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
Yesterday, 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
The link in Schwartzman’s tweet is to the letter from Carlos Rittl, posted on EDF’s website.
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:
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.”
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.
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.
Just earlier this week, the East Bay Express, known for it’s investigative and longform news and feature stories, just released an in depth article covering California’s involvement in REDD. The Oakland-based weekly newspaper serving the Berkeley, Oakland, and East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, is the first to break a full in-depth story on the pitfalls of REDD.
California’s cap-and-trade system, which has been touted as a model for reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, allows timber companies to clear-cut forests.
As reported by Will Parish
Jerry Brown basked in adulation during his whirlwind trip to Paris, and the evening of December 8 figured to offer more of the same. Standing alongside governors of states and provinces from Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, California’s governor planned to tout his state’s leadership role on global climate policy. The event was one of 21 presentations that Brown delivered during a five-day swing through France during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21). His busy schedule included a stately private meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and presentations at events organized by the French, German, Chinese, and US governments.
The December 8 event was held at a mid-19th-century-mansion-turned-hotel and was hosted by the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, which is a collaboration of 29 states and provinces in forest-rich countries that are preparing to join a program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). Crucially, though, it was Brown’s only Paris presentation to which non-invited members of the public could purchase tickets.
As Brown concluded his remarks, Pennie Opal Plant, an East Bay resident and member of the group Idle No More Solidarity San Francisco Bay, stood up near the front of the room, directly in front of the governor. “Richmond, California says ‘no’ to REDD!” she shouted, ‘”no’ to evicting indigenous people from their forests, and ‘no’ to poisoning my community!”
About thirty people, who had dispersed themselves throughout the room to avoid prior suspicion of coordinated dissent, soon joined in a chant of “No REDD! No REDD!”
Organizers quickly escorted the flustered Brown to a nearby exit. Before disappearing, the governor claimed to agree with the protesters, witnesses said.
Brown and California are widely regarded as global leaders in the fight against climate change in large part because of the state’s cap-and-trade program, which was authorized by the 2006 California Global Warming Solutions Act (Assembly Bill 32). The law caps the total amount of carbon emissions in the state and is designed to reduce emissions by allowing polluters to buy “credits” or “offsets” from carbon-saving projects or to sell credits themselves if they’ve significantly reduced their own emissions. California’s largest polluters — including power plants and refineries, like the Chevron refinery in Richmond — can also invest in carbon-saving projects elsewhere in the United States, or in Québec, on a commodity exchange market. The oil giant Shell, for example, is using forests in Michigan to offset its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from its refinery in Martinez.
California’s cap-and-trade program is the first of its kind in the nation. And the state’s leaders are pushing to become the only jurisdiction in the world that also offsets its climate pollution through investments in tropical forest regions in the Southern Hemisphere. The common name for such efforts is REDD. Several industrialized countries, as well as the World Bank and the United Nations, have already invested money in REDD pilot projects.
Proponents say that REDD is urgently needed to prevent the degradation and loss of forests, a problem that accounts for roughly 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide — more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector.
But critics warn that California’s adoption of REDD would have far-reaching human rights and environmental consequences. Initial investments by the World Bank and United Nations in REDD have already precipitated violent evictions of indigenous people from their forested homelands in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya — to make way for carbon-saving projects. In fact, countless activists and grassroots organizations regard REDD as a recipe for a global land grab, prompting them to dub it a case of “CO2lonialism.”
Given California’s trailblazing status with regard to climate policy, its adoption of REDD would likely trigger similar policies throughout the globe. “People all over the world are terrified that California will open the floodgates on REDD,” said Ayse Gürsöz, an Oakland resident who was among those who joined in chanting “No REDD!” at Governor Brown in Paris last month. A video producer and volunteer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, Gürsöz has gathered video testimonies in Africa and Peru from indigenous people who oppose California’s program.
Yet despite the opposition, California appears poised to adopt REDD. And Brown might do so at a time when many environmentalists have increasingly challenged the climate benefits of the state’s own cap-and-trade program. They note that California’s cap-and-trade system allows large lumber companies to generate and sell carbon credits when they engage in standard logging practices and clear-cut forests. As a result, cap-and-trade in California is proving to be a financial boon for timber corporations that practice many of the same forms of destructive logging that occur in tropical regions of the Global South.
The world’s forests are in deep trouble. Since 1970, the year of the first Earth Day celebration in the United States, more than 1 billion acres of tropical forest have vanished: They’ve been cut or burned, or have died from insects and disease. The amount of forest lost equals an area about half the size of the continental United States. The environmental group Rainforest Action Network estimates that 2.5 acres of forest are cut worldwide every second — equivalent to two and a half football fields — which translates to about 215,000 acres every day, an area larger than New York City.
In the past several years, though, conservation of these forests has gained a fresh impetus as many scientists have begun to view them through a new lens: as global sponges that soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide molecules emitted from burning coal, oil, and natural gas. Ecologists have started to measure the ability of every major forest in the world to absorb CO2, a process known as sequestration.
They have figured out — with the precise numbers deduced only recently — that forests have been absorbing the equivalent of about one-quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels and other activities. Trees store an amount equal to the emissions from all of the world’s cars and trucks.
The imperative to preserve the world’s forests in order to stave off catastrophic climate change has led to arguments that they be monetized and sold as credits or offsets to greenhouse gas emitters who need them to comply with regulatory limits. And under cap-and-trade programs, such as that in California, owners of forestland, including timber companies, can generate carbon credits after they enlist licensed certifiers who use complex methodologies to tally the volume of carbon dioxide being stored in the trees on their property.
Critics contend that offsets awarded to lumber companies represent a loophole that could undermine greenhouse gas reduction efforts. They say pledges of carbon reductions by timber corporations cannot be considered real, because those companies might have conducted the same amount of logging anyway without the extra money from selling credits. “Poorly measured offsets could lead to an increase in emissions,” said Brian Nowicki of the conservation group Center for Biological Diversity.
Under California’s rules, businesses can offset up to 8 percent of their total emissions through purchasing credits. The number of metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions allowed in the state is capped, and the allowable levels of pollution are steadily reduced, creating an economic incentive for companies to cut emissions. The state’s overall emissions cap declined 2 percent each year from 2012 through 2014. From 2015 to 2020, the cap is dropping by 3 percent per year.
Because companies are required to purchase pollution permits, the state is expected to collect about $5 billion a year in fees by 2020, with the bulk of the money being recycled into clean-energy projects, the construction of housing near mass transit hubs, and building the state’s high-speed rail system.
But, overall, California’s cap-and-trade system has split environmental organizations. Many progressive groups question its effectiveness, while some more moderate ones — including The Nature Conservancy, Pacific Forest Trust, and the Natural Resources Defense Council — have joined state officials and large timber companies in supporting it.
“It’s been a huge success,” said Laurie Wayburn, president of the Pacific Forest Trust, which has been instrumental in developing California’s program. “This really has gone from a what-are-you-smoking kind of reception to every single forest owner who manages their land looking at the protocols as part of a business approach.”
But both the California and European Union cap-and-trade systems have countless critics, perhaps the most famous of whom is Pope Francis, who surprised many observers last year when he took the programs to task in his wide-ranging encyclical on the environment and global warming. “The strategy of buying and selling ‘carbon credits’ can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide,” Francis wrote.
“This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require,” Francis continued. “Rather, it may simply become a ploy [that] permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.”
The legislative history of California’s cap-and-trade program dates to 2002, when then-state Senator Byron Sher, D-Palo Alto, sponsored Senate Bill 812, which helped create California’s first voluntary carbon market. Jeff Shellito — a former longtime aide to Sher who worked on the bill — made it clear in a recent interview that he thinks the program has become irredeemably corrupted. And he identified the culprits. “The process went off the rails ethically,” he said, “when it allowed corporate timber interests like Sierra Pacific Industries to rewrite the protocols to fit their business models.”
SB 812 was originally sponsored by Pacific Forest Trust, and it expanded the responsibilities of the California Climate Action Registry, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit. SB 812 directed the registry, which was created two years earlier by the state legislature, to adopt procedures for monitoring, calculating, and certifying CO2 emissions resulting from the conservation of California’s native forests. The registry’s rules were designed to reward individuals and companies doing the most to protect California’s forests. Specifically, they forbade clear-cutting of forests included in carbon-sequestration projects and required offset-project developers to establish forest conservation easements that restricted logging and did not allow the forest to be converted to other land uses.
Four years later, the legislature passed AB 32, thereby established a mandatory carbon trading market. And the state’s powerful timber industry — particularly, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), a corporate behemoth based in Redding — was determined to modify the registry’s rules. Of the roughly 4.5 million acres of California land zoned for timber production, SPI owns about one-third, making it, by far, the state’s largest private landowner. The main architect of the company’s success is Archie Aldis “Red” Emmerson, who, according to Forbes, is worth $3.6 billion.
While clear-cutting in national forests was phased out in the late Nineties (except for so-called “salvage logging” following fires), SPI still depends heavily on this method of denuding its own forestland. Between 1999 and 2006, SPI received approval from the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection (Cal Fire) to clear-cut roughly 239,300 acres of forest in the Sierra, Klamath, and Coast mountain ranges, according to a study by the environmental group Forest Ethics. Since then, SPI has continued a similar rate of clear-cutting. Other large timber firms, such as Seattle-based Green Diamond Resources Company, which owns more than 400,000 acres of mainly redwood and Douglas fir forestland in Humboldt, Del Norte, and Trinity counties, also rely heavily on clear-cutting.
Under intense pressure from the timber lobby, the California Air Resources Board in 2009 jettisoned the registry’s forestry protocols, which had stemmed from Sher’s 2002 legislation. CARB then rubber-stamped a new set of protocols that had been developed by a new “stakeholders” group. This 27-member group included a who’s who of timber company managers and foresters, staff members of large conservation organizations, academics, and government representatives. Among them was an SPI forester named Ed Murphy.
In October 2009, Nowicki of the Center for Biological Diversity, logged onto CAR’s website from his Sacramento office. He said that according to the “Properties” function in the PDF that he downloaded, the final person to edit the state’s new forest protocols before CAR posted them online was Ed Murphy.
The state’s cap-and-trade program gives timber coompanies “credits” for clear-cutting.
The new protocols, which CARB adopted in 2010, lifted the requirement to place forestland in conservation easements in exchange for assigning them carbon credits, in favor of a practice called “improved forest management,” which essentially permits traditional logging under the standards established in 1973 by the California Forest Practice Act. The new protocols also allowed timber operators to generate carbon credits when they clear-cut a forest, so long as the cut is no larger than forty acres in size.
University of Oregon forestry professor Mark Harmon was among the many critics of CARB’s new protocols. A member of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Biogenics Carbon Emissions Panel, which is reviewing the EPA’s accounting framework for CO2 emissions from biologically based materials, including forests and soil, Harmon is regarded as a leading expert on the dynamics of carbon storage and sequestration. “I have to say I was a bit shocked by what they were proposing,” Harmon recalled in a recent interview. “Frankly, it didn’t make scientific sense. Timber harvest, clear-cutting in particular, removes more carbon from the forest than any other disturbance, including fire. The result is that harvesting forests generally reduces carbon stores and results in a net release of carbon to the atmosphere. So, if the goal was to increase carbon storage in US forests, the California program totally missed the mark.”
But proponents of the revised protocols staunchly defend them. They note that timber companies must replant the areas they clear-cut in order to generate carbon credits, and that the projects must demonstrate that they are meeting carbon storage targets over a one-hundred-year span.
However, critics note that clear-cutting produces serious environmental problems. It eliminates canopy cover, thereby warming the soil surface and increasing the rate at which logging debris and tree roots decompose, resulting in a dramatic increase in carbon emissions. They also argue that, rather than reducing fossil fuel emissions at the source — like at refineries and power plants — cap-and-trade provides extra income for business-as-usual timber operations.
“As it’s set up, [California’s cap-and-trade] program allows timber companies to get millions of dollars in carbon credits for the sorts of logging they are already doing,” Nowicki noted.
Sierra Pacific Industries has already developed more than 20 projects involving more than 200,000 acres of forestland. The projects have been approved for carbon offsets on the state’s voluntary market, and two of them are on the verge of generating offsets to be traded as part of California’s cap-and-trade program. They are the Buck Mountain Forest Improvement Project, which encompasses 12,487 acres in Siskiyou County, and the Sacramento River Canyon Forest Improvement Project, which covers 16,491 acres nearby. CARB staffers are currently performing spot checks on each property in advance of approving SPI’s sale of offsets.
In an interview, Mark Pawlicki, director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at Sierra Pacific Industries, said he was unable to say how much these projects are worth. But Pawlicki argued that the projects show that his company is a key player in preventing climate change, and that its practices represent an optimal way to sequester greenhouse gases. “We think that forestry has a great story to the tell, and that the more forests we grow, and continue to keep in a healthy state, the better off the air is,” he said. “We can continue to harvest as long as we grow at least the volume we sell in the carbon market, and as long as we maintain that level of carbon storage for one hundred years. And we’re doing that.”
The forestry protocols stakeholders group included three members of Pacific Forest Trust. The organization’s president, Wayburn, also defended the effectiveness of the protocols, in spite of the inclusion of timber industry-friendly provisions. If environmentalists want to change logging practices, she said, they should focus on the existing laws related to forest management. She noted that CARB essentially adopted the logging practices established in the 1973 Forest Practice Act, and deemed them helpful in the fight against climate change. “If your goal is to change forest practices, you should focus on changing the Forest Practice Act,” she said. “That’s the law that governs logging in the state.”
CARB’s controversial protocols also made California the first place in the world to assign carbon credits to wood products, such as decking. In an interview, CARB spokesperson Dave Clegern defended the inclusion of wood products in the agency’s accounting. “The main point to keep in mind with carbon in wood products is that the carbon must stay in place for at least one hundred years,” he said. “So we’re talking about wood used in large items intended to be permanent, like homes.”
But professor Harmon’s research raises doubt about this aspect of CARB’S program as well. In a 1994 study of carbon storage in wood products using historical data and modeling in the states of Washington and Oregon, Harmon and two colleagues found that only 23 percent of carbon in wood products remained sequestered from 1902 to 1992. Most of the rest had been disposed of and is decomposing in landfills.
Although much of the global zeal to protect forests focuses on tropical regions of the Global South, recent scientific studies have turned conventional wisdom on its head. An analysis of NASA satellite imagery, for example, found that forest disturbance from logging in the southern United States is actually four times greater than that in the South American rainforests on a per-acre basis.
Moreover, before the advent of modern logging, Northern California and the Pacific Northwest housed an “unprecedented carbon budget,” according to Jerry Franklin, a University of Washington professor of ecosystem analysis who is known as “the father of old-growth research.” As Franklin explained at a conference sponsored by Pacific Forest Trust in Arcata in August 2014, the conifer-dominated Pacific temperate rainforest, which runs from Prince William Sound in Alaska through the British Columbia coast to California’s Central Coast, contains the largest mass of living and decaying material of any ecosystem in the world. Redwood forests, he noted, exceed the capacity of any on Earth to store carbon “by a factor of three or four.” The mixed Douglas fir and hardwood forests that grow adjacent to the redwoods, as well as the montane-mixed conifer ecosystems of the Cascades and Sierra mountain ranges (where Sierra Pacific Industries conducts its clear-cuts), among other forests of the so-called “Pacific Slopes,” also play a notable role in regulating atmospheric carbon.
But while much global attention has focused on emissions caused by deforestation in the Global South, the United States has broadly failed to prevent degradation of its own forests in the name of fighting climate change. For example, the US Department of Agriculture has determined that the Tongass National Forest in southwestern Alaska — the world’s largest continuous stretch of temperate rainforest — accounts for 8 percent of all forest carbon stored in the United States. But a plan approved by the Obama administration will allow an estimated 676,000 board-feet of old-growth in the forest, or about 27,000 acres, to be logged in the next ten years. The administration has promised to transition away from old-growth logging after that, but the phase-out won’t be complete for another fifteen years.
Last month, John Talberth of the Center for Sustainable Economy in Oregon, conducted a climate assessment of Oregon’s forestry practices and determined that logging and clear-cutting were emitting roughly the same amount of greenhouse gases as those produced each year by 2 million vehicles, or seven coal-fired power plants. That makes forestry one of the biggest polluters in the state. Yet Oregon — like other US states — has failed to account for these emissions in its climate mitigation planning.
“Oregon has not done proper accounting,” said Dominick DellaSala, president and chief scientist of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, one of the sponsors of the climate assessment, in an interview. “They’ve been unquestioningly accepting what the timber industry is saying, which is, ‘We’re a net sink for carbon.'” DellaSala was referring to the fact that the industry maintains that it sequesters more carbon than it emits.
California Air Resources Board chairperson Mary Nichols has defended the cap-and-trade protocols by arguing that rules established by the 1973 Forest Practice Act are the most stringent in the world. But environmentalists say the protections that the rules afford are limited, as witnessed by the ongoing degradation of the state’s forests since the state adopted the rules. One of the most rapid depletions of California’s remaining redwood forests occurred in the 1980s and ’90s, when companies such as MAXXAM, Louisiana-Pacific, and Georgia-Pacific (which is now owned by the right-wing Koch brothers) logged the majority of the remaining mature redwood forests.
Even in the Nineties, the main political bulwark against the adoption of stronger forest protections was Sierra Pacific Industries. Former Cal Fire director Richard Wilson called SPI’s Red Emerson “a genius at generating profitable lumber from a mill.” But Wilson said his efforts in the Nineties to reform California forestry practices to be more sustainable failed due to SPI’s opposition.
“The whole [California] Board of Forestry was sort of an SPI cabal,” Wilson recalled. “Forest practices were not going to see much change in California, and that’s mainly because of the relationship between Sierra Pacific, [then-Governor] Pete [Wilson], and the Board of Forestry.”
SPI has also had close ties with the administrations of Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jerry Brown. According to data from the California Secretary of State’s Office, the company donated $115,000 to the 2012 campaign for Proposition 30, Brown’s tax measure. This contribution has raised eyebrows among environmentalists, particularly in light of the Associated Press’ revelation last year that Brown had fired two state regulators who stood in the way of expedited oil leases in Southern California, after which he received a $500,000 donation toward the same campaign from the company that stood to benefit the most from the firings — Occidental Petroleum.
According to critics, timber industry influence has long caused the agency that regulates timber harvesting, Cal Fire, to be an industry captive. Correspondence between Cal Fire staffers and Sierra Pacific Industries personnel, obtained via the California Public Records Act, strongly supports this view.
For example, in an April 26, 2013 document, Cal Fire’s Deputy Director of Resource Management, Duane Shintaku, who oversees the state’s timber harvest review process, coached a staffer on how to rebuff concerns that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife had raised about the detrimental impacts of SPI’s herbicide spraying and clear-cutting on the gene pool of a protected plant species — the Klamath Manzanita.
“The governor is the one who could force immediate change at Cal Fire,” said a Cal Fire staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “But his integrity is in question.”
Another revealing incident took place in 2014, after a California Air Resources Board staffer issued a proposal that sought to tighten restrictions on clear-cutting as a feature of carbon offsets projects. At the December 2014 Board of Forestry meeting, Executive Officer George Gentry sought permission to send CARB a letter on the board’s behalf. The board approved, directing him to ask CARB formally for clarifications about its intentions.
Yet in his actual December 15, 2014 letter, Gentry went beyond seeking clarification and instead actively backed the timber industry’s position, complaining that “recently proposed changes … may have the unintended consequences of preventing participation of over half of the private timberland base in California. The proposed changes may also conflict with the Forest Practice Rules of this [s]tate … the BOF has unanimously asked me to forward this concern to you.”
In a classic case of revolving-door politics, Gentry soon thereafter left the Board of Forestry to take a position as the vice president of Regulatory Affairs at the California timber industry’s main lobbying organization, the California Forestry Association. CARB later backed away from the proposal to curb clear-cutting, with the staffer involved saying her original proposal was misconstrued.
As opponents of REDD and California forest protection activists alike regularly note, a forest is not just composed of inert stocks of carbon. Logging, the use of heavy equipment, and the spraying of herbicide before and after logging to kill native vegetation all can take a profound toll on soil and wildlife. Historically, logging has caused enormous quantities of soil erosion that discharge sediment into streams. Sedimentation results in flooding, landslides, diminished water quality, and scoured and destabilized streambeds (and damage to property). Streams become impaired. Fish suffocate.
In the Battle Creek watershed of the Sacramento River, which lies between Redding and Lassen National Park and Forest, SPI has logged 21,000 acres of forest since 1998. Battle Creek Alliance founder Marily Woodhouse, a resident of the western slopes of Mount Lassen, has campaigned for years for a ban on clear-cutting in California, due to its impacts on local residents, wildlife, and, indeed, climate change. “Sierra Pacific Industries is doing essentially the same things that are occurring in the Amazon,” she said. “Yet there it’s categorized as ‘bad’ while here it’s ‘no problem.'”
Throughout the Global South, indigenous people commonly depend on their traditional forested homelands as the basis of their cultures and subsistence. According to a 2008 World Bank study, areas in which indigenous people occupy or control their traditional territory encompass 22 percent of the world’s land surface and coincide with areas that hold 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. In addition, the greatest diversity of indigenous groups in the world reside in the globe’s largest tropical forest wilderness areas in the Americas (including the Amazon), Africa, and Asia, and 11 percent of world forestlands are legally owned by indigenous peoples and communities.
In October 2015, CARB released a white paper regarding its progress on establishing REDD as part of cap-and-trade. “CARB staff believes there is value in developing proposed regulatory amendments and pursuing a sector-based REDD linkage in time for the third compliance period of the Cap-and-Trade Program,” it stated, referring to the years 2017–2020. It notes that the “sub-national” governments that California is targeting for inclusion in cap-and-trade include Acre, Brazil and Chiapas, Mexico. Establishing such links, the paper notes, “could result in partnering on other mutually beneficial climate and low emissions development initiatives.”
Under the proposed program, the state would use satellite technology to track deforestation rates as a way to prevent “leakage” — curbing logging in one area while allowing logging in another. As the thinking goes, any attempt to do so would show up on the satellites. But critics note that moving bulldozers and chainsaws across state lines would still be perfectly legal under the program, even though this also represents leakage.
“Capital flows to where it finds a profit, and if there is money to be made in deforestation for whatever purpose — for palm oil or cattle ranching or hardwoods that are there — resource shuffling will lead to increased levels elsewhere,” said Nowicki of the Center for Biological Diversity. “All the concerns we had about US carbon credits under the California cap-and-trade program are bearing out, and the problems in this country will be even greater when it comes to international offsets.”
For Nowicki and other critics, concerns about human rights are every bit as important as these practical considerations. When California conducted a public forum in Sacramento concerning REDD last fall, Jeff Conant of Friends of the Earth was on hand, and Gary Hughes of the same organization was in Chiapas. The Chiapas region, which was the location of the well-known 1994 Zapatista rebellion, is also a hotbed of opposition to REDD. In 2012, when a previous meeting of the Governors’ Forest and Climate Task Force convened in the city, indigenous people gained entry to the proceedings and read a statement denouncing REDD.
“People on the ground there see REDD as a threat to their livelihood, to their connection with place and the land, in much the same way they perceive a timber company, a gold mine, or someone coming for fossil fuels,” Hughes said.
Corrections: The original version of this report stated that the Geos Institute conducted a climate assessment of Oregon’s forestry practices. The assessment was developed collaboratively by the Center for Sustainable Economy, the Geos Institute, and Oregon Wild. It also stated that 676,000 acres of old-growth forest in Tongass National Forest in Alaska would be logged in the next 10 years; it is actually 676,000 board-feet, or about 27,000 acres. It also stated that Marily Woodhouse lives on the eastern slope of Mt. Lassen. She lives on the western slope.
“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?
(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
We are united to oppose and reject the commodification, privatization and plunder of Nature, which include REDD+ and other market-based mechanisms including biodiversity and conservation offsets that put profit above the well being of humanity and the planet.
“All forms of REDD amount to two things: licensing polluters to keep polluting and grabbing lands and other resources from forest and peasant communities. REDD+ started as land grab, in Africa it is becoming a continent grab and if not checked it will turn into a planet grab.”
On the panel with Bassey was Anabela Lemos of Justiça Ambiental – Friends of the Earth Mozambique. She said that,
“Both the World Forestry Congress and the United Nations want to use REDD to grab Africa as a sponge for Northern industrialized countries’ pollution, instead of cutting emissions at source. Mozambique is already struggling with land-grabbing and human rights violations, REDD is going to exacerbate those problems and create more poverty. Already a third of Mozambique has been targeted for REDD.”
The Durban Declaration on REDD
We, local communities, peasants movements, Indigenous Peoples and civil society organizations from Africa and all over the world, call upon the United Nations, the World Forestry Congress, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank and states to reject top-down forms of development, including false solutions to climate change and forest and biodiversity conservation that only serve the dominant market economy.
We are united to oppose and reject the commodification, privatisation and plunder of Nature, which include REDD+ and other market-based mechanisms including biodiversity and conservation offsets that put profit above the wellbeing of humanity and the planet.
These mechanisms include the “financialization of nature,” which commodifies, separates and quantifies the Earth’s cycles and functions of carbon, water, forest, fauna and biodiversity – turning them into “units” to be sold in financial and speculative markets. However, Mother Earth is the source of Life, which needs to be protected, not a resource to be exploited and commodified as a ‘natural capital.’
REDD+ is also the pillar of the Green Economy. REDD+ is being misleadingly billed as saving the world’s forests and climate and is the anticipated main outcome of the UN’s Paris Accord on climate change in December 2015. In addition, REDD+ is a false solution to climate change that is already including forests, plantations and agriculture in the carbon Reports show that deforestation and the related emissions continue, and that REDD+, instead of reducing them, is harming and vilifying forest-dependent communities and those who produce the majority of the world’s food – small scale farmers. Furthermore,
REDD+ promotes monoculture tree plantations and genetically modified trees
REDD+ increases land grabs and human rights violations
REDD+ restricts access to forests, threatening livelihoods and cultural practices
REDD+ causes violence against peasants, Indigenous Peoples, women and forest-dwelling communities
REDD+ is combined with other offsets including payment for environmental services (PES)
REDD+ imposes market driven neo-liberalism on forests, which undermines and monetizes community conservation and social/cultural processes and creates inequalities
REDD+ projects tend to force subsistence communities into the cash economy and exploitative wage-labor
REDD+ hinders and prevents much needed policies that support endogenous, bio-cultural approaches to biodiversity conservation and restoration.
Therefore, we join with the No REDD in Africa Network and the Global Alliance against REDD to demand that governments, the United Nations and financial institutions stop the disastrous REDD+ experiment and finally start addressing the underlying causes of forest loss and climate change!
Put forward by the No REDD in Africa Network (NRAN) and the Global Alliance Against REDD, with endorsement and support by the following. To be presented to the World Forestry Congress 2015, the UNFCCC COP21 and beyond:
No REDD in Africa Network
Global Alliance Against REDD
Indigenous Environmental Network
JA!/Justica Ambiental – Friends of the Earth Mozambique
All India Forum of Forest Movements/India
CENSAT Agua Viva – Friends of the Earth Colombia
Womin (Womens on Mining)
Centre from Civil Society/University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban
Democratic Left Front
 REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) is a global initiative to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests and all other ecosystems to compensate governments and companies or owners of forests and agriculture in developing countries not to cut their forests or to reduce their rate of deforestation and forest degradation as a market mechanism to avoid GHG emissions. REDD+ expands REDD to develop methods for carbon sequestration through conservation of forest (and wetlands, agricultural systems) carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.
Durban, Sept.8, 2015 – Loggers and the United Nations want to grab African forests for REDD+, which promotes monoculture plantations and genetically modified trees and violates human rights, denounced the No REDD in Africa Network at the World Forestry Congress held in Durban, South Africa.
“Hands off Africa! Loggers go home! No REDD!” activists from the Civil Society Alternative Space chanted outside the World Forestry Congress. REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) is a carbon offset mechanism that is a false solution to climate change and the pillar of the Green Economy, the privatization of Nature and the upcoming Paris Accord of the UN climate convention.
“All forms of REDD amount to two things: licensing polluters to keep polluting and grabbing lands and other resources from forest and peasant communities. REDD+ started as land grab, in Africa it is becoming a continent grab and if not checked it will turn into a planet grab,” Nnimmo Bassey, renown Nigerian environmentalist and co-coordinator of the No REDD in Africa Network.
“Stop the disastrous REDD+ experiment!” demand the No REDD in Africa Network, the Global Alliance against REDD and over 65 organizations from all over the world, who signed the Durban Declaration on REDD.
REDD-type projects in Africa have resulted in violent evictions, threats to cultural survival, multi-generational carbon slavery and constitutes neocolonialism, according to the Worse REDD-type Projects in Africa, a compilation of the Network.
Anabela Lemos of Justiça Ambiental –Friends of the Earth Mozambique explains that “both the World Forestry Congress and the United Nations want to use REDD to grab Africa as a sponge for Northern industrialized countries pollution, instead of cutting emissions at source. Mozambique is already struggling with land-grabbing and human rights violations, REDD is going to exacerbate those problems and create more poverty. Already a third of Mozambique has been targeted for REDD.”
Ruth Nyambura, a political ecologist and eco-feminist from Kenya, has analyzed the official narrative to promote REDD. “REDD de-centers critiques of the extractivist economic policies, and weaves a narrative that not only allows the scape-goating of communities at the frontlines of the impacts of the climate crises, but also requires that they adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change using the same framework of markets, which caused the crises in the first place.”
Once again, the world’s governments will meet at the end of this year within the United Nations convention framework to supposedly deal with the real and tangible problem of climate change. However, the agenda of the climate negotiations – mainly driven by governments of industrialized countries and corporate lobbying groups – follows the mantra of capital accumulation, which in terms of climate change it is translated in the carbon market. This mantra has led to a further increase of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and environmental destruction in general. This growing destruction is “accepted” and even promoted, as long as it is “offset” by a project elsewhere. It is primarily traditional, forest-dependent peoples who suffer the consequences; not only with the impacts of severe droughts, floods and many other changes in the climate, but also through the plundering and looting of their territories, due to the expanded extraction legitimated by the carbon market. The last (public) draft of the climate agreement to be implemented post-2020, and which is expected to come out of the negotiations this year in Paris, France, opens the door wide to market mechanisms such as REDD at a global scale (1).
What does this mean?
Carbon market mechanisms such as REDD have allowed the continuation, legitimization and intensification of destructive activities such as mining, oil, gas and coal, monoculture plantations, agribusiness, among others. This extractive model has resulted in dispossession, violence, criminalization, destruction and loss for hundreds of communities worldwide, and with them, their cultures, spirituality, knowledge, autonomy and control over their lives and territories (2). How can we speak of a mechanism that seeks to “stop deforestation” or “benefit forest peoples” when the underlying logic is to expand industrial scale extraction? Despite all the propaganda and speeches created to make us believe that REDD is a “viable solution”, experience teaches us that what it is really seeking is to maintain an economy of capital accumulation which controls more territories and fills the pockets of just a few (3).
In this context, in December 2014, in the run-up to the climate negotiations that were held in Lima, Peru, over 150 organizations and movements from around the world launched a Call to Action to reject REDD and extractive industries, to curb capitalism and defend lives and territories (4). The Call stated that “One of the fundamental pillars of the new global capitalism is ‘environmental services’. This involves the further financialization and commodification of nature, and signifies subjugating it to capital. The carbon market, biodiversity offsets and water markets are part of this kind of capitalism.” And adds that “With REDD+, forests’ and soils’ capacity to absorb carbon and retain it, and plants’ capacity to grow, photosynthesize, conserve water, grow and generate biodiversity are being quantified, monetized, appropriated, privatized and financialized, just as with any other commodity. The ‘environmental services’ trade also fuels the impunity of polluters and destroyers: instead of complying with laws that prohibit polluting and deforestation, they can ‘compensate’ for these ills. This trade also diverts attention from combatting climate change, as it does not address the cause.”
An important step in this Call was to clearly articulate the criticism of REDD with its implications in the expansion of the extractive model, as its proponents constantly use a discourse of “local participation,” “improving forest management,” “improving living conditions and development of local populations” and even “implementing territorial rights”. Nevertheless, as stated in the Call,“Corporations like Shell Oil or Rio Tinto mining corporation; tree plantations and pulp and paper producers like Green Resources and Suzano; agribusiness firms like Wilmar, Monsanto and Bunge; multilateral agencies like the UNDP and FAO; conservation transnationals like Wildlife Works, WWF, The Nature Conservancy or Conservation International; consulting firms, public and private banks and many governments elaborate, support and fund REDD+ (…) These mechanisms undermine the real solutions to climate change, as they serve as a distraction from changes to the modes of production and consumption and towards economies and societies that are free from fossil fuels”
However, the pro-carbon market and REDD campaign intensifies as we approach the negotiations this year, where an agreement on REDD is expected to be reached, disregarding the evidence gathered about the harmful impacts of this mechanism. “Climate negotiations, which are increasingly controlled by corporate power, do not try to save the climate, nor protect forests and soils, eradicate poverty or respect indigenous peoples’ rights. On the contrary, they cravenly protect predatory corporations and reinforce a destructive and patriarchal model.”
Therefore, we once again denounce that the decisions to move forward with carbon markets and related mechanisms, taken in conference rooms by white-collar representatives, do not reflect the reality of peoples and forests, and much less reflect the urgent need to initiate a real transition away from an economic model thirsty for fossil fuels. To continue with the carbon market mantra would mean to continue with the imposition of destructive projects on those people who have defended their forests and territories for generations. We reiterate the request to organizations, social movements, groups and networks to join the Call to Action to strengthen the voices coming from the forests which teach us the true consequences of these mechanisms. To fight against REDD+ is also to fight capitalism!
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).
One of the key elements for a global climate deal was unexpectedly resolved in Bonn on Tuesday, with governments signing off on plans for a UN-backed forest protection scheme.
Envoys told RTCC of their surprise at the agreement, which will see the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme form part of a Paris pact in December.
“It was successful… we all got a little of what we wanted,” said Ghana negotiator Yaw Osafo, who represented the Africa group at the meeting.
A US official in Bonn said the draft text, which will be formally agreed in Paris, was a big moment for efforts to slow deforestation and protect regions holding vast stores of carbon.
“It is big. It has been ten years of work. It concludes all of guidance around a really important issue which is how you reduce emissions from forests in developing countries,” she told RTCC, speaking in a background briefing.
One major issue was the “non-carbon benefits” generated from protecting forests, said Osafo, which include the protection of indigenous peoples and valuable ecosystems.
Many communities have complained of forest carbon initiatives which failed to consult or at worst displaced villages and in some cases did not share revenues with locals.
In Africa, where forest degradation is a bigger problem than industrial scale logging, this meant initiatives needed to be better coordinated with local communities, said Osafo.
In another well documented case, a Panama forest tribe engaged in a year-long campaign against REDD+, which it said ignored their rights and effectively sold off their traditional lands to outside investors.
VIDEO: What went wrong with the REDD+ programme?
With Paris looming and pressure mounting for a decision in other venues at the Bonn talks, it appears countries that previously held tough positions backed down for the sake of progress.
Norway, the EU and Switzerland had demanded tougher measures to ensure environmental and human rights “safeguards”, and faced a Brazil-Africa coalition resistant to new guidelines.
What emerged was a compromise, suggested Gustavo Silva-Chávez from the DC-based Forest Trends NGO, with countries keen to see a full package ready by the end of the week.
“In simple terms in the last several years the UN has provided the rules for how to provide a REDD+ mechanism… they have the written guidance,” he said.
Even Bolivia, long an opponent of the role of carbon markets in the REDD+ mechanism, agreed not to block a deal which leaves the door open for a variety of funding flows.
“Many others told Bolivia – some of us want to use them… maybe not now but we want to keep options open,” added Silva-Chávez.
Experts warn the decision leaves plenty of work for negotiating teams and those charged with implementing REDD+ on the ground in the coming months.
Deforestation and land degradation is on the rise, and accounts for around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN’s IPCC climate science panel.
Tougher safeguards and transparency would generate more confidence from the finance sector, said the US official, with the UN’s Green Climate Fund and World Bank forest carbon fund other potential donors.
Ghana estimates it needs half a billion dollars to roll out a full REDD+ programme said Osafo.
Around $4 billion of the $10bn pledged at the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit was supposed to be directed towards forests, but in reality the figures have been far smaller, he added.
Still, the early agreement on forests has boosted confidence in the UN process at a time when the main strand of talks on a global deal appear stuck in an 80-page long quagmire of a text.
Often, said Silva-Chávez, this strand of negotiations was used as bargaining chip to call for more progress on finance or make other demands. That didn’t happen when matters came to a crunch.
In 2000 disagreements over what was then called “REDD” led to the collapse of talks in the Hague at the annual UN summit. Since then careful confidence-building measures have developed relationships among envoys.
“Most people are foresters and understand issues and appreciate different situations in other countries… it’s not too had to empathise and try and find ways to accommodate each other,” said Osafo.
Better communication and more field visits were key to this result, said the US official, allowing better understanding between countries – which negotiate individually rather than in blocks.
“It’s a really important thing we have done… probably made possible because of the tight knit community working on forests and climate,” she said.
“A deep base of sharing and knowledge and a lot of trust… that’s what has allowed us to move forward.”
– See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2015/06/10/un-finalises-forest-protection-initiative-at-bonn-climate-talks/#sthash.1UUVZIxF.dpuf