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Will REDD protect forests, or allow business as usual to continue?

Will REDD protect forests, or allow business as usual to continue?

REDD is one of the key issues under discussion at the UN Climate negotiations in Bangkok. NGOs have put out a series of new reports hoping to influence the way the discussions go.

A new briefing from Global Witness, reveals why the forestry term, ‘sustainable forest management’ could spell disaster for the future of the world’s forests. The Ecosystems Climate Alliance has produced a Forest Pledge, calling for countries “to support the protection of intact natural forests as a core mechanism of the treaty”. And the Indigenous Environmental Network released a report strongly rejecting REDD.

“Sustainable forest management is industry-speak for logging,” says Sean Cadman, of the Wilderness Society, reported in the Bangkok Post. The Ecosystems Climate Alliance has put forward a list of areas that must be strengthened in the negotiations, if REDD is to have any hope of succeeding.

The Indigenous Environmental Network points out in its report that trading REDD credits on carbon markets will fail to stop climate change, because it will allow the burning of fossil fuels to continue. The report mentions, as an example, the Noell Kempff Mercado Project in Bolivia:

The largest REDD pilot project in the world is a 30 year “partnership” on indigenous land with oil giants British Petroleum and Amoco which coincidentally are participating in “the biggest global warming crime in history” and violate Indigenous Peoples’ rights in Tibet, Sudan, Canada and the United States. BP has also benefited from a regime of paramilitary terror in Colombia and is implicated in a coup d’etat in Azerbaijan. Other partners include the biggest coal burner in the U.S., American Electric Power (which depends on coal and uranium mining that have devastated native lands and health) and PacfiCorp and The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy says that REDD is more important than cutting emissions. REDD could be the cheapest way for these polluting companies to buy permits to pollute. Cheap carbon credits from REDD could allow climate criminals to continue to destroy the earth and her peoples.

Here are the press releases about the various reports. First, from the Ecosystems Climate Alliance, with links to the Global Witness report:

Bangkok meeting last hope to preserve REDD as key part of climate change solution

Press Release – 28/09/2009

Leading NGO experts warn that countries must act now to avoid perverse incentives and unintended consequences

Bangkok – As the United Nations climate change talks resume today in Bangkok, leading forest and climate experts from the Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA) warn that negotiations on the forest component of the proposed treaty, called “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries (REDD),” risk failing to either reduce emissions or to prevent deforestation. Since Southeast Asia is the region of the world with the highest rate of deforestation and peatland degradation, ECA members anticipate that this will lend more urgency to the REDD negotiations.

“The rules for REDD are being set now,” said Bill Barclay of Rainforest Action Network, “but forest protection is being ceded to carbon cowboys and corporate greed. If we don’t act now to prioritize the protection of intact natural forests including their soils, we will lose a unique opportunity to end the deforestation and degradation that is contributing to climate change.”

Destruction of tropical and peat swamp forests accounts for nearly 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and has always been among the most contentious and complex issues in the climate change negotiations. The international community committed to address deforestation in the 2007 Bali Action Plan [section 1(b)(iii)], pledging to create: “Policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.”

Negotiations to date, however, are failing to deliver on that mandate. Hopes for protecting forests through the UNFCCC process require renewed focus on protecting intact natural forests through avoiding deforestation and forest degradation, and progress must be achieved at the Bangkok meeting.

Like everything in the treaty text, details matter. ECA is calling on all country delegations to strengthen the following areas:

Change the deficient definition of “forest” being used in the climate negotiations: The UNFCCC definition of forest does not distinguish between natural forests and plantations. Unless this is changed, measures to introduce REDD into a future climate agreement could have the perverse result of encouraging conversion and destruction of the world’s remaining natural forests.

Beat back industry interference: A subtle change of language from the original Bali mandate now frames the entire scope of REDD-plus within the context of promoting “sustainable forest management,” that in practice is closely associated with the logging industry and destructive activities such as industrial-scale logging of intact natural forests.

“Sustainable forest management is industry-speak for logging,” said Sean Cadman of The Wilderness Society. “Forests that have been logged or degraded have lower carbon stocks, less biodiversity and less resilience than primary forests. Tree plantations are even worse. REDD provides the opportunity to break the cycle of industrial-scale deforestation by placing economic value on the role of standing forests in climate change mitigation.”

Address below-ground carbon stocks: Below-ground carbon stocks (organic soil carbon) in forests must also be accounted for to prevent plantations on drained peatlands from receiving credits for what would, in fact, be ongoing emissions.

Strengthen governance and monitoring, reporting, and verification: Most countries which stand to benefit from REDD suffer from poor legal frameworks, weak enforcement, and collusion between political elites and the logging industry. Good governance and comprehensive systems for monitoring REDD, which include independent “on-the-ground” monitoring, will be vital to effective REDD implementation.

“Measuring, reporting and verifying carbon stocks will not be enough. Good governance must underpin REDD,” said Dr. Rosalind Reeve of Global Witness. “Policies, measures, and performance must all be monitored closely.”

Secure Indigenous and local peoples’ rights: Since an estimated 1.6 billion people in developing countries are dependent on forests for their basic needs and livelihoods, REDD must directly benefit local communities and Indigenous Peoples and respect their rights and tenure.

“There is an increased understanding in the REDD negotiations that forests cannot be effectively protected without securing the rights of forest dependent communities,” said Nathaniel Dyer of Rainforest Foundation UK, “but the current text does not sufficiently reflect this and must be strengthened.”

Tackle the drivers of deforestation: Agricultural commodities, biofuels, and wood and paper products, in many cases being produced in illegal or highly unsustainable ways, are driving global deforestation and degradation.

“Without policies and measures to reduce market demand for illegal or unsustainable commodities, countries around the world will be consuming in ways that undermine the same REDD activities their dollars are going to support,” said Andrea Johnson of the Environmental Investigation Agency.

/ Ends

Contacts: Don Lehr +1 917 304 4058; Margaret Swink +66 0848 991 259

Read Global Witness’ latest briefing on REDD

Read more about Global Witness’ work on forests and climate

The Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA) is an alliance of environment and social NGOs committed to keeping natural terrestrial ecosystems intact and their carbon out of the atmosphere, in an equitable and transparent way that respects the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. ECA recognises that avoiding emissions of terrestrial carbon stored in the soils and biomass of forests, peatlands and wetlands represents the largest potential single opportunity for cost-effective greenhouse gas mitigation. ECA advocates climate, forest and land use policies to give strong, equitable, transparent and positive incentives free of perversities for avoiding the degradation of terrestrial carbon stores and for rehabilitating degraded land, supported by effective forest governance, robust monitoring and demand-side policies to ensure meaningful outcomes. ECA comprises Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Global Witness, Humane Society International, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Foundation Norway, The Rainforest Foundation U.K., Wetlands International and The Wilderness Society.

Second, the Ecosystems Climate Alliance press release about the Forest Pledge:

Bangkok at a turning point for forests and climate
Leading observer group urges delegates to return to original intent to protect forests and indigenous rights

Bangkok – As delegates consolidate language that will ultimately determine the scope and principles of the part of the climate change treaty intended to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation of tropical forests (REDD); a coalition of leading forest and ecosystems experts are launching a campaign to highlight forest protection and indigenous rights. The new Forest Pledge – calling for countries to support the protection of intact natural forests as a core mechanism of the treaty – is intended to bring focus back to the original mandate of REDD laid out in the Bali Action Plan.

“Protecting forests and protecting Indigenous rights of the people who live in those forests is a necessary part of solving climate change,” said Miguel Lovera, chief negotiator for Paraguay, the first country to sign on to the pledge. “We are happy to be the first country to sign the pledge, and hope that more countries will follow our lead.”

Despite the fact that a REDD mechanism will only be effective at reducing emissions if helps indigenous and local communities to protect their forests, the text to make sure this is a core objective of REDD has never been in the draft deal. The Forest Pledge is designed to ensure that the final text of REDD explicitly contains an objective of protecting intact natural forests. This includes protecting the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and forest communities.

“Communities around the world are expecting REDD to protect forests,” said Peg Putt, senior forest policy expert of The Wilderness Society. “Yet somehow, protecting forests fell off the back of the bus when the loggers got into the drivers seat. Now most countries are simply hanging on as passive passengers. The pledge is intended to return the protection of intact natural forests to the heart of the climate treaty.”

The international youth delegation at Bangkok also took up the cry for forest protection in the climate change treaty. Over 30 youth spent an hour in the rain canvassing delegates to sign up for the pledge as they entered the United Nations conference center this morning. Delegates from rainforest nations Papua New Guinea and Indonesia signed the pledge, pledging to protecting millions of hectares of forests. The youth held a 10 meter banner reading, “For a safe climate, protect the world’s forests.”

“Young people will live our whole lives with the consequences of the decisions negotiators make at these meetings,” said Joshua Kahn Russell of Rainforest Action Network, speaking on behalf of the youth delegates from over 20 countries who demonstrated outside of the UN Convention Center this morning. “The destruction of forests account for roughly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Without a flood of countries pledging to protect forests and indigenous rights, the world’s youth have no chance for a healthy climate future.”

Ecosystems Climate Alliance will be urging all countries to sign the Forest Pledge over the next week. The complete text of the pledge reads:

    Name of Party or NGO hereby pledges to support protecting intact natural forest and restoring degraded natural forest as a core objective of a REDD mechanism. This includes protecting the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and forest communities in such forests.

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The Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA) is an alliance of environment and social NGOs committed to keeping natural terrestrial ecosystems intact and their carbon out of the atmosphere, in an equitable and transparent way that respects the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. ECA recognises that avoiding emissions of terrestrial carbon stored in the soils and biomass of forests, peatlands and wetlands represents the largest potential single opportunity for cost-effective greenhouse gas mitigation. ECA advocates climate, forest and land use policies to give strong, equitable, transparent and positive incentives free of perversities for avoiding the degradation of terrestrial carbon stores and for rehabilitating degraded land, supported by effective forest governance, robust monitoring and demand-side policies to ensure meaningful outcomes. ECA comprises Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Global Witness, Humane Society International, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Foundation Norway, The Rainforest Foundation U.K., Wetlands International and The Wilderness Society.

Third, the Indigenous Environmental Network’s press release:

INDIGENOUS ENVIRONMENTAL NETWORK

PRESS STATEMENT

From the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – Bangkok Climate Change Talks 2009, Bangkok, Thailand

For immediate release: October 1, 2009

Contacts: Tom Goldtooth, + 1 218 760 0442; Andrew Miller: 087 0460335;

Report Calls for the Rejection of REDD in Climate Treaty
Indigenous Environmental Network calls for solutions that reduce emissions, protect forests and respect rights

Bangkok – Carbon markets should be eliminated from any future plans to tackle global warming, says a leading group of Indigenous Peoples present in Bangkok at the latest round of UN climate negotiations.

In a report released today, the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) predicts dire consequences for Indigenous peoples, biodiversity and the climate alike if the new, post-2012 climate treaty being debated here allows tradable carbon credits to be produced from projects such as the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) and the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM).

IEN says REDD pilot projects, in which carbon in forests would be sold to industrialized societies as greenhouse gas pollution licenses, are already threatening to sever the connections between Indigenous peoples and the forests they protect.

According to the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 60 million Indigenous Peoples depend on forests for their survival and most forests are found in Indigenous Peoples’ territories. “Indigenous Peoples have been the primary guardians of the forests for generations,” Carlos Picanerai, Secretary General of the indigenous organization, Coordination for Indigenous Peoples’ Self- Determination (CAPI), Paraguay. “Forests are not simply resources to be exploited, they are the sources of our lives and lifestyles.”

According to the report, REDD-type pilot projects have already violated Indigenous people’s rights and exacerbated eviction, fraud, conflict, corruption, coercion and militarization in countries such as Peru and Papua New Guinea.

“We already know that offset schemes like REDD won’t protect forests or the rights of Indigenous peoples,” said Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of IEN. “If we are going to save the climate, we need to focus on real solutions that assure that forests will be left standing and people’s rights are respected.”

“This is the first time we have a large global delegation of over 100 Indigenous peoples that includes many from the Asian region participating in these UN climate meetings. We are standing strong, lobbying government delegates to adopt language that recognizes the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)with language promoting the provisions of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Without this, there will be no safeguards in the climate negotiations that would ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are protected. However, even if this language was adopted, many developing countries where REDD and CDM projects could be implemented, don’t recognize the self-determination and rights of Indigenous peoples. National efforts to legislate and implement the provisions of UNDRIP could take years. In the meantime REDD would continue to be implemented,” Tom added.

The report say that carbon markets such as REDD and REDD-Plus are false solutions to climate change because they do not bring about the changes needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground. According to studies of climate scientist, James Hansen, “Industrializes countries could offset 24-69% of their emissions via the CDM and REDD….thus avoiding the necessary domestic cuts that are required to peak emissions around 2015.”

IEN and many other Indigenous groups are calling instead for fossil fuel emissions to be reduced, with an aggressive goal towards a zero carbon economy. “Global warming is largely due to the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, yet for the indigenous communities within our network, it is a “business-as-usual” scenario with the expansion of oil drilling, building refineries, expansion of tar sands development and coal mining with coal energy generation in North America,” Goldtooth says.

Using the forests of the South as a trading commodity within REDD initiatives, gives a carbon credit, or a permit to the polluters of the North to perpetuate toxic pollution, genocide and violate of treaty rights in the homelands of our communities. These petroleum companies use these carbon offset systems as a greenwash,” Goldtooth added.

“As currently formulated, REDD will neither reduce emissions nor save forests,” said Kate Horner, Friends of the Earth. “Indigenous peoples are the most important voices in this process. We need to respect their wisdom and focus on solutions that will make a real difference in reducing forest emissions and saving the climate.”

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Indigenous Environmental Network is an Indigenous organization works with Indigenous Peoples worldwide on environmental justice, energy and climate policy issues. To obtain the NO REDD Report and for more information, visit: www.ienearth.org

Leave a Reply

  1. Hello Chris,

    As you have build a redd-monitor website, I believe this study may be interesting to you: “Review of forestry carbon standards – development of a tool to identify forestry carbon credits”

    You can find the full review on my blog or you can read an article about it on:
    http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0920-vcs.html

    Fell free to post it on your blog as well if you want.

    Kind regards,

    Paulo Lopes
    Imperial College London

  2. Well, I think the question is how we use the existing market mechanisms (be it REDD, REDD+, A/R) at different regions/sub regions. The traditional market for non-carbon commodities has it own rules and procedures to run the conventional market. And it is doing very well all most in all countries.

    Despite the noble and creative mechanism for this “new commodity”, it has not been crafted to accommodate the business environment at those countries that have the potential to play the leading role. Any approach to alleviate this problem will not be successful, if those issues are not treated in an integrated manner. Bottom line is the methodologies need to be revised critically and modified accordingly.

    Yoseph Assefa

    ETFF (www.etff.org)

  3. Thanks, Chris, for your great website. At Bangkok and Copenhagen we may get an answer to the vexing question:
    Will the rush to exploit ‘carbon dollars’ produce the same alienation of native peoples that came in the rushes to exploit oil, timber, and oil palm?

    Given the massive funds lining up behind offsets, and the urgency behind limiting global warming pollution from burning forests, it seems likely that some form of carbon trading will become part of the world’s response to global warming. Frequent readers of REDD Monitor are well aware that carbon trading has the potential to increase corruption, to cause a net increase in the release of carbon pollution, and to drive indigenous peoples off their land. Handled badly, REDD, and offsets in general, could be very destructive. Is there any chance that REDD or REDD+ could be handled well? That it could help preserve forests? Improve the land rights of indigenous peoples? That REDD+ could be a vehicle for paying some of the historical debt of the developed world?

    If something like REDD is inevitable (I don’t know if it is), what is the best tactic for those who support human rights, who believe in protecting biodiversity? The answer to this question may keep changing as the negotiations proceed, and as the climate worsens. To my mind, it remains a question that should be continually considered.

  4. the ienearth.org looks unavailable, need to download the REDD booklet