The report gives a “preliminary examination” of the REDD programme in the State of Chiapas and provides an analysis of carbon forestry projects. Greenpeace points out that it supports states taking action to stop deforestation and protect forests peoples’ rights. However, Greenpeace adds, “we do not support the GCF’s current fixation with creating a new set of offsets for California’s industrial polluters.”
The report, “Outsourcing Hot Air: The push for sub-national REDD offsets in California’s carbon market from Mexico and beyond”, can be read and downloaded below and Greenpeace’s press release is available below.
One of the main problems that Greenpeace highlights with creating carbon offsets from REDD projects in Chiapas is that the offsets allow pollution in California to continue. That pollution is real, regardless of whether there is any genuine avoided deforestation in Chiapas. Greenpeace highlights Chevron to illustrate the point:
Chevron: Real pollution, questionable offsets
Chevron is the largest corporation in California and one of the ten largest corporations in the world. Its Richmond refinery, one of the oldest in the US, is one of California’s biggest carbon emitters and a major source of hazardous pollutants. In the last five years alone the refinery has been cited more than 90 times for air regulation violations, with the number of incidents increasing in both 2010 and 2011. Rather than reducing pollution in the communities in which it operates, Chevron spent almost $4m US dollars lobbying to pass Proposition 26 in California (to prevent polluters from having to pay for the environmental and health impacts they cause), while providing $3m to The Nature Conservancy for the Guaraquecaba Climate Action (REDD+ offset) project in Brazil. Including subnational forest carbon offsets in California’s Emissions Trading Scheme allows companies like Chevron to continue polluting the environment in California while greenwashing their image by establishing dubious offset projects elsewhere.
The report points out that several decades ago, it would have been impossible to predict whether an area in Chiapas that was forested then, would still be forested today and that, “It is not clear that predictions could be made today with significantly greater certainty.”
Greenpeace looks at the Chiapas REDD programme from the perspective of additionality, permanance, leakage and measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) (the references below have been omitted, but are available in the Greenpeace report):
Every REDD+ program must put in place strong and reliable measures to ensure that funding is used to protect additional forests that would not have been protected under existing laws or initiatives. It is not clear to what extent – if at all – the Chiapas REDD+ program is providing genuinely additional emission reductions relative to what would have happened in the absence of the program. Although there is no official information or map showing the exact area or polygon for the REDD+ program, the government has stated that the program will seek to protect and conserve “more than 614,000 ha of rainforest”, which is roughly the size of the Lacandona Community Reserve (614,321 hectares). Furthermore, a robust reference level must be established in order to determine whether a program is additional. Chiapas has not yet specified an official reference level for its REDD+ program and faces significant problems in doing so (see the MRV section, below).
One of the fundamental issues for any forestry project is permanence, given that forests can be destroyed at a later time. In addition to the unpredictable nature of deforestation throughout the history of Chiapas, its REDD+ program raises substantial permanence concerns as it lacks a continuous source of funding as well as any defined duration. Greenpeace’s conversations with authorities and former authorities from the Lacandona communities revealed that the agreement with the government is made on a yearly basis. Neither the Pact nor other public documents define how long the program is intended to last over the long term, or the conditions under which the program would end. The program was originally financed in 2011 by a vehicle tenure tax collected in Chiapas, which has since expired and there is uncertainty regarding the availability of funds needed to keep the program operational in the long term. The program has been allowed to receive funding from the State of Chiapas’ Environmental Fund since January 2012 to ensure its continuation in the short term, and the Chiapas
government has committed to match each Mexican peso invested into the program by the Federal Government or other national and international institution.
REDD+ must prevent leakage, wherein claimed reductions in deforestation in one area have merely shifted the deforestation to another area. The absence of a transparent land use planning process and monitoring program for Chiapas’ REDD+ program makes it difficult to know how much leakage has occurred (if any). There are farms and livestock immediately along the edges of reserve land visited by Greenpeace, but the duration of their existence, as well as their relationship to the reserve and REDD+ program, is unclear.
Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV)
A Measurement, Reporting and Verification system (MRV) is a basic requirement for REDD+ programs in order to assess their performance. While Chiapas has recently taken steps to determine its historic deforestation and degradation rates, a report from July 2012 notes uncertainty levels for deforestation rates as high as 44% (and ranging from 30% to 40% for degradation). Due to Chiapas’ complex topography, the mosaic pattern of land use and the lack of technical capacity to carry out forest carbon stock assessments, the state has so far not been able to implement an operational deforestation and forest carbon enhancement monitoring system. MRV under the Chiapas program is further complicated by the lack of clear delineation of borders and boundaries of the reserve areas. While the REDD+ program is said to apply to the 614,000 hectares of rainforest, the Ministry of Environment and Natural History has yet to publish an official detailed map of the area. In addition, there appears to be no clear delineation of the 70 hectares plots held by each comunero (member of a legally recognized agrarian community), which could be divided into one, two, or three different plots within the community lands. Uncertainty around real land use practices over the last 35 years adds further complications.
Greenpeace criticizes forest offsets in California’s new emissions trading scheme.
Greenpeace press release, 24 September 2012
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, September 24th 2012 – To coincide with the annual meeting of former Governor Schwarzenegger’s Governors Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), Greenpeace released the report “Outsourcing Hot Air”, which highlights the escalation of social conflict in forest regions participating in offset schemes and argues that no real emissions reductions are achieved.
“Greenpeace opposes the inclusion of sub-national forest offsets in California’s new emissions trading scheme, whether they’re from Chiapas or elsewhere. The scheme cannot guarantee that Mexican forests are protected, meanwhile Californian emitters are allowed to continue polluting.” said Roman Czebiniak, Greenpeace Senior Political Advisor on Climate Change & Forests.
In 2008, former Governor Schwarzenegger established the GCF which has since been focused on creating carbon offsets from forest projects for major Californian emitters. The GCF is pushing to allow offsets from forestry projects in Chiapas, Mexico into California’s new emissions trading scheme.
“The impermanent nature of forests combined with lack of a continuous source of funding means that forests could be destroyed during the lifetime of California’s emissions in the atmosphere, resulting in no decrease in emissions. Rather than advocating for false solutions like offsets, the GCF should focus on promoting and adopting effective, people-centered forest protection policies among its members.” said Czebiniak.
The “Outsourcing Hot Air” report presents an offset scheme proposed by The Governor of Chiapas as an example of why forest projects are unlikely to guarantee offsets for Californian emitters. Villagers of the Lacandona community, an area of Chiapas which has been subject to centuries of social unrest, signed a pledge to care for and preserve their forest. Greenpeace field research highlights the numerous barriers to successful implementation.
“Despite the best intentions of the Chiapas Government, a lack of information and proper consultation with the community, unresolved historical conflicts in the Lacandona rainforest and the absence of clear rights to land tenure in the region means Chiapas does not guarantee long term stability for any offset scheme.” said Paloma Neumann, Greenpeace Mexico Forest Campaigner.
Greenpeace is campaigning for zero deforestation by 2020 to protect what is left of the world’s extraordinary forest ecosystems. We campaign for forest protection because, without healthy, thriving forests, planet Earth cannot sustain life. As much as eighty per cent of the world’s forests have been degraded or destroyed.
Notes to Editor
In “Outsourcing Hot Air” Greenpeace recommends that proper implementation of any forest protection scheme, including those within the UNFCCC’s REDD+ program, should:
- Adopt zero deforestation policies and a “common approach” that safeguards biodiversity and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities
- Initiate participatory multi-scale conservation and land use planning processes
- Identify and end perverse government subsidies that support deforestation or forest degradation, and redirect those subsidies to forest protection
- Clarify land tenure and make maps identifying land rights freely and publicly available
- Create independent real-time national deforestation monitoring systems that are freely and publicly available
- Collectively demand that the large industrial drivers of deforestation that impact many states make their supply chains fully transparent and free of deforestation and forest degradation
- Institute transparent and equitable benefit sharing mechanisms
- Support a global forest fund designed to provide multiple benefits in terms of carbon, biodiversity, and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities
Outsourcing Hot Air (688.3 kB).