(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
via New Internationalist Magazine
The climate negotiations have done worse than nothing to prevent climate change. Nigerian activist Adesuwa Uwagie-Ero takes us on a historical journey, and suggests some ways to shift the international process onto a path toward climate justice.
As governments from more than 190 nations prepare to gather in Paris to discuss a new global agreement on climate change, Nigeria is still battling with fundamental problems. These include increasing poverty levels of citizens, floods, gas flaring in the South, increased threat of desertification in the North, lack of sector coordination, and a population explosion. All these have direct implications for our food supply systems, water scarcity and health.
The sorry state of the Nigerian environment is best seen through the lens of the impacts of the oil and gas sector. A United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) assessment documented the level of ecocide inflicted on the Ogoni environment over 50 years of reckless exploitation. UNEP surmised that it will require about three decades of work to detoxify the Ogoni environment, where active oil extraction was shut down in 1993.
Four years after the launch of that report, little has been done about this clear ecological emergency. Only recently has the Buhari-led Nigerian administration committed the sum of $10 million to the clean-up. It is time to place the ecological question at the heart of our political debates and action plans. We are the people of the environment: our lives, culture and production are embedded and intertwined with nature.
The powerful browbeat the weak
Current commitments on greenhouse gas emission cuts will run out in 2020, so in Paris governments are expected to produce an agreement on what happens for the next decade, and potentially beyond. The optimism that fossil fuels will remain the dominant energy source into the foreseeable future is delusory and not founded in fact. The world may ramp up extreme extraction such as fracking, but that will not stop the shift away from climate-changing fossil fuels occurring.
As the exploitation of nature reaches the zenith of unreasonableness, traders are now seeing nature as an object for speculation and wholesale commodification. Good concepts such as sustainable development are being turned on their heads. The concept of ‘Green Economy’ on which even the brownest sectors cling turns out to be a platform for insisting that nature cannot be defended. It must be assigned a monetary value; its intrinsic value is absolutely ignored.
The conferences of parties (COP) to the climate change convention have over the years turned into sessions where the powerful browbeat the weak and efforts are made to avoid responsibility and to act in narrow national or regional interest.
The rapid slide down this slope took root at COP15 in Copenhagen. It was deepened at COP16 in Cancun where the concept of ‘consensus’ got redefined as ‘agreement by the majority’.
COP17 in Durban took the medal as the conference whose critical achievement was the blatant postponement of action while the earth burns. Nations like the US, Canada, Japan and Australia openly throw spanners in the works. Some go as far as foreclosing any participation in legal and accountability formats.
COP18 at Doha was a sigh, as leaders kicked the noisy decision-making can further down the road. In the negotiations following Doha, the talks in Bonn and Geneva continued to show the strains between developed, emerging economies and differently developed nations – especially with regard to emissions reductions commitments and mitigation actions.
At the negotiations held in May 2013 at Geneva the developed countries pushed for a legally binding ‘spectrum of commitments’ from both developed and developing countries. However, their stance was based on targets determined by each government according to their national capabilities and circumstances – not by what science requires. They suggested that these would be reviewed periodically, with the aim of keeping global temperature rise in line with the 2 degree Celsius goal.
These trends leave us with the burning question: has the COP process really helped the world tackle climate change?
Climate change has become big business, and false solutions are celebrated. Whereas it has been clear for a long time now that global warming is mostly man-made and is due to the huge amount of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere by polluting activities involving the use of fossil fuels, preferred actions taken by nations and industries have been patently false actions.
These actions are mostly predicated on the specious notion of carbon offsetting. The notion itself is built on the creed that financial markets hold the key to solving humankind’s problems.
Carbon was first placed on the market at the Kyoto COP in 1997. It means polluters can keep polluting, provided they pay for it in cash (a carbon tax) or imagine that some trees somewhere else in the world are absorbing an equivalent amount of carbon as they are emitting. Polluters perform acts of indulgence through offsets.
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) covers some such offset schemes, where projects that help reduce carbon emissions earn carbon credits. Some really obnoxious projects get listed under the CDM.
Gas-to-power projects utilizing gas that would otherwise be flared seem to make sense, except that gas flaring has been illegal in Nigeria since 1984. There has also been a High Court ruling against Shell over its gas flares at Iwerekhan, Delta State. The court ruled that gas flaring is illegal, unconstitutional and an affront to people’s rights. That judgment was delivered in November 2005 but the flares continue to roar.
Projects that qualify for the CDM are expected to be ones that bring in ‘additionality’. But Nnimmo Bassey, former Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action, makes the point that ‘any compensation for such an activity flies in the face of reason. Gas flares are the most cynical manifestations of corporate insolence in the face of climate change and environmental health. The flares release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous and sulphur oxides with other harmful substances that greatly affect human health.’ Just when we thought we had overcome slavery we are getting dragged into not just carbon colonialism, but carbon slavery.
Market mechanisms threw Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) into the ring at the Bali climate meeting of 2009. REDD and its variants allow polluters to keep on at their business of polluting while ‘showing’ that trees in a forest or plantation elsewhere absorb the carbon they emit. Thus REDD projects permit pollution and cannot be said to reduce emissions. The name itself is a sad joke: REDD does not stop deforestation, but at best defers or displaces it. A REDD scheme is a business scheme, pure and simple.
A declaration from the Climate Space at the Tunis World Social Forum in March 2013 insisted ‘we cannot put the future of nature and humanity in the hands of financial speculative mechanisms like carbon trading and REDD. REDD, like Clean Development Mechanisms, is not a solution to climate change and is a new form of colonialism. In defence of Indigenous Peoples, local communities and the environment, we reject REDD+ and the grabbing of the forests, farmlands, soils, mangroves, marine algae and oceans of the world, which act as sponges for greenhouse gas pollution…’
No REDD in Africa Network (NRAN) recalls a situation in Mozambique, where a study found that thousands of farmers in the N’hambita REDD project were paid meagre amounts for seven years for tending trees. ‘Because the contract is for 99 years, if the farmer dies his or her children and their children must tend the trees without any further pay or compensation. This has been interpreted as a clear case of carbon slavery.’
Agrofuels and technofixes
Another false solution has been the presentation of agrofuels as a replacement of fossil fuels, when in fact it keeps the fossil fuels paradigm and is equally polluting. Moreover, it has triggered massive land-grabs. Even at its peak agrofuels cannot replace fossil fuels because the amount of land needed to cultivate crops and the feedstock needed for production is simply not available on planet Earth.
Geo-engineering and agricultural genetic engineering are other false solutions that lull humans into thinking that they can keep current polluting lifestyles and find techno-fixes for their addiction.
Criteria for climate justice
So what must be done? Time is ticking fast, the peoples of the world must continually press for climate justice, understanding that no nation, rich or poor, is immune to the challenges posed by global warming. Reflections on the challenge can leave us utterly exasperated, considering the corporate capture of governments and the refusal of states to take actions that would benefit the people and the planet, and not just the corporations.
This has been amply illustrated by the tragic weather events that have fairly democratically impacted nations around the world. These effects are undeniable: sea-levels are rising, Arctic ice is melting and may lead to changes in ocean circulation, sea-surface temperatures are rising, sea water is acidifying, due to an increase of dissolved carbon dioxide, we are seeing a heavier rainfall pattern, hurricanes and floods, emerging crop diseases and crop failures, intense droughts and desertification, to mention just a few impacts. These negatively affect human lives and that of other species.
Urgent actions are needed across the globe. These include:
Urgent actions are needed across the globe. These include:
Rapid transition from dependence on fossil fuels – including in transportation, power generation and agriculture;
A just global climate treaty that recognises historical responsibility, climate debt and the need for legally binding emissions reduction;
Elimination of market mechanisms (including CDM, REDD, REDD+) and all other false solutions from the climate regime;
Recycling of waste and reducing consumption in line with planetary limits;
National laws that build mechanisms for climate mitigation and adaptation actions, including coastal protection and combating desertification;
Stop gas flaring in the Niger Delta and at Badagary communities in Nigeria immediately;
Stop fracking and other extreme extraction, including drilling in the Arctic region;
Educate grassroots communities and the creation of community climate defence committees that would set rules for physical developments as well as monitor impacts of climate change;
Universal respect of Mother Earth’s rights as articulated at the Cochabamba People’s Summit on Climate Change;
Leave the fossil fuels in the soil. Besides global warming, the environmental cost of fossil fuels cannot justify a continued reliance on the resource. Reflect on Shell’s pollution of Ogoni land. Think about the open scars created by tar sand extraction in Alberta.
Awake, arise, mobilize!
Our narrative must be the story of our lives, told by us and dipped in our experiences. As Arundhati Roy puts it, ‘If there is any hope for the world at all, it does not live in climate change conference rooms or in cities with tall buildings. It lives low to the ground, with its arms around the people who go to battle every day to protect their forests, their mountains and their rivers because they know that the forests, the mountains and the rivers protect them and are their source of livelihood.
The first step toward re-imagining a world gone terribly wrong would be to stop the annihilation of those who have a different imagination – an imagination that is outside capitalism as well as communism. An imagination which has an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfilment.’
It is our life. We know how the rain has beaten us and for how long. Indeed we did not inherit the Earth; we borrowed it from our children.
Our narrative must not be stuck in the crisis narrative imagined by others. We must awake, arise, mobilize and work for the transformation of our society and planet – by all legitimate means available and necessary.
Adesuwa Uwagie-Ero is a campaigner with Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria.
– See more at: http://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2015/11/26/escaping-carbon-slavery-the-view-from-nigeria/#sthash.9KE6lqfu.dpuf
The UN climate negotiations that will take place in Paris are sponsored by a series of polluting companies. Among these companies are two that are also involved in REDD projects: Air France and BNP Paribas.
Today we’ll look at Air France, and at BNP Paribas in a future post.
Air France is an airline company. Aviation is the world’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. The aim of the UNFCCC is supposedly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So why on earth would the organisers of COP21 accept money from an airline company?
Aviation accounts for 2% of global emissions, but in rich countries it’s way more…
Air France points out on its website that, “The air transport sector contributes around 2% of global CO2 emissions”. The source for this statement is the IPCC’s fourth Assessment Report, published in 2007. So far, so good.
But the 2% figure hides a multitude of sins. More people in rich countries fly than in poor countries. Many people (especially poor people) don’t fly at all. In 2010, the Guardianestimated that in the UK, aviation’s impact is around 13-15% of total greenhouse gas emissions. A small number of regular flyers accounts for a large proportion of these emissions.
So what is an airline company to do? More flights presumably means more profits. And vice versa. No company has a mandate from its shareholders to reduce profits. So here’s Air France’s corporate vision on climate change:
We aim to reach a sustainable balance between aviation growth and the control of CO2 emissions by playing our part in the worldwide effort, mobilizing our industry and reducing our own impact.
Which amounts to handful of words promising very little.
REDD in Madagascar
In 2008, Air France decided to take action. Not by encouraging people to stop flying, obviously. Instead it invested €5 million over four years in a REDD project in Madagascar, the Holistic Conservation Programme for Forests (HCPF). (Incidentally, in 2014, Air France had revenues of €24.9 billion.)
Air France is delighted with the HCPF. “We have achieved or exceeded all our targets”, Air France’s Pierre Caussade told Sophie Chapelle from the news website Basta!.
“This project was developed partly to help local communities better manage their livelihoods and improve their living conditions. But there was also a scientific aspect, consistent with our concerns about climate change. We estimate that the programme will enable us to reduce emissions caused by deforestation by 35 billion tons of CO2.
(Caussade was quoting from the website of Good Planet, one of the NGOs that worked on the project. The page has now been removed, but here’s an archive copy. The Good Planet website now lists the project as completed, and corrects the figure to 35 million tons of CO2 over 20 years.)
The reality, as Amis de la Terre points out, is that large areas of forest have been taken away from local communities.
So that a small minority can continue to pollute the planet, we require the world’s poorest people to change their way of life: forests and land are no longer natural areas but have become stocks of carbon that must be protected. Worse, to keep an eye on fraudsters, a forest police has been set up: its mission is to track down villagers who clear patches of forest to grow food to feed themselves. Anybody caught in the act risks a heavy fine. If the individual is unable to pay, they are sent to prison. And as if patrols on the ground were not enough, aeroplanes fly above the villages to keep a better eye on them!
Conservation by coercion
The project is run by WWF Madagascar. One of the villagers affected by the REDD project explained how WWF had failed to consult with villagers, let alone carry out a process of free, prior informed consent:
“We are asking the WWF to show us which areas are protected and which are not, that is, where we can get firewood and wood to build our houses in order to provide for our families. But above all, these things must be discussed with all the villagers. We can’t make decisions on our own.”
Another villager pointed out that neither information about the project nor money reaches the villages. “There is no compensation, only penalties to pay.”
In a recent article about forest conservation in Madagascar, Julia Jones, Professor of Conservation Science at Bangor University, notes that,
Key questions remain about how benefits from REDD+ payments will be distributed locally – the question of whether resources will be sufficient to compensate for lost livelihoods – and how the rights of those affected will be protected.
Bruno Ramamonjisoa, a professor of forestry at the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar, told Jones that,
[F]orest conservation in Madagascar will only be successful if the people dependent on forests, and their needs, are fully incorporated into conservation plans. Those developing the REDD+ policies must understand the real challenges facing forest-edge communities in Madagascar.”
Changes for the poor, not the rich
There is a serious ethical question here, as Sophie Chappelle points out in her 2013 report about the project published by Basta! and Amis de la Terre. Instead of addressing the root cause of climate change (burning fossil fuels) and changing the behaviour of the rich (who have most responsibility for climate change), this type of offset project allows the rich to continue their polluting lifestyles. Meanwhile, the poor are forced to change their behaviour. Chappelle writes:
When, for example, a company offers its clients the opportunity to offset their carbon emissions by financing a project like the HCPF, it equates leisure activities (air travel for holidays, the purchase of a computer) with fundamental rights (feeding oneself using slash-and-burn agriculture to clear land).