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Our Climate Crisis: Seeing REDD, Plundering Our Forests

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Duff Badgley

“When is ‘saving’ our global forests a hideous idea?” The question comes from Duff Badgley in recent article about REDD, published in the e-zine of the Green Party of Washington State, “Greener Times“. Badgley’s answer? “When it’s REDD.”

Badgley has been described as the “kind of hard-core environmental activist who loves making a nuisance of himself.” He’s also been described as “an old-school, grassroots, car-free, long-haired, bleeding-heart, dirty hippie environmentalist”. Recently, largely as a result of his campaigning, the city of Seattle decided to “completely discontinue crop-based biofuels”.

REDD-Monitor looks forward to hearing more from Badgley about REDD. In the meantime, here’s his article in Greener Times:

Our Climate Crisis: Seeing REDD, Plundering Our Forests

Duff Badgley is the leader of the One Earth Climate Action Group and was a candidate for Governor as a Green in 2008.

When is ‘saving’ our global forests a hideous idea? When it’s REDD.

Since deforestation accounts for nearly 1/5 of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — ranking behind only fossil fuel combustion as the worst climate-polluting sector — what gives here?

REDD is the acronym for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries”. REDD has been co-opted by the latest, and perhaps most murderous, carbon trading scheme. The globe’s worst polluters, colluding governments and profit-mad carbon traders have seized REDD in their rush to assure the doom of our Livable Planet.

REDD’s malevolent and self-defeating orthodoxy allows companies and individuals to buy pollution credits to raise funds for so-called ‘protection’ of forests in developing countries. And, yeah, these pollution credits then allow these same polluters to continue to pollute. The utterly bogus REDD notion is that these pollution credits somehow magically ‘offset’ the polluters’ own emissions.

Contrary to market-driven REDD, we must give real protection to our global forests and all the wildly diverse species that inhabit them, including humans. This genuine protection will come only via non-market-based mechanisms. An obvious choice is protecting our forests with funds generated by no-escape, government-imposed carbon taxes on pollution.

Global forest protection must include enforceable, verifiable safeguards that prevent conversion of natural forests to tree plantations, expand and enforce resource rights for indigenous peoples and local communities, and protect biodiversity and water supplies.

If we fail in this effort, we surrender our chances to stop runaway species extinction, now at eight species per hour. We also surrender our chances to effectively mitigate and adapt to our Climate Crisis.

We need genuine forest protection. We need radical reduction of GHGs. We need both. We cannot separate these two if we are to salvage a Livable Planet. But REDD does. And then REDD caves on real forest protection. REDD seeks to divide us. It will conquer us if we do not resist now.

Four big problems with REDD:

1. REDD will NOT reduce global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) so our Climate Crisis will continue to worsen.

“By allowing Northern countries to use market-based REDD, they will be able to evade responsibility for reducing emissions in their own countries. This must be recognized as a serious and fundamental flaw with allowing REDD credits to be included in carbon markets.”—Friends of the Earth, Indonesia report: “REDD Wrong Path: Pathetic Ecobusiness”.

Market-based REDD is a lie.

Vast stretches of global forests are being decimated now by threats intensified and caused by global warming. These threats include drought, wildfire and insect plagues. How can we help our forests by exacerbating conditions that are destroying them? We cannot.

2. REDD will not save global forests on the large-scale we desperately need now.

REDD forces us, we may sense, to make a Faustian choice: either allow the truly diabolical carbon trading market to throw money in the direction of some selected forests, or watch in helpless anguish as our old growth forests continue to fall.

But under market-driven REDD, the most likely global scenario makes both sides of this Faustian equation come true. We lose our forests at an astonishing rate AND carbon trading money ends up in the hands of Third World government and corporate elites. These folks have proven to be notoriously open to inducements from the World Bank and other neo-liberal organizations now pushing market-based REDD. The failed European Union Emission Trading System (EU ETS) and the equally failed, U.N.-administered Kyoto Protocol teach this lesson.

But there is still more REDD corruption bound to come. Carbon traders, our new breed of pollution-profiteers, will hijack money earmarked for our forests as fast as they can. The proposed U.S. carbon trading scheme (Waxman/Markey) is modeled after the EU ETS. It

“will generate, almost as an afterthought, a new market for carbon derivatives. That market will be vast, complicated, and dauntingly difficult to monitor…it will be vulnerable to speculation and manipulation by the very same players who brought us the financial meltdown.”—Rachel Morris, Mother Jones magazine.

Simply put, our precious forests will continue to fall under REDD. Carbon trading corruption will reign under REDD as it does in Europe and the world now. REDD is about making big, big money for a few. It is not about genuinely saving our forests.

3. REDD opens the door to wholesale butchering of our forests by pushing tree plantations.

The Kyoto Protocol does not differentiate between natural forests and tree plantations. The next big climate deal, possibly agreed to in Copenhagen in December, 2009, may well retain this fundamental mistake. If so,

“This means that a country can convert a natural forest to a plantation or a palm-oil tree crop, and as far as the climate treaty is concerned the tree crop is still a forest, and deforestation (or the permanent removal of the forest) has not occurred.”—Susan Austin, Tasmanian climate campaigner, June, 2009

Now add the $1 trillion in market-based REDD money predicted by 2019. You get rampant biofuel plantations and vast logging tree farms decimating what remains of our natural forests—and the creatures they harbor.

4. REDD will oppress forest-dwelling humans.

REDD will make the monetary value of forests skyrocket. The fate of the forests, and the people who live in these forests, will cede to those able to pay these inflated prices—Industrial World polluters and their governments and cronies, like the World Bank. These polluters have grown rich by polluting cheaply. Carbon trading makes stopping polluting more expensive than buying pollution credits. So, these big polluters will buy REDD credits and keep on polluting. Inevitably, Industrial World third parties will control REDD and control the forests REDD is supposed to ‘protect’. They have the money. They will have the control.

Indigenous people know this. Many oppose market-driven REDD.

The 2009 Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change, ‘highlighted indigenous opposition to conventional carbon trading schemes’ and expressed alarm that the World Bank will play a key role in financing and implementing REDD.” — Michelle Chen, April, 2009, article on Race Wire.

Indigenous opposition to REDD can be deep-seated.

“(REDD is a) corruption of the sacred…to be involved with a system that defines something that we hold sacred, and that is the sacred element of air, to be part of a neo-colonial system that privatizes the atmosphere, to put a money value to it, creates resistance from our heart.” — Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network, December, 2008.

We need genuine global forest protection now. We need radical GHG reduction now. We can have both. We must have both for a Livable Planet.

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Leave a Reply

  1. But you talk of no matter what! I don’t see how REDD will cause destruction of forests. True, it might only partially adress the problem of deforestation. But it doesn’t exclude other options. It is but one of many possible initiatives. Also, serious work under Kyoto protocol hasn’t even started, and you say it is a failure!! How’s that better than saying that everything we will do or can do will only fail us?

  2. There are macro level issues with REDD like those discussed by Badgley that are legitimate to consider. And there are micro level issues with REDD that are barely being addressed, under the assumption that REDD will be a poverty alleviation vehicle for indigenous people and other local communities.

    On the latter point, the devil will be in the details of governance relationships and technical capabilities:

    1. what mechanisms will be established between communities, governments, and carbon buyers (and perhaps NGO intermediaries in certain cases…) to guarantee that any eventual REDD revenue flows will actually reach local communities?
    2. if communities are negotiating themselves for REDD carbon, do they have the technical skills to guarantee they will not be “disappointed” should they fail to comply with the terms of any agreement and someone pulls the plug on their projected revenue streams, justifiable or otherwise (e.g., will they have the means and ability to defend their rights, or will they be dependent on intermediaries to do so)?
    3. do REDD-potential communities possess the adaptive management skills to deftly deal with what inevitibly will prove to be a complex management process involving stakeholders in potentially, numerous continents?
    4. what will be required operationally (versus nominally or philosophically) for REDD Readiness to be broadly demonstrated?