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Finance for biodiversity is a “new face for capitalism”: Sign on letter to CBD from Acción Ecológica

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Finance for biodiversity is a new face for capitalism: Sign on letter to CBD from Accion Ecologica

“Conserving the planet’s species and habitats is central to sustainable developmentyet the global decline in biodiversity is accelerating,” says UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki Moon. “The United Nations decade on biodiversity is an opportunity to reverse this trend, under the theme living in harmony with nature.”

From 6-9 March 2012, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Governments of Ecuador, India, Japan, Norway and Sweden will be holding a Global Dialogue Seminar on Scaling up Finance for Biodiversity. The meeting will take place in Quito, Ecuador.

But not everyone is convinced that the UN’s approach to protecting biodiversity is going to work. Acción Ecológica is launching a call to collect signatures for the letter below, to be presented to the participants at the meeting in Quito. Acción Ecológica sees the UN approach to financing biodiversity as part of a “new face for capitalism” through the creation and marketing of new commodities. And REDD is part of “A tangled web of proposals that essentially seek control over land, forests, water and biodiversity as means to compensate for the loss of biodiversity or as raw materials for new technologies.”

To sign on to Acción Ecológica’s letter, please send an email to with a copy to . If you want to take part in the meeting in Quito, the deadline for nominations for participants is 31 January 2012 – see the CBD Secretariat’s notification about the meeting for details. REDD-Monitor welcomes discussion in the comments about the letter and the issues it raises.

OPEN LETTER
TO THE SECRETARIAT OF THE CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY AND THE GOVERNMENTS OF JAPAN, INDIA, NORWAY, SWEDEN AND ECUADOR

On 6 to 9 March 2012 the Global Dialogue Seminar on Scaling Up Finance for Biodiversity, co-hosted by the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Governments of Ecuador, India, Japan, Norway and Sweden, will be held in Quito, Ecuador with the aim of exploring financial mechanisms and resources for biodiversity. This is part of an agreement among the signatory countries to the Convention on Biological Diversity to mobilize financing to facilitate implementation of a strategic plan and the achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, in which Strategic Goal D aims to enhance the benefits from biodiversity as a commodity and from environmental services. The meeting in Quito is one more step in this direction.

In the midst of the current environmental, financial and economic crisis, biodiversity has gained enormous importance because of the role it can play for the “green economy”, which will be consolidated through the agreements reached at the upcoming Rio+20 summit. This economic proposal is nothing more than a new face for capitalism, through which biodiversity, water, soils, biogeochemical cycles, photosynthesis, and all the other functions and structures of nature can be converted into commodities.

Forming part of this process are the false solutions to climate change such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and so-called TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity). A tangled web of proposals that essentially seek control over land, forests, water and biodiversity as means to compensate for the loss of biodiversity or as raw materials for new technologies.

In practice, they promote the implementation of neoliberal measures to address the climate problem, biodiversity management and protection of forests. They extol the paradigm that the solution lies in the market, in property rights, in the proper assignment of prices and the commodification of all of nature, traditional knowledge and cultures associated with it, to the detriment of justice, sovereignty and respect for human rights and the rights of nature.

At the meeting in Quito, as well as during the run-up to Rio+20 and at the CBD COP-11 in India, steps will be taken to define the financial instruments, policies and public-private partnerships needed to achieve the biggest land grab and trampling of people’s rights ever seen in the history of humanity. Due to the scale and sphere of action, what is proposed will have devastating effects on territories and rights.

Just as the Green Climate Fund is aimed at promoting market mechanisms to ineffectively confront the climate crisis, financing for biodiversity is being diverted towards means of privatization and control of biodiversity.

With the same discourses of poverty relief, conservation and sustainability that have benefited the industrial, military and financial sectors, they are once again trying to convince us that the “green economy”, promoted by the same actors, is the solution.

In view of this situation, we the undersigned organizations, networks and social movements urge the governments hosting the meeting in Quito to stop the commodification of nature; likewise, we call on the participants in the meeting to prevent the further advance of the green economy that is being hatched and to act instead in line with models of society that differ from the capitalist system and are built on the principles of community and on relationships with nature based on the protection of life.

SIGNATURES

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To sign on to the letter please write to:

with a copy to:


CARTA ABIERTA A LA SECRETARÍA DE LA CONVENCIÓN DE DIVERSIDAD BIOLÓGICA Y A LOS GOBIERNOS DE JAPÓN, INDIA, NORUEGA, SUECIA Y ECUADOR

Entre el 6 al 9 de marzo de 2012 se llevará a cabo en Quito-Ecuador el “Seminario de Diálogo Global sobre el Aumento del Financiamiento para Biodiversidad”, co-convocado por la Convención de Diversidad Biológica y los Gobiernos de Ecuador, Suecia, Noruega, India y Japón, con el fin de acordar “mecanismos y recursos financieros” para la biodiversidad. Esto hace parte de un acuerdo entre los países signatarios del Convenio de Diversidad Biológica para incrementar los recursos económicos que permitan la aplicación efectiva de un plan estratégico y alcanzar las metas de Aichi, cuya Estrategia D incluye cómo mejorar los beneficios de la biodiversidad como mercancía y de los servicios ambientales. La reunión de Quito, es un paso más es este camino.

En medio de la actual crisis ambiental, financiera, económica, la biodiversidad ha cobrado una enorme importancia por el papel que ella puede jugar para la “economía verde” que quedará consolidada a través de los acuerdos de la Cumbre Rio+20. Esta propuesta económica no es sino una nueva cara del capitalismo en la que la biodiversidad, el agua, los suelos, los ciclos biogeoquímicos, la fotosíntesis, las funciones y estructuras de la naturaleza podrán ser convertidas en mercancía.

Parte de este proceso son las falsas soluciones al cambio climático, como los Mecanismos REDD (Reducción de Emisiones por Deforestación y Degradación Evitadas) o la economía llamada TEEB (Economía de los Ecosistemas y la Biodiversidad). Marañas de propuestas que buscan en esencia el control de tierras, bosques, agua y biodiversidad como recurso de compensación por la pérdida de biodiversidad, o como materia prima de nuevas tecnologías.

En la práctica, se pretende profundizar la aplicación de medidas neoliberales frente al problema del clima, al manejo de la biodiversidad o a la protección de los bosques. Exalta el paradigma de que la solución está en los mercados, en los derechos de propiedad, la correcta asignación de precios y la mercantilización de toda la naturaleza, de los conocimientos tradicionales o las culturas asociadas a ella, en desmedro de la justicia, las soberanías y el respeto a los derechos humanos y de la naturaleza.

Tanto en la reunión de Quito, como durante el camino hacia Rio+20, y en la COP11 de la CDB de la India, se darán pasos para definir instrumentos financieros, políticas y asociaciones público-privadas que se requieren para obtener la mayor apropiación de territorios y despojo de derechos de los pueblos como jamás se ha dado en la historia de la humanidad. Debido a su escala y ámbito de acción, lo que se propone tendrá efectos devastadores en los territorios y los derechos.

Al igual que con el Fondo Climático se pretende continuar con los mecanismos de mercado para enfrentar ineficazmente la crisis climática, el financiamiento para la biodiversidad está derivando hacia formas de privatización y control de la biodiversidad.

Con los mismos discursos de alivio de la pobreza, conservación y sustentabilidad que beneficiaron a los sectores industriales, militares y financieros, tratan de convencernos nuevamente que la “economía verde”, impulsada por los mismos actores, es la solución.

Ante esta realidad, las organizaciones, redes y movimientos sociales abajo firmantes exhortamos a los gobiernos convocantes a la reunión de Quito a que detengan la mercantilización de la naturaleza; de igual manera, hacemos un llamado a los participantes en el evento a impedir el avance de la Economía Verde que se está fraguando y actuar en concordancia con modelos de sociedades distintos del sistema capitalista depredador y que son construidos sobre principios comunitarios y formas de relación con la naturaleza basadas en el cuidado de la vida.

SIGUEN FIRMAS

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  1. One does not need a degree in biodiversity studies (botany and zoology) to know that even now after all the programmes of intellectual development and knowledge of species existence and their distribution and abundance to know fundamentally that the biosphere is becoming deplete of its biodiversity….It is for the same reason why each day there are fewer goodies in the global “larder” for us all to maintain ourselves be they of living or non living origin….

    A ten billion word hypothesis can analyse this situation but it will change nothing….In reality the vast majority of people DO NOT want any radical changes….they are either having it so good or are hoping to have it so good….No in the end it can only end in disaster for all species on our planet and cause the demise of the human species as a civilised global community…Some form of nature will result but it will be very different than exists now…

    I am sad to have to say this….9 billion humans wishing to live as the most affluent in the G20 let alone the G8 nations and with only 1.5 trillion barrel of conventional and non conventional oil reserves remaining when we are using up 100 million barrels per day (OPEC’s analysis 2010)….then work out your scenario yourself….

    Knee jerk reaction solves consciences….but does nothing to the end game!

  2. @Dr Miles: why did you bother to make this post? According to your analysis, there was no point in making it at all, as regardless of anything anyone does “in the end it can only end in disaster for all species on our planet”. It seems to me that what you describe as Accion Ecologia’s “knee jerk reaction” was at least a bid to try and do something, while your “knee jerk reaction’ to theirs was essentially a call for us all to jump off a cliff in helpless bitterness. If this is your prescription, Doc, help yourself and see if that makes you feel better.

  3. Yet biodiversity does need financing. The problem, I believe is not capitalism per se but the type of capitalism that thinks it’s OK to take decisions which effect the people that live in such biodiverse regions without taking into account their desires and welfare. It is usually when the people that live in such regions can benefit from biodiversity protection, that such areas have most chance of being saved. It has been shown time and again that when local people are involved in the protection of areas that those areas have most chance of being protected. Believe it or not this usually involves the people being involved in some form of capitalist economy. Believing there is only one type of capitalism is as daft as believing there is only one type of tropical rainforest.

  4. @Charles Barber

    I would be very interested to know what is your basis for claiming that local people’s protection of their environment/biodiversity “usually involves…some form of capitalist economy”. In my experience, you are not wrong to say that the areas that have most chance of being protected are where “local people are involved in protection”, but I think I am right in saying that the most biodiverse places on earth are (and always were) under the stewardship of indigenous communities, which historically have tended to be the LEAST capitalist of societies.

    OK, so nowadays almost everyone on the planet has some form of contact with capitalism, even where they don’t particularly want to, and the reality is that some type of capitalist enterprise is likely to play a role where people want/need jobs, income, health and education etc, as well as looking after their environment, and don’t want to be dependent on aid or NGO handouts for all eternity. But it is a very different thing (as you sort of acknowledge) for local people to develop such enterprises than to have their environmental ‘assets’ subsumed in global trading systems that have had a lot to do with why those assets are disappearing in the first place.

    I am not particularly anti-capitalist nor anti-globalisation, but it strikes me that only the hardest headed capitalist could deny that there are limits to what capitalism can achieve, and what problems it can solve: the climate crisis into which we are fast descending is surely proof enough of this. Apart from attributing local control and security of tenure, the only thing historically which has had any impact in protecting biodiversity has been government regulation.

    And surely we should be suspicious of policies which promote the ‘commodification of nature’: for any such approach to really work, then the obvious first thing to do would be to attribute ‘ownership rights’ to the people that actually look after nature and biodiversity- ie, mostly, local and indigenous people. But this is precisely NOT what those same people who promote ‘trading biodiversity’ will ever do. The commodification of nature is, in fact, simply another means of securing ownership by outsiders – so no wonder communities and NGOs oppose it.

  5. Important issues to take immediate actions on.

    Erik Lemcke

  6. Biodiversity is so important because it has value to us. But the “intrinsic” value of arguments aren’t enough. For something to be of value, there must be someone to value it. And we need to integrate that value into our economic system, so we know exactly how much it costs, for example, to cut 1ha of a dry tropical forest. Economic arguments are the best way to stop biodiversity loss, if you can show that conservation can yield more benefits than a factory; and it really does, because we depend on ecosystem services to live.

    I agree REED and TEEB are approaches that must be handled with care. They may generate perverse incentives that generate more degration of the environment, loss of species, and so on. But eventually we will take into account the real economic value of nature, for the good of all.

  7. @Ruben Palacio

    I don’t know whether you have children, but you most likely have parents, whom you love and which are important to you.

    According to your arguments, though, for the love for your family and its importance to be “valued”, there has to be “someone to ‘value’ it” and we would need to “integrate it into our economic system”.

    So how much is the love of your family valued at, and what would you be prepared to trade it in for?

  8. @Charles Barber @Ruben Palacio and @D/ E Witness.
    I like Charles Barber’s and Ruben Palacio’s perspective. A good, well-run REDD project is not the kind of bloated capitalism of, say, the oil companies and diamond companies of this world. I would like to note that carbon credits are not worth much, and a REDD project is very costly and un-profitable to develop.

    D/E Witness, Ruben Palacio was making an argument about how economic valuation can help preserve the environment. If we (or “they”) know that pure water is being produced by a forest up the hill, which would cost x to produce in a water plant, they might not cut it down. And bingo, we have a forest. Period. Nothing whatsoever to do with the love of family, etc., sorry.

    The vast majority of actually existing REDD projects are on the voluntary market, but the majority of arguments are about the ever-continuing debate of the inter-government market. This does not exist yet. Current project are developed by, and the credits are bought by, not governments but private companies, often those with a (perhaps genuine) green image that I, and maybe you, shop at.

    The forest sometimes needs (unfortunately maybe, but true) to be worth ECONOMICALLY standing than cut down, in order to be preserved. Now, I may not particularly like that, but would you rather a commodified standing forest, or no forest at all. Sometimes, that is the reality.
    An ideal REDD project will use a small portion of the credits to pay its developers, and the rest will go right back into the community where it belongs.Is this “capitalism”? Ok, then call the way I share cookies with my flatmate communism.

    @D Witness, I would be interested to know what solutions you propose to the climate crisis which won’t come from capitalism, in the real world. Think of advances in for example fuel, solar, wind, or hydro power, these are all somehow related to the capitalist economy.

  9. @David S (#8) – I wonder if you can give any examples of the sort of “good, well-run REDD project” that you are talking about? The last list you gave of REDD projects that are “preserving primary rainforests while generating income for indigenous peoples, using funds from carbon credits”, was not very impressive.

    One of the REDD projects you mentioned (Rimba Raya) was partly financed by Shell and Gazprom. Presumably, these represent precisely the kind of bloated capitalism that you’re talking about. The reason that companies like this are interested in REDD is because they want to be able to carry on as close to business as usual as possible.

    Your example of saving a forest to protect a water supply may work in terms of saving the forest. However, what happens from a purely economic perspective when you compare profits from an oil palm plantation to profits from REDD carbon credits? In a 2010 paper, Martin Persson and Christian Azar concluded that,

    “We estimate that deforesting for palm oil bioenergy production is likely to remain highly profitable, even in the fact of a price on the carbon emissions from forest clearing.”