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NGOs to California’s Governor: “Trading emissions is NOT a solution to climate change”

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Here’s another letter to California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, opposing REDD offsets in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). This one is from 12 environmental and social organisations from Brazil, South Africa, and Europe, and from Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroots environmental network.

The unresolved technical issues associated with REDD (additionality, leakage, permanence, measurement, and temporality) mean that including forest offsets in California’s cap-and-trade scheme would lead to increased rather than decreased greenhouse gas emissions. “This would continue to expose low-income communities that live nearby industrial installations in California to greater health and environmental problems,” the letter notes.

This argument is shared by community-based environmental justice organisations in California. In August 2011, Maria Ramos of Communities for a Better Environment testified against carbon trading in California’s AB 32:

“I live close by to five refineries. The toxic emissions affect the health of all my family…. I don’t agree with the method cap and trade, because it would not reduce the toxics that cause asthma, allergies and even cancer.”

Here’s the letter, in full:

To:
– The Honourable Jerry Brown, Governor of California
– The California REDD Offset Working Group (Via website stateredd.org)
 
CC: Mary Nichols (Chair, California Air Resources Board), Ashley Conrad-Saydah (Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy, California Environmental Protection Agency), Arsenio Mataka (Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs, California Environmental Protection Agency), La Ronda Bowen (Ombudsman, California Air Resources Board), Jason A. Gray (Staff Counsel, California Air Resources Board)
 
06 May 2013
 
Re: Forest Offsets in California’s Cap and Trade Program
 
Dear Governor Brown,
 
We write to urge you to stop the inclusion of international REDD+ offsets (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) into California’s Cap and Trade program. Emissions trading systems have failed to decrease emissions while offset projects have continually disregarded the rights of local communities and are inherently flawed. The undersigned organizations send this letter to warn against including international REDD+ credits which will inevitably worsen environmental and social conflicts.
 
Early attempts to include forests credits in UN-backed carbon markets led to uncertain technical debates. International REDD+ forest credits have been until now rejected in the UN climate talks and kept out of the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) for good reasons. Unresolved technical problems include additionality (proving that the forest area would not have been protected anyway), leakage (forest destroyers moving to another area), permanence (trees do not store carbon permanently), measurement (highly complex and uncertain since it relies on biological variables), and temporality (emissions and removals may still occur many years after a project happens). Besides these technical uncertainties however, the underlying causes of deforestation remain largely untouched while the responsibility to reduce emissions at source is watered down.
 
Due to these issues, the inclusion of international forest offsets in California’s Cap and Trade program would likely increase rather than decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to AB 32’s objectives as polluting industries buy rights to further emissions. This would continue to expose low-income communities that live nearby industrial installations in California to greater health and environmental problems. While many Indigenous Peoples and forest-based communities living in the South have few and insecure formal titles to their land, REDD+ will fuel property speculation, increase pressure over land rights, and dispossess local populations. These risks are exacerbated by the inclusion of monoculture plantations in the current UN standard definition of what constitutes a forest.
 
Biodiverse forests have unique significance to those who live in and depend on them for their livelihood and cultural survival. Serious concerns related to environmental and human rights violations with REDD+ projects have led to opposition from Indigenous Peoples and local communities in Chiapas, Mexico and Acre, Brazil (the two jurisdictions where California’s polluters would buy from its initial international credits). There are many overwhelming dangers of reducing forests to carbon sinks. Land struggles intensify as rights to lands become separated from rights to access and use of other elements of nature.
 
The government of Chiapas, Mexico, for example, is promoting a REDD+ pilot project in the Lacandon rainforest over seven Natural Reserves. In order to be ‘Ready for REDD+’ the government must prove that the areas from which carbon certificates would be generated are under environmental protection. For this purpose, the National Commission has already ‘re-located’ several local communities using forced evictions and economic pressures in spite of strong resistance.
 
In addition, the expansion of monocultures for agrofuels is another of Chiapas government’s rush. A state program, ‘Productive Reconversion of Agriculture’, provides local communities from the Lacandon jungle with payments to grow African palm and jatropha for agrofuels which are invasive, destroy local forests and create economic dependencies which crush local autonomy. Chiapas is the state in Mexico with the largest plantation area for palm trees, located at the edges of Protected Natural Areas, these monocultures use vast quantities of pesticides which pollute soils and water and seriously harm the health of local populations. Once again: Plantations are not forests!
 
California should enforce policies that address the root drivers of deforestation and climate change at source in order to start the transition away from fossil fuels. Policies based on social and environmental justice should guarantee that polluters will be forced to take responsibility for their GHG emissions and environmental destruction while benefiting vulnerable and low-income communities. We urge you to keep international REDD+ credits out of the California Cap and Trade program. Further, we respectfully recommend that you look carefully at how the EU ETS has failed as a foreshadowing of what will be to come in the California Cap and Trade system. Trading emissions is NOT a solution to climate change.
 
Sincerely,
 

2013-05-08-121152_1095x979_scrot

 
Organizations:
 
Aliança RECOs – Redes de Cooperação Comunitária Sem Fronteiras (Brazil)
Movimento Mulheres pela P@Z! (Brazil)
ITEREI (Refúgio particular de animais nativos – Portaria IBDF163/78 – DOU 20/04/1978, Membro oficial da sociedade planetária UNESCO PROJETO BRA022/1998)
Friends of the Earth International
Centro de referência do movimento da cidadania pelas águas florestas e montanhas Iguassu ITEREI
Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD)
Terræ Organização da Sociedade Civil (Brazil)
Carbon Trade Watch
FERN
Re:Common
Attac France
The Corner House
Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project (Durban, South Africa)
Earth Peoples
 
Further Reading:
 
EU ETS Myth Busting: Why it can’t be reformed and shouldn’t be replicated
(http://bit.ly/13vVaM1). Co-published by over 40 organizations signatories to the “Time to Scrap the ETS” campaign.
 
Protecting Carbon to Destroy Forests: Land Enclosures and REDD+
(http://bit.ly/18W9tKi). Carbon Trade Watch.

 


UPDATE – 22 May 2013: Attac France posted a French translation of the letter on its website this week:

A destination de :
 
Jerry Brown, Gouverneur de Californie
Le groupe de travail de compensation REDD en Californie (Via le site web stateredd.org)
 
Copie à : Mary Nichols (Présidente, California Air Resources Board), Ashley Conrad-Saydah (Secrétaire adjoint pour la politique climatique, Agence de protection de l’environnement de Californie), Arsenio Mataka (Secrétaire adjoint pour la justice environnemental, Agence de protection de l’environnement de Californie), La Ronda Bowen (Médiateur, California Air Resources Board), Jason A. Gray (Staff Counsel, California Air Resources Board)
 
Monsieur le Gouverneur Brown,
 
Nous vous écrivons pour vous exhorter de ne pas inclure le mécanismes de compensations internationales REDD + (Réduction des émissions dues à la déforestation et à la dégradation des forêts) dans le marché carbone en Californie. Les systèmes de marché carbone n’ont pas réussi à réduire les émissions alors que les projets de compensation ont constamment ignoré les droits des communautés locales et sont intrinsèquement viciés. Les organisations soussignées envoient cette lettre pour alerter contre l’inclusion de crédits REDD + qui ne manqueront pas d’aggraver les conflits environnementaux et sociaux.
 
Les premières tentatives pour inclure les forêts dans les marchés carbone soutenus par l’ONU ont conduit à d’importants débats techniques. Les crédits forêts internationaux REDD + ont été jusqu’à présent rejetés dans les négociations climatiques de l’ONU et exclus du marché carbone européen de l’Union européenne (EU ETS) pour de bonnes raisons. Des problèmes techniques non résolus, y compris l’additionnalité (qui prouve que la zone forestière n’aurait pas été protégée sans), les ‘fuites’ (les destructeurs de la forêt passant à un autre domaine), la permanence (les arbres ne stockent pas le carbone en permanence), la mesure (très complexe et incertaine car elle repose sur la diversité des variables biologiques) et la temporalité (les émissions et les absorptions peuvent encore survenir plusieurs années après qu’un projet arrive à terme). Outre ces incertitudes techniques, les causes sous-jacentes de la déforestation restent largement ignorées tandis que la responsabilité de réduire les émissions à la source est édulcorée.
 
En raison de ces problèmes, introduire les mécanismes internationaux de compensations forêt dans le cadre du marché carbone en Californie augmenterait probablement les émissions de gaz à effet de serre (GES) relatives aux objectifs AB32 plutôt que de les diminuer, puisque les industries polluantes achètent des droits pour accroître leurs émissions. Cela reviendrait à exposer les communautés à faible revenu qui vivent à proximité des installations industrielles en Californie à des problèmes environnementaux et de santé encore plus importants. Alors que de nombreux peuples autochtones et des communautés tributaires des forêts qui vivent dans le Sud ont très peu de titres officiels sécurisant pour leurs terres, REDD + va alimenter la spéculation, augmenter la pression sur les droits fonciers et déposséder les populations locales. Ces risques sont aggravés par l’inclusion de la monoculture dans la définition standard des Nations Unies de ce que constitue une forêt.
 
Les forêts riches en biodiversité ont une signification unique pour ceux qui y vivent et en dépendent pour leur subsistance et leur survie culturelle. Les projets REDD+ font peser de graves préoccupations en termes de violations des droits humains et environnementaux et ont conduit à ce que des peuples autochtones et des communautés locales dans le Chiapas (Mexique) et dans la région Acre (Brésil) s’y opposent (ce sont les deux régions où les pollueurs de la Californie achèteraient ces crédits internationaux). Réduire les forêts à de seuls puits de carbone fait courrir d’énormes dangers. Les luttes pour la terre s’intensifient à mesure que les droits sur les terres sont séparés des droits d’accès et d’usage d’autres éléments de la nature.
 
Le gouvernement du Chiapas au Mexique, promeut par exemple un projet REDD + pilote dans la forêt tropicale Lacandon sur plus de sept réserves naturelles. Afin d’être «prêt pour REDD +», le gouvernement doit prouver que les zones à partir desquelles des certificats de carbone seraient générés sont sous une protection environnementale. A cet effet, la Commission nationale a déjà déplacé plusieurs communautés locales en utilisant des expulsions forcées et des pressions économiques en dépit de fortes résistances.
 
En outre, l’expansion des monocultures d’agrocarburants est une autre raison de l’empressement du gouvernement du Chiapas. Un programme d’Etat, intitulé “Reconversion productive de l’agriculture», finance les communautés locales de la jungle Lacandon pour planter des palmiers africains et de plants de jatropha pour les agrocarburants qui sont envahissants, qui détruisent les forêts locales et créent des dépendances économiques qui écrasent l’autonomie locale. Le Chiapas est l’État au Mexique avec la plus grande zone de plantation de palmiers, situés sur les bords de zones naturelles protégées, et ces monocultures utilisent de grandes quantités de pesticides qui polluent les sols et l’eau et nuisent gravement à la santé des populations locales. Une fois de plus: les plantations ne sont pas des forêts!
 
La Californie devrait appliquer des politiques qui s’attaquent aux causes profondes de la déforestation et du changement climatique afin d’entamer une transition vers une ère post-fossile. Les politiques fondées sur la justice sociale et environnementale doivent garantir que les pollueurs soient tenus responsables de leurs émissions de GES et de la destruction de l’environnement, tout en faisant en sorte qu’elles bénéficient aux communautés vulnérables et à faible revenu. Nous vous demandons de maintenir le système international REDD + hors du marché carbone californien. En outre, nous vous recommandons respectueusement de regarder attentivement la façon dont le marché carbone européen a échoué, comme une préfiguration de ce qui pourrait advenir marché carbone en Californie. Commercer les émissions de carbone n’est PAS une solution au changement climatique.
 
Cordialement,
 
Aliança RECOs – Redes de Cooperação Comunitária Sem Fronteiras (Brazil)
Movimento Mulheres pela P@Z! (Brazil)
ITEREI (Refúgio particular de animais nativos – Portaria IBDF163/78 – DOU 20/04/1978, Membro oficial da sociedade planetária UNESCO PROJETO BRA022/1998)
Friends of the Earth International
Centro de referência do movimento da cidadania pelas águas florestas e montanhas Iguassu ITEREI
Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD)
Terræ Organização da Sociedade Civil (Brazil)
Carbon Trade Watch
FERN
Re:Common
Attac France
The Corner House
Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project (Durban, South Africa)
Earth Peoples

 


PHOTO Credit: Chevron’s global activities.
 

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  1. Are these people really trying to kill AB32 or the entire REDD market world wide. The purpose of the any off-set credit is to funnel money towards industries and resources that reduce global warming. So to protect their personal interest of credits their producing within their countries, they want to kill one of the only major states in the world that believe and support that REDD credits are important. Dumb

  2. There is wrong information in all the letters that have been copied and distributed recently and signed by many institutions that do not know the real situation in the area, that is very unfortunate, 1) The Lacandon project of the Chiapas government is actually canceled, due to the fact that it is not a REDD+ project at all and didn’t have any additionally, this happen partially due to the pressure and work of NGOs and others that have pointed out for the need to design a real additional mitigation program from forest efforts in that zone . The claims stated in these letters are from a old land problem in Lacandon, where there are 42 settlements claiming for land titles recognition for many years, but they are established within the Lacandon Communal lands in an irregular way. So the conflict is not only with the environmental agencies but is a land dispute among the Lacandon community and many other settlements that each one is a different case. These settlements have of course an impact on tropical rainforest degradation and deforestation. As reported in the Mexican press more than 300 conciliation meetings have been conducted with agencies such as Agrarian Reform and the National Protected Areas Commission. These land disputes are very old (decades) and do not have any relation with any REED+ program. It is possible that the letters come from the NGOs working with these communities to support them in their land claims and have use the REDD+ issue as a way to make pressure to Mexican Government and more publicity. It is also important to mention that this issues are Federal matters and not State level matters in Mexico .Only the Federal government can resolve on land titles. Will be good that the NGOs signing this type of letters have more information, There are many sustainable land use initiatives happening in Chiapas, from grassroots groups, that could have a benefit from external support.

  3. very informative comments, but it shows the importance of truly having a safe and secure auditing process and procedure that is regulated properly that will force land disputes to be resolved. As no one will get paid till they do

  4. @dumb

    You don’t seem to have appreciated that paying someone to supposedly reduce deforestation somewhere so that Californian polluters can carry on polluting does not “reduce global warming” – and therefore helps to destroy rainforests because of climate change.

  5. @Doh!

    The theory of Cap & Trade sets a ceiling on total emissions from a company that is below its current emissions. Companies must reduce emissions at source to meet the ‘cap’ or find other ways to achieve emission reductions. Typically this is financing the emission reductions of another entity in the Cap & Trade system who is allowed to sell the ‘pollution permits’/credits it doesn’t need because it was able to reduce emissions below its ‘cap.’ This then allows a company who cannot reduce emissions because it doesn’t have appropriate technology to contribute to emission reductions. The end effect for the entire Cap & Trade system, in this case the State of California, reduces its greenhouse gas emissions to a set ‘cap.’

    Another option which I find intriguing is a Carbon Tax system which uses industry specific regulations and flexibility mechanisms to support emission reductions. The farthest developed system in this vein is in South Africa. Both that scheme and the cap & trade schemes are complicated.

    Another solution could be stopping the company from operating above a certain production level.

    Anywho: Offsets (projects that reduce emissions beyond a company/cap & trade requirements) in California are only 8% of the total submission of ‘pollution permits’ a company can hand over to the government to meet the ‘cap.’ REDD+ would only account for a maximum of 4%, 2% in the initial phases if included.

  6. @Observing REDD

    In other words, it’s the ‘cap’ in the cap and trade system that reduces the emissions, not the ‘trade’. It’s good that you suggest “stopping the company from operating above a certain production level”, which is effectively the same thing; get rid of the trade in cap and trade and real progress might be made…

  7. Take the trade out of cap and trade and you don’t have a politically viable AB 32. So whats better, no AB 32 or AB 32 with a small offset allowance?

  8. Carbon Trading in any of its ‘multiple personalities’ is never going to do anything much for the environment. The so called green movement here in Australia (and everywhere else by the look of it) has been hijacked by scamsters intending to get rich by other peoples ignorance and bad consciences. Reducing emissions can only be achieved by education and eliminating the throw away consumer culture . We should be making products that last 50 years which don’t have to be updated every 18 months.Instead Engineers are being taught in Universities how to make products that only last as long as the duration of the warrantee period.