies that manufacture CFCs. About 20% of the €170 million that COP21 will cost is to come from companies, including some serious polluters:

  • Électricité de France (EDF) runs coal-fired power stations. In 2013, EDF sued 21 climate activists who occupied its power station in Nottinghamshire in the UK for a week. EDF later dropped the £5 million lawsuit.
  • Engie (formerly GDF Suez) is a large energy company. It is planning a 1200 MW coal plant in South Africa. In May 2015, hundreds of people protested against Engie’s plans. Also in May, the company’s chairman and CEO, Gérard Mestrallet, visited the World Bank telling the Bank about Engie’s support for carbon pricing and the EU Emissions Trading System.
  • Suez Environnement is one-third owned by Engie. Both companies are members of the Centre for Non-Conventional Hydrocarbons – a fracking lobby group. Suez is the world’s second largest environmental services provider, with a focus on water. In 2006, Buenos Aires took back control of its water services from Suez. The company sued, and recently won a court case for US$405 million compensation.
  • Renault-Nissan is a car manufacturer. The company will provide 200 electric cars to COP21. In total, Renault-Nissan has sold 250,000 electric cars. Last year, Renault-Nissan sold 8.5 million cars.
  • BNP Paribas was the leading French bank in terms of support for coal between 2005 and 2014. BankTrack lists a series of problematic projects that BNP Paribas has financed, including the biggest coal mine in Indonesia, Kaltim Prima Coal Mine, the Nam Theun 2 dam in Laos, an LNG project in Papua New Guinea, and the Tata Mundra Ultra Mega Power Plant in India.
  • Air France is an airline company. On its website, the company points out that, “around 80% of Air France’s emissions come from long-haul aircraft”. The company’s position on reducing these emissions could safely be described as stubborn:

    There is no substitute method of transport for passengers or for cargo aircarfts [sic] carrying express goods such as valuables or perishable foodstuffs.

    In 2012, Air France was one of nine airline companies that opposed a European carbon tax on aviation.

    Here’s a petition you can sign to kick the polluters out of the climate talks:

    kickbigpollutersout.com

Rio minus twenty: Too little, too late

By Ben Powless
July 14, 2012

It’s been twenty years since the first Earth Summit. That’s nearly 500 months, or over 7,000 days. Yet, during all that time, state governments around the world have nearly completely neglected their responsibilities to the natural world, and it’s starting to show.

Almost to highlight the point directly, a heat wave hit North America just as the Rio+20 summit was taking place. Global climate change is being felt just about everywhere, challenging humans and other species’ ability to adapt. Species are going extinct at a rate never before observed. These issues were all the impetus to the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where world leaders pledged to resolve these crises to avoid environmental collapse. Twenty years later, they returned, with full knowledge that the problems were worse than ever, and seemingly without any grand intentions to resolve the situation.

Of course, if you listened to many of the countries who were present, they came up with a credible plan to avert ecological disaster. Their plan contains a few measures, including plans to develop a set of “Sustainable Development Goals”, modeled

Indigenous leaders march to deliver the Kari-Oca Declaration.

on the Millennium Development Goals, as well as general goals of improving environmental management, and advocating for a so-called ‘green economy’.

However, before the planes left Rio de Janeiro to carry world leaders back home, environmental activists, anti-poverty groups, women’s representatives, youth organizations, and Indigenous Peoples had already condemned the final document as a failure, completely insufficient for the global environmental crises ongoing.

Instead, civil society groups announced their intention to work more closely together, to move forward on various proposals developed in a series of alternative conferences. Many groups took part in the People’s Summit, in addition to two separate conferences organized by Indigenous Peoples. The biggest of these, the Kari-Oca Gathering, was organized by Indigenous groups in Brazil with an open invitation to Indigenous participants from everywhere.

Those who attended the Kari-Oca gathering put together a scathing declaration, indicative of the general disdain held by many civil-society groups towards the direction the UN is seen to be moving. In the declaration, the group rails against the ‘green economy’ proposal as another tool to expand capitalism and globalization to Indigenous communities, and as a code-word for the further destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity over the world.

A Kayapo leader signs on to the Kari-Oca Declaration.

Instead, Indigenous groups urge people to transform production and consumption based on human needs, to build sustainable communities founded on traditional knowledge, and to empower Indigenous Peoples worldwide to protect and manage their traditional lands and territories, as is dictated by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

At the official UN summit, Canada was up to its usual bag of tricks. While some countries cathme to the meeting with genuine intentions of achieving some progress, Canada continued its same bag of tricks from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, where for years they have been blocking significant progress on a new climate treaty, going so far as to drop out of the Kyoto Protocol last year. At the summit, Canada joined with Venezuela to stop any attempts to limit the amount of subsidies going to fossil fuel companies – a significant cause of not just global warming, but impacts on frontline communities around the world. Canada also joined with other nations to actually block attempts to protect oceans that are outside of national jurisdiction.

Canadian civil society groups were direct in their denouncement of the dearth of action, ripping up the negotiated text the second day of the meetings. “We were promised leaps and bounds, but this agreement barely moves us forward by inches,” Cam Fenton of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition yelled to a crowd of youth who staged a sit-in at the UN talks.

Ta’Kaiya Blaney is boosted above the crowd by Kandi Mossett (IEN) as she addresses the group of young people staging a sit-in.

“What are we going to leave for future generations? There’ll be no environment left without change. It needs to come not tomorrow, but today,” declared Ta’Kaiya Blaney, an eleven-year old from the Sliammon First Nation in BC, after ripping up the document at the sit-in. Ta’Kaiya was in Rio as part of the Indigenous Environmental Network delegation to speak out on the impact of the tar sands and Enbridge pipelines coming through BC.

The same day, a few hundred Indigenous groups marched to the UN summit site, fully decked in their traditional dress and paint from the Amazon. They were there to deliver the Kari-Oca Declaration, which they were eventually able to do, under heavy military surveillance, as helicopters hovered overhead, and armoured personnel carriers sat by idly. The document was received by a minister from the Brazilian government, and an official of the UN, despite the final negotiation text having already been signed. Indigenous groups were disappointed that the final text neglected to include any protections for Indigenous rights or culture as part of its main principals.

“Our people’s cultural world view is that humanity must be in harmony with mother nature. We should treat nature as a source of living, not extraction. The multiple crises that the world is facing today – economic, social, political and climactic – we, indigenous people, have much to offer in terms of solutions,” offered Windel Bolinget, of the Cordillera People’s Alliance from the Philippines.

In the end, many observers left with feelings of frustration, but also some hope. For their lack of progress, the talks managed to bring together thousands of representatives of civil society and social movements from across the globe, and by the end emboldened many of them to link their fights and continue their struggles even stronger back at home. It has become much clearer over the past years – under the Harper government in particular, and with the state of international relations generally – that the United Nations was not the place to look for solutions to trickle-down from the top, but that the solutions to the plethora of environmental issues and injustices would have to boil-up from the grassroots.

For more photos please see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/powless/sets/72157630254233700/