in Cambodia, Guyana, Thailand, USA

REDD-Monitor open thread: WikiLeaks and REDD

REDD-Monitor open thread: Wikileaks and REDDREDD-Monitor is requesting your help to find the best REDD stories contained in the US Embassy Cables that WikiLeaks released last week. WikiLeaks started releasing edited versions of the cables in November 2010, since when the cables have been trickling out. On 31 August 2011, WikiLeaks released 251,287 US Embassy cables. Unredacted.

WikiLeaks’ media partners The Guardian (UK), The New York Times (USA), Der Spiegel (Germany), El Pais (Spain) and Le Monde (France) put out a statement distancing themselves from the release of the documents:

“We deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted state department cables, which may put sources at risk. Our previous dealings with WikiLeaks were on the clear basis that we would only publish cables which had been subjected to a thorough editing and clearance process. Today’s decision to publish by Julian Assange was his, and his alone.”

Perhaps not surprisingly there are several versions of exactly how and why WikiLeaks released the unedited cables. “A series of unintentional though negligent acts by multiple parties,” is how Glenn Greenwald describes it, writing on salon.com. The Spiegel website has an excellent timeline of what happened (in English).

To cut a long story short, seven months ago, Guardian journalist David Leigh published a password that Assange gave to Leigh. The password allowed access to a file containing all 251,287 unedited cables. Unknown to Leigh, the encrypted file was available on a torrented mirror of WikiLeaks. That information became public last week, prompting WikiLeaks to release the cables.

REDD-Monitor has found more than 100 cables that mention the word “REDD”. There are some fascinating insights into the way the US government views REDD, as well as interesting opinions on tropical country governments’ view of REDD. For example, on 8 November 2006 (06GEORGETOWN1182), the US Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana sent a cable with the subject, “Jagdeo: Conservation, if the price is right“. The cable points out that:

Jagdeo’s motivation is not preservation for preservation’s sake, and Guyana may ultimately offer its forests to the highest bidder. Currently, logistics, rather than policy, have insulated most of Guyana’s rainforest from development.

(Thanks to nelly avila for posting this cable and alerting REDD-Monitor to it via a comment.)

From Chiang Mai, Thailand, came a 2009 cable (09CHIANGMAI114) titled “Going ‘Green’ to Earn Green: Conservation policies used to displace hill tribes and bring in money.” The cable gives a concise overview of the impacts of government conservation policies on indigenous peoples in Thailand and notes NGO concerns that REDD could make things worse:

“[S]everal NGOs based in northern Thailand are worried that REDD could create further incentives for the RTG to displace highlanders from valuable forests. These NGOs also noted that there is no guarantee that REDD profits will be used to help highland people evicted from their forest homes.

There are some fascinating comments about REDD and the Copenhagen Accord. For example, from Cambodia, came this cable (10PHNOMPENH65) in February 2010:

Post expects that the RGC [Royal Government of Cambodia] will eventually associate itself with the Accord; as a least developed country, Cambodia will not jeopardize its chances at accessing pledged assistance for issues like adaptation and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) projects.

REDD-Monitor is requesting your help in dealing with this source of information on REDD. While some of the content of the US Embassy cables on REDD is predictable, some include well written summaries of the political situation surrounding REDD in the country.

Please provide links to any interesting REDD and/or forest related stories from the US Embassy Cables in the comments below. Thanks!
 


UPDATE – 4 September 2011: Several search engines of the cables are available, including these two: cablegatesearch and cables.mrkva.eu.
 

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11 Comments

  1. A series of cables reveal the background to the emergence of REDD on the negotiating table at COP13 in Bali.

    Indonesia’s interest in rainforests is set alongside its desire to expand biofuels (see also here ):

    “Indonesia has particular interest in seeking financial mechanisms (such as carbon trading) to protect rainforests and expanding biofuels.”

    A report on INDONESIA’S TOP COP-13 PLAYERS notes that introducing carbon-market funding mechanisms for REDD is a priority. At the same time as promoting REDD, however, Minister M.S. Kaban (Minister of Forestry) “has also emphasized protecting and nurturing Indonesia’s timber and logging industry.”

    The World Bank’s Indonesia office was also active in preparing the FCPF to “kick-start the forest carbon market”.

    A cable on Guyana’s Great Carbon-based Hope points out that “Contacts in Guyana’s conservation, development and diplomatic communities shared near unanimous skepticism about Jagdeo’s commitment to a fair consultative process; many opined that it is only cosmetic, a hallmark of Jagdeo’s approach to appeasing donor concerns.”

    The cables also shed light on the lack of “additionality” in CDM verification. In particular, a seminar with the US Consulate General Office (Congenoff) and analaysts from the Government Accountability office (which later released a skeptical study on offsets) had the following to say about Verification in India:

    Most Indian CDM projects are initiated without foreign backing, and

    “For this reason, Santonu Kashyap of Asia Carbon maintains that Indian projects can never fulfill the additionality requirement as no developer will risk investing in a project unless he is certain of a revenue stream independent of the CDM incentive. In a separate discussion with GAO analysts and ConGenoff, Jamshed Irani, Director of Tata Sons and the Chairman of the Tata group’s Steering Committee on Sustainability, agreed that no Indian company is brave enough to rely entirely on a CDM-driven revenue stream.”

    Although all of the CDM project developers spoken to claim that their projects have sustainability benefits, the cable concludes that

    “the derived benefit could be much greater if the registration process is streamlined and qualification requirements relaxed. Amidst complaints about the “arbitrary” decisions of the CDM Executive Board, all interlocutors conceded that all Indian projects fail to meet the additionality in investment criteria and none should qualify for carbon credits.”

  2. Not specifically about REDD, but fascinating cable about why Conservation International pulled out of Venezuela (09CARACAS511). Here are some highlights:

    NGO Conservation International closed its doors in Venezuela on March 31 saying it wanted to focus on countries where it can have an impact on host government environmental policies. The Venezuelan head of another US-based NGO, The Nature Conservancy, said the government would gladly sacrifice US NGO’s expertise if they dare to adopt higher profiles in Venezuela as “the anti-yankee discourse is more important to the government than its work on the environment.” Nationalization of private nature reserves, ostensibly to increase agricultural production, along with the government’s plans to take control of all international funding for NGOs (Ref A) also raise serious concerns in the sector. Claims that Chavez would be Venezuela’s “first green president” now ring hollow.

    Flores contended that CI Headquarters does not understand that it is still possible to “get things done in Venezuela.” CI Venezuela’s “low profile, take no credit for any project” approach frustrated CI headquarters. She said CI Venezuela had to take this approach or the government would not have allowed CI to continue its work. CI Headquarters was also disgruntled with its inability to work with the Venezuelan government on programs or policy. She noted that the Ministry of Environment is staffed by radical, anti-US politicians focused on ideology with no funding for, or understanding of, environmental programs. The Venezuelan Park Service INPARQUES changed directors six times in the last 12 months, she added, and there are rumors it will be eliminated and not replaced. Flores said that in spite of this, CI Venezuela was starting to discover effective ways to bypass the central government and she deeply regreted CI’s decision to leave.

    Econoff met with another major US-based environmental NGO, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), March 4. In spite of serious issues with the Venezuelan Government and a recent drop in donations, the Venezuela Country Representative for TNC, Lila Gil (protect throughout), views Venezuela as a high priority. She said TNC is the only major environmental organization left in Venezuela and it will stay as long as the government allows. If TNC were to leave Venezuela, Gil feels most foundation money would leave with it. She explained that foundations do not trust the Venezuelan government and would not fund projects without an internationally recognized NGO to manage the money. Additionally, after years of effort, in 2008 TNC completed an extensive conservation plan for government-owned petroleum company, PDVSA. Although PDVSA refused to allow TNC to publish the plan, and its participation in the study was highly criticized by Chavez supporters, Gil pointed to this unusual example of cooperation with a government entity as another reason TNC plans to stay in Venezuela.

    Professor Edgard Yerena (protect throughout), biologist and specialist in environmental policy at public university Simon Bolivar, told Econoff on February 18 that as a direct result of government policies, Venezuela has experienced a dramatic increase in deforestation in the last ten years. Yerena conceded, however, that the government does not publish official figures on deforestation and, lacking government support, experts in the sector have had difficulty coming up with hard data on the extent of the damage. He also noted that ecologists contend there has been a dramatic increase in oil spills and mining mishaps, but it is equally impossible to get official data in these areas.

  3. Here’s one from Kinshasa: “Greenpeace, Rainforest Foundation, Global Witness Blast World Bank over DRC Forest Policy” (09KINSHASA1095):

    Summary: In an eight -page “open letter” to the World Bank, co-signed by Greenpeace Africa, Rainforest Foundation UK, Rainforest
    Foundation Norway and Global Witness, the four agencies raised wide-ranging questions to the World Bank regarding the forest policy reform program in the DRC. In the letter entitled “The World Bank and the Forest Sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a Cover Up?” the watchdog NGOs asserted that the Bank had not implemented several important elements following the conversion of industrial logging titles completed in early 2009, and that the new $64 million Bank IDA Forest Sector project approved by the Bank’s Board earlier this year has not supported good forest governance. It generally raises questions about lack of transparency, asserts a rise in social conflict between logging concessions and local communities, hints that the moratorium on logging concessions has not been respected by the GDRC and asks a rhetorical question as to whether the Bank investment in logging sector reform is money well spent.

  4. As well as the rather astute US Embassy observations on the reality of President Jagdeo’s so-called Low Carbon Development Strategy, as linked to above, there was also this one – again, not directly related to REDD, but following on only 2 months after the risible LCDS launch, clearly relevant to it.

    Evidently, the well-meaning folk from the Norwegian government were suitably beguiled by Jagdeo “smiling nicely for the cameras”, as only two months after this, they agreed to put $250m into the LCDS (which has still generated zero results, whilst deforestation in Guyana has actually increased).

    Given that the entire diplomatic community in Georgetown seemed to be well aware of the declining state of law and order in Guyana, and that Jagdeo was purely intent on doing everything to secure subsequent further election for his party (or himself) and that he and his cronies were on a charm offensive with donors, and that all power was being centralised in Jagdeo’s hands, it hardly seems credible that the Norwegians were unaware of what would be the fate of their generous REDD fund offering to Jagdeo.

    In which case, what exactly *did* the Norwegians think they were going to achieve?

    Rule Of Law In Guyana: More Like A Guideline
    Origin Embassy Georgetown (Guyana)
    Cable time Fri, 11 Sep 2009 20:56 UTC
    Classification CONFIDENTIAL

    “The consensus among international donor community observers is that democracy and rule of law is at its lowest ebb since the 2006 elections. The 2011 elections, although nearly two years away, already seem to loom large on the horizon. Serious policy reform projects, such as in the security sector, have fallen to the way side. Token gestures of cooperation on democracy and governance reform are made — such as eagerness to sign an agreement on some programs with USAID — but are used as a way to push for a major public signing ceremony for the agreement — well out of proportion with the agreement itself. President Jagdeo, while saying that he is just allowing his Ministers to do their jobs, is personally involved in every detail of government. His attitude toward the donor community has been in stark contrast to many of the officials he directs — he has been jovial, upbeat and visible at even some of the more minor donor community events. The overall picture is of a government tightening its control and misusing the rule of law, while saying the “right” words and smiling nicely for the cameras.”

    http://www.cablegatesearch.net/cable.php?id=09GEORGETOWN454&q=jagdeo

  5. @A Witness (#5) – Thanks! It’s interesting that while Jagdeo is trumpeting his Low Carbon Development Strategy, he’s also promoting off-shore oil exploration, as this cable notes (09GEORGETOWN547). The last sentence, below, is also interesting:

    Large-scale oil production poses several challenges for both CGX and the Government of Guyana. Establishing the necessary capacity to responsibly manage oil funds is key to successful project implementation. Economically, large scale oil production is not envisioned in President Jagdeo’s Low Carbon Development Strategy and is in direct conflict with pursuing the low-carbon economy outline. Politically, however, the large influx of foreign direct investment expected from CGX is too tempting to pass up for a poor nation and it may be a carrot for Jagdeo to remain in office longer than 2011. Rumors already abound that, instead of a third term, President Jagdeo will find a way to delay elections by one to two years.

  6. And here’s another gem from Guyana (06GEORGETOWN1303). Most of the cable is about transfer pricing in the logging industry in Guyana. The US is (predictably) in favour of carbon trading as a way that the country can “benefit from its forest resources in a more equitable and sustainable way”, and towards the end of the cable comes this:

    “Minister of Agriculture Persaud told EmbOffs that Guyana had already signed an MOU with the UK-based Chatham House to launch Guyana on international carbon-trading markets. A reserve of 1.7 million hectares near the border with Suriname has been set aside for carbon trading purposes. Persaud said that he was expecting revenues of $100 million annually via trading on the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme and possibly the Chicago Stock Exchange. Persaud said that the deal was still being finalized, but he expected to make it public in the near future.”

  7. Indonesia’s support for the draft version of UNDRIP is explained in this 2006 cable (06JAKARTA12541). Jonny Sinaga, deputy director in the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Directorate for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs explained to representatives of the US, Australian and New Zealand Embassies (none of whose governments initially signed on to UNDRIP) that Indonesia supported the draft UNDRIP for the following reasons:

    — Indonesia interprets “self-determination” as not according any domestic group any right to pursue a separatist cause, adding that there are only 16 non-self-governing territories in the world recognized as such by the United Nations. The Vienna 1993 Program of Action on Human Rights made clear that self-determination does not encompass separatism. He added that in international documents there are at least five different recognized interpretations for self-determination. He suggested that the handicapped could be said to have the right to self-determination.

    — Indonesia believes that “indigenous people” deserve special protections, but added that all Indonesians are indigenous by definition;

    — Indonesia would be criticized by the international community as not supportive of human rights if it opposed this initiative;

    — the document has already been discussed for over ten years;

    — it is not final; and

    — Indonesia’s approach is “based on dialogue.”

    The cable concludes with the following comment:

    Sinaga’s response made clear that Indonesia will support the document and will interpret it in any way necessary to ensure that it cannot be said to contradict Indonesian policy. Comparisons between the GOI’s exacting positions in negotiations on bilateral matters with its seeming lack of concern about the principles contained in the draft declaration gained no traction. In effect, the actual meaning of the draft declaration’s contents seemed essentially irrelevant to the conversation from the Indonesian perspective.

  8. you guys would be glad to know that peter persaud who’s a Guyana govt hatchet man masquerading as an indigenous person is the presidential candidate of a party the Guyana govt took over via the courts. this party was a traditionally indigenus party. the candidate hounded down and forced out the party presidential candidate slot is an actual amerindian woman [valerie garrido-lowe] quite unlike peter persaud
    just an update on what’s going on in Guyana…and Guyana has not received one cent from norway as more fraud is uncovered daily