Yesterday, at COP19 in Warsaw, Norway, the UK, and the USA launched yet another initiative to protect forests and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Called the “BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes”, this will be a public-private partnership housed in the World Bank.
In a press release, the UK government announced that Norway will provide “up to” US$135 million, the UK US$120 million, and the USA US$25 million. But none of this is new money. Instead it is recycled from existing climate aid budgets.
Reactions to the announcement vary. Josefina Brana-Varela, Policy Director of WWF’s global Forest and Climate Programme, describes the initiative as,
“a great example of nations coming together to address climate change in ways that benefit people and nature, but more needs to be done. WWF’s expectation is that nations fulfill their promise of $100bn per year from both public and private sources by 2020. The announcement, though, sends an important and strong signal that some key nations are willing to work together to both fund and implement Redd+.”
Asad Rehman, head of International Climate, Friends of the Earth EWNI, told The Guardian,
“This money is the clearest choice in favour of dirty energy we’ve seen so far in Warsaw. Rather than investing in the transition to renewable energy at home and abroad, these countries are investing in establishing the conditions for discredited and ineffective ‘forest carbon credits’. We face a planetary emergency – the solution is not in continuing business at usual at home and generating false ‘credits’ from forestry, it is making the shift to clean energy technologies, while also protecting forests and forest dependent communities through improved forest governance and protecting rights to land and resources.”
John Kerry, US secretary of state, spoke via a video link at the launch of the ISFL. He talked about his “deep, personal connection with our forests” and told us that “Forests sustain us, literally, in every way.” At one point, he managed to fit three howlers into two sentences:
“Each year we lose some 13 million square [sic] hectares of forests globally. That’s an area about the size of Costa Rica [sic] or Greece every year. Greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation now account for nearly one-third [sic] of the global total…”
A hectare is a measure of area, which may be square, but could also be any other shape. The area of Costa Rica is considerably smaller than Greece, at just over 5 million hectares. Kerry presumably meant Nicaragua, which has an area about the same as that of Greece. And Kerry’s figure of one-third of greenhouse gas emissions coming from deforestation is a gross exaggeration.
The one-third figure is, like the mix up over Costa Rica and Nicaragua, a silly mistake. In the UK government’s press release, Rachel Kyte, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank said that “agriculture and land use change continue to produce up to 30 per cent of global greenhouse gases”.
I think it’s safe to call this Rachel Kyte’s pet project. Kyte wrote about “Landscape Approaches to Sustainable Development” in June 2012. She was at the Agriculture and Rural Development Day that took place during Rio+20 and wrote that,
[W]e need to be coming to “Landscape Days” – where we have the foresters in the room with the farmer and with the fishers and with the producers and with everybody in the research community.
She had a receptive audience. Two days later, the CIFOR Forest News Blog quoted then-CIFOR Director, Francis Seymour, who was also at the Agriculture and Rural Development Day, as saying that,
“The landscape approach is a way that we can improve agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods while also addressing threats to forests, water and biodiversity.”
CIFOR has organised a series of Forest Days that took place during the UN climate negotiations. The first was in Bali during COP13 in 2007.
In December 2012, Peter Holmgren, who had taken over as CIFOR’s Director three months earlier, announced that the 6th Forest Day, in Doha, would be the last. A few days later, Holmgren wrote a blog titled, “Landscapes for sustainable development”, echoing Kyte’s from six months earlier.
This year, Forest Day was merged with the Agriculture Landscapes and Livelihoods Day as a “Global Landscapes Forum”.
“We are wasting precious time as a result of a disjointed, discombobulated dance,” Kyte told the 1,200 people who turned up to the GLF. “Landscapes are not just an important part of the solution. They are the solution,” Holmgren said. “We must put our hope in landscapes. Fragmentation is our enemy and a recipe for disaster.”
How to explain CIFOR’s enthusiasm for “landscapes”? In March 2012, REDD-Monitor interviewed Seymour. In a wide-ranging interview, she didn’t mention the word “landscape” once. When I asked her about the Forest Days she didn’t hint that a change might be in the pipeline.
There are 59 posts on CIFOR’s Forest News Blog that are filed under “landscapes”. Obviously this is a subject that CIFOR considers to be important. But only two of the posts were written before June 2012 and Kyte’s announcement that “we need to be coming to ‘Landscape Days'”.