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REDD in the news: 15-21 September 2014

REDD-Monitor’s weekly round up of the news on REDD, forests and climate. The links are organised by date (click on the title for the full article). REDD-Monitor’s news links on delicious.com are updated regularly. For past REDD in the news posts, click here.

15 September 2014

Big corporates leading the way on climate change with carbon pricing
By Jo Confino, The Guardian, 15 September 2014 | The progressive corporate sector plans to make a major push at next week’s climate change summit in New York for the introduction of a meaningful global price for carbon, believing it to be one of the most effective measures to keep temperature rises within 2C. The World Bank is also taking a lead on carbon pricing and will unveil a long list of states, regions and businesses announcing plans to factor in the costs of burning fossil fuels. It will essentially say that when carbon emissions carry a price, that cost creates an incentive for businesses to reduce waste and invest in energy efficiency and cleaner power sources. But what are companies doing to lobby for change and how prepared are they for the introduction of a global carbon market? CDP, the sustainable-economy non-profit, has compiled the first global database which shows that the world’s largest corporations are outpacing their governments in responding to climate change…

Seeking an easy win on carbon emissions? Cut global trade
By John Weeks, The Conversation, 15 September 2014 | The US trade and investment initiatives have come under considerable attack for handing too much power over public services to private corporations, for reducing employment rights and for harming national sovereignty. Whatever the validity of these objections, there is a more fundamental problem. The purpose of the TPP and the TTIP is to increase the volume of trade among countries, and that is inherently bad for humankind because of its environmental effects. I recently attended a meeting in London with environmental activists, including a well-known British climate scientist. As a result of that meeting I realise that my past critiques of “free trade” have been far too timid and narrow. The essential problem is not that these treaties foster US and EU corporate interests, though that is undesirable for the rest of us; the problem is international trade itself.

World Bank Fund to Buy Emission Reductions Using Options
By Matthew Carr, Bloomberg, 15 September 2014 | A planned World Bank fund will employ options to spur climate-protection investment using rules created by carbon markets. The Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Change Mitigation will use auctions “to maximize the use of limited public resources,” the Washington-based bank said today in an e-mailed statement. Investors will bid for tradable put options giving the right to sell emission reductions to the fund at guaranteed prices. The approach could be used in the future for greenhouse gases other than methane and may attract investment from other institutions including the United Nations Green Climate Fund, which is raising about $10 billion. There’s less incentive to build carbon-reduction projects after the value of UN Certified Emission Reductions plunged 99 percent in the past six years, according to data from ICE Futures Europe in London.

Brazil builds giant tower in Amazon to monitor climate
AFP, 15 September 2014 | Brazil is building a giant observation tower in the heart of the Amazon to monitor climate change and its impact on the region’s sensitive ecosystem, a newspaper reported Sunday. The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) is a project of Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research and Germany’s Max Planck Institute, O Estado de Sao Paulo said. The tower, which will rise 325 meters (over 1,000 feet) from the ground, will be equipped with high-tech instruments and an observatory to monitor relationships between the jungle and the atmosphere. It will gather data on heat, water, carbon gas, winds, cloud formation, carbon absorption and weather patterns.

[Brazil] Climate crisis ‘could become a global revolution’
CIFOR Forests News Blog, 15 September 2014 | Success in the Brazilian Amazon is evidence that it is possible to reduce deforestation and turn around the climate crisis, says Daniel Nepstad, Executive Director of the Earth Innovation Institute. “We really need to simplify and unify forces if we’re going to navigate this climate change, food scarcity, forest conservation crisis that’s emerging. And there’s big evidence that it works — as Brazil shows us,” Nepstad, a world-renowned forest ecologist who has been studying land use in the Amazon for 30 years, said in an interview with Forests News. “I think it’s possible to have more food, more forests, fewer emissions and better livelihoods. It can be done.” Nepstad is one of six panelists sharing ‘big ideas’ at the Colloquium on Forests and Climate: New Thinking for Transformational Change in New York on 24 September.

Nepal Identifies Drivers of Forest Loss
Climate Change Policy & Practice (IISD), 15 September 2014 | The Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation of the Government of Nepal has assessed the country’s drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in order to develop policy options for REDD+. The assessment includes an evaluation of the effectiveness of previous forest policies and measures, and reports on four key drivers of forest loss that vary across Nepal’s biophysical, ecological and social landscapes. Drivers include illegal logging, fuelwood consumption, encroachment and road construction. The assessment also highlights underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation ranging from population growth and migration, to increased demand for forest products and corruption. The report draws links between degradation and deforestation, noting that the illegal removal or destruction of a few trees (degradation) can lead to deforestation.

[USA] At least 150 major companies prep for carbon prices
By Wendy Koch, USA Today, 15 September 2014 | At least 150 major companies worldwide – including ExxonMobil, Google, Microsoft and 26 others in the United States – are already making business plans that assume they will be taxed on their carbon pollution, a report today says. The U.S. has yet to impose a price on heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, but other nations are starting to do so as a way to address global warming so U.S.-based companies are factoring an eventual one into their plans, says the international non-profit CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project. The report is the group’s first one to look at corporate carbon pricing on a global scale. “We’re seeing companies taking steps they’re not required to, and they’re doing this to be competitive in a carbon-constrained world,” says Zoe Antitch, spokeswoman of CDP North America, noting many do business in multiple countries. “They’re looking ahead. … They’re climate ready.”

16 September 2014

Like a Dull Knife: The People’s Climate “Farce”
By Quincy Saul, Truthout, 16 September 2014 | In discussions over the past month with a wide range of people – UN diplomats, radical Vermonters, unionists, professors, liberal Democrats, etc. – the same thing has been repeated to me by everyone: “If we get a huge number of people, no one will be able to ignore us.” “The mainstream media will be forced to cover it.” So what is being billed and organized as The People’s Climate March, and An Invitation to Change Everything, turns out to be a massive photo op. The spectacle of thousands of First World citizens marching for climate justice, while they continue to generate the vast majority of carbon emissions, brings to mind the spectacle of George W. Bush visiting New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

‘Deep, recurrent structural problems’ lie behind climate challenges
CIFOR Forests News Blog, 16 September 2014 | We must continuously adapt our institutions to deal with accelerated social and environmental change if we are to make real progress in protecting forests and achieving sustainability, says Eduardo Brondízio, Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University. “Our efforts to reconcile development and conservation in forest regions currently rest on unsustainable grounds,” Brondízio said in an interview with Forests News. “We need to confront — intellectually and in practice — several mismatches and misconceptions.” Brondízio is one of six panelists presenting ‘big ideas’ for discussion at the Colloquium on Forests and Climate: New Thinking for Transformational Change at Columbia University in New York on 24 September, where he hopes to provoke questions that people may not be thinking about — “the kinds of questions that force us to think about the next 10, 20 years.”

We can avoid climate change, and boost the world’s economy – if we act now
By Angel Gurria and Nicholas Stern, The Guardian, 16 September 2014 | The global economy is undergoing a remarkable transformation which is altering our ability to deal with climate change. The growth of emerging economies, rapid urbanisation and new technological advances are making possible a new path of low-carbon growth in ways that were not apparent even five years ago. We know that if left unchecked, greenhouse gas emissions will cause devastating climate change. What is now becoming clear is that reducing emissions is not only compatible with economic growth and development; if done well, it can actually generate better growth than the old high-carbon model.

Fixing Climate Change May Add No Costs, Report Says
By Justin Gillis, New York Times, 16 September 2014 | When the secondary benefits of greener policies — like lower fuel costs, fewer premature deaths from air pollution and reduced medical bills — are taken into account, the changes might wind up saving money, according to the findings of the group, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate… While the commission found that the requisite steps may make economic sense, that does not mean they will be politically easy, the report says. For instance, the group will recommend that countries eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels, which cost about $600 billion a year but are vigorously defended by vested interests. It will urge nations to take a fresh look at the potential of renewable energy, whose costs are plummeting, and also recommend the adoption of initiatives to halt destruction of forests, use land more efficiently and limit wasteful urban sprawl, among many other steps.

Show Them the Money
By Frances Seymour, Center For Global Development, 16 September 2014 | Denizens of Climate World are gearing up for the “Climate Summit” being hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in New York on September 23rd… A new CGD Working Paper by Marigold Norman and Smita Nakhooda of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) runs the numbers. The paper provides a wealth of charts and graphs analysing flows of international REDD+ finance to date by source, destination, vehicle, timing, stage of disbursement, and other factors that draw back the curtain on the current landscape of funding for forests and climate change. A few highlights: Aggregate pledges and investments from both the public and private sectors are estimated to be more than US$8.7 billion for the period between 2006 and March 2014. While the authors deem this amount to be “significant”, it’s not so different from the $8 billion pledged for the World Bank/FAO Tropical Forestry Action Plan way back in 1985…

Indigenous people in Brazil facing deforestation, joblessness seek out cities, end up in slums
AP, 16 September 2014 | In this Brazilian favela, a dense hodgepodge of humble cinderblock homes filled with some of Rio de Janeiro’s poorest residents, the indigenous people whose cultures predate recorded history are struggling to keep their traditions alive in the face of modernity. Seeking jobs and forced out of their native lands by loggers, miners and farmers, an estimated 22,000 Brazilian Indians now call the crowded favelas their home. Deforestation continues to reshape the Amazon rain forest region that is home to a third of Brazil’s indigenous people. The rate of deforestation rose 29 percent last year, compared with a year earlier, the Brazilian government reported last week. “There are no more forests, no more fish. We’ve got to survive so we go to the cities. But they’re so expensive, where can we live but the favelas?” asked Sandra Benites, a Guarani tribeswoman who moved to Rio’s Complexo Sao Carlos slum in 2010 from the neighboring state of Espirito Santo.

REDD progress is possible — just look at Indonesia
By Julian Caldecott, SciDev.Net, 16 September 2014 | But Indonesia, one of the largest GHG emitters in the 2000s, is a partial exception. In 2010, it signed a letter of intent to accept up to one billion US dollars under the Indonesia-Norway REDD+ Partnership, most of it payable for reducing emissions in the forest and peatland sector. Norway also negotiated REDD+ agreements with Brazil and Guyana. All stand out for their ‘game-changing’ intent (the ‘game’, of course, being very different in each country) and the large amounts of money on the table. With presidential leadership and start-up funds from Norway and others, some of Indonesia’s best and brightest officials and administrators were tasked with making REDD+ happen. But the scale of the challenge soon became clear. At the root of deforestation was how decisions affecting the use of land and forests were being made throughout Indonesian society — driven and distorted by the plantation sector’s demands…

17 September 2014

Science striving for larger role in charting policy agenda on forests, climate
CIFOR Forests News Blog, 17 September 2014 | Climate policy will require greater engagement from the scientific community — and an upcoming high-level forum can help to chart “where the science-policy interface needs to go on forestry issues,” said Louis Verchot, Director of Forests and Environment Research at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “As we move past 2015, the UN negotiations are going to be shifting gears from big international negotiations to implementation at national and sub-national scales,” Verchot said in an interview with CIFOR’s blog, Forests News. “So it is a good time to ask how science can be more effective to support policy on tropical forests and help the international community be more effective in dealing with climate change.” Verchot will represent CIFOR at the Colloquium on Forests and Climate at Columbia University on 24 September and will lead the wrap-up discussion at the end of the event.

REDD+ Offers Collaborative Approach to Save Forests and Climate
By Tara O’Shea, Skoll World Forum, 17 September 2014 | The private sector – from financial investors to commodities producers – is also beginning to shift its participation in REDD+ from theory to practice. The Global Consumer Goods Forum – representing over 400 retailers, manufacturers, and service providers with combined annual sales of almost $6 trillion – has called on global governments to secure ambitious, legally binding, and enforced REDD+ frameworks under an international climate deal. The CEO of Unilever insisted that the commodities industry “has a clear role to play in creating a more sustainable future… within the framework of an accepted and enforced global climate deal that implements the appropriate elements of REDD+.”

Top Negotiators To Lead Webinar Series On Land-Use In Climate Talks
Ecosystem Marketplace, 17 September 2014 | Marcelo Rocha and Peter Iversen are fixtures at climate talks. They co-chair the contact group focused on Land Use, Land-Use-Change, and Forestry (LULUCF), and both represent their respective countries – Rocha for Brazil and Iversen for Denmark – on various land-use issues. Throughout October, they will be hosting a series of webinars designed to bring people up to speed on the state of land-use negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The four webinars are based on the Understanding Land Use in the UNFCCC guide that Rocha and Iversen authored along with Donna Lee, a Senior Advisor at Climate Focus. The guide and upcoming webinars are meant to unpack the complexities of the land-use sector and help negotiators, policy makers, project developers and others through the process. The guide provides clear and concise explanations on how land use is accounted and reported within the UNFCCC…

Social Movements representing more than 200 million people around the world denounce corporate take-over of Ban Ki-Moon Climate Summit
Climate Space, 17 September 2014 | In a joint statement published on September 16, they call for systemic change rather than the voluntary pledges and market-based and destructive public-private partnership initiatives that currently feature on the Summit’s agenda, like REDD+ Climate-Smart Agriculture and the Sustainable Energy for All initiative. The statement calls for 10 concrete actions to be taken to prevent climate chaos including immediate binding commitments to keep the temperature rise to no more than 1.5degrees Centigrade. The social movements go on to warn against what they call the “false solutions” and harmful actions that the big corporations that have been invited by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to play the lead role at the upcoming Climate Summit in New York are pushing for.

[Australia] War and peace – and war again? The battle for Tasmania’s ancient forests
By Michael Safi, The Guardian, 17 September 2014 | [W]hat took three years to negotiate was undone in three hours on 2 September this year, when the newly elected Liberal government of Will Hodgman achieved its first major legislative accomplishment: tearing up the “job-destroying” TFA. His resources minister, Paul Harriss, told parliament that “Tasmania’s forestry industry, and the use of our forest assets for economic gain, is not something of which we should be ashamed”. Echoing the calls of the prime minister, Tony Abbott, for a “renaissance of forestry in Tasmania”, Hodgman’s government removed 400,000 hectares of native forest from reserves, designating it “future potential production forest land” – available to be logged in six years’ time. A further 1.1m hectares of forest has been opened to the “speciality” wood sector, who harvest what might be considered the state’s rarer boutique timbers, among them myrtle, sassafras and huon pine, reputedly the oldest tree in Australia.

China: Shenzhen to launch carbon asset custody mechanism
ICIS, 17 September 2014 | A new carbon asset custody mechanism is expected to be launched in Shenzhen Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) by the end of 2014. It allows compliance entities to entrust professional agencies to manage their carbon assets to achieve better efficiency. On Tuesday, Shenzhen Exchange told ICIS that the new system to be introduced is similar to the current EU ETS carbon asset custody practice. The compliance entities will entrust agencies with their carbon allowances and agencies will trade them under supervision from the ETS. When the trusteeship comes to an end, the involved parties will share the profits as agreed. The new mechanism has similar benefits with the potential “carbon credit borrowing” system of Shanghai ETS, which is increasing the market liquidity by transferring the carbon credits from compliance entities to traders.

[USA] Podesta: Obama to Tout Global Warming ‘Resilience’ at U.N. Climate Summit
By Ben Geman, National Journal, 17 September 2014 | A top White House adviser said President Obama will use next week’s United Nations climate summit in New York City to push initiatives aimed at helping nations bolster their defenses against climate-related risks. “He’ll be making a number of announcements that put America squarely on the side of building global resilience, trying to provide public goods to countries around the world, some of whom can’t afford to build the kind of resilient tools they need to anticipate the effects of climate change,” John Podesta said Wednesday. “The president will have a lot to say about that question next week,” he said. Podesta spoke from Washington for a segment on Al Gore’s annual, multimedia “24 Hours of Reality” event. Obama is among roughly 120 heads of state attending the Sept. 23 summit.

18 September 2014

REDD+ needs to protect forests and boost rural development
By Claudia Stickler and Joy Hyvarinen, RTCC, 18 September 2014 | If REDD+ is to succeed as part of the global response to climate change and if it is to work for countries and communities it needs to be tackled in the context of rural development. Under the UN climate treaty REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions by protecting forests in developing countries and providing finance to make it possible. Tropical deforestation and degradation is estimated to be responsible for roughly 15% of global emissions. Making REDD+ work on the ground is challenging. Careful monitoring is crucial to make sure people do not profit from emission reductions that never happened or that someone else – for example indigenous peoples – achieved. Inappropriate REDD+ projects could undermine local people’s rights.

Investors call for climate change deal
Press Association, 18 September 2014 | Institutional investors managing £15tn of assets have called for an ambitious global climate deal to give them certainty to invest in clean technology. More than 340 institutions including BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, AXA Group and Legal & General Investment Management, have called for strong policies to drive action on climate change. The organisations want governments to put a “stable, reliable and economically meaningful” price that polluters have to pay for their carbon emissions, which will help scale up investment towards clean power and energy efficiency. Ahead of a UN climate summit in New York next week, the investors are also calling on governments to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels, an estimated £370bn worldwide a year, five times the £60bn paid in renewables subsidies.

REDD readiness strategies largely overlook root causes of deforestation
By Angela Dewan, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 18 September 2014 | Most countries devising national strategies to curb carbon emissions through avoided deforestation and forest degradation do little to actually address the root causes of deforestation, a new study has found. The study examined 98 readiness documents from 43 countries undertaking REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) programs. It found that only 10 nations had planned interventions that explicitly addressed particular drivers of deforestation. Nineteen others acknowledged the importance of addressing drivers in their documents without targeting specific drivers; 14 made no mention of drivers at all.

The cheap option on climate change: recognize indigenous rights to forests
By Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com, 18 September 2014 | Since 2008, governments have invested $1.64 billion in funds to kick-start REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, the global effort to conserve the world’s forests in order to better mitigate climate change. However, a new report by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) finds that same amount of money could have secured the legal rights of indigenous and local people to 450 million hectares of forest, an area 40 percent larger than India. “Securing the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities is a necessary precursor for REDD+ to be successful, and unfortunately, REDD+ has not yet substantially driven progress in forest tenure—-either in law or on the ground,” Bryson Ogden, an analyst with RRI, told mongabay.com. Research has increasingly shown that indigenous people and local communities are often the strongest protectors of their forests…

For Trees Under Threat, Flight May Be Best Response
By Carl Zimmer, New York Times, 18 September 2014 | The whitebark pine grows in the high, cold reaches of the Rocky and Sierra Mountains, and some individuals, wind-bent and tenacious, manage to thrive for more than a thousand years. Despite its hardiness, the species may not survive much longer. A lethal fungus is decimating the pines, as are voracious mountain pine beetles. Making matters worse, forest managers have suppressed the fires that are required to stimulate whitebark pine seedlings. Half of all whitebark pines are now dead or dying. In 2012, Canada declared the tree an endangered species, and in the United States it is currently a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Amazon forest could become an ‘impoverished savannah’ under climate change
CIFOR Forests News Blog, 18 September 2014 | One of the world’s top climate scientists warns that the tropical forests of the future could look like an ‘impoverished kind of savannah’ under climate change. Carlos Nobre, Brazil’s National Secretary for Research and Development Policies and a member of the UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, said that despite tremendous progress in curbing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, modeling gives a glimpse of the potential negative impacts of climate change. “We are in a good moment in terms of transforming land-use change in the tropics … but in the present there are areas in the Amazon in which a repeated cycle of deforestation, regrowth and fire has led to a landscape that is highly degraded,” he told Forests News, the blog of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “It’s an impoverished kind of savannah. And I think that’s what the forests of the future will look like…”

[Canada] B.C. issues carbon offset procurement call
By Nelson Bennett, Business in Vancouver, 18 September 2014 | The B.C. government is resuming the buying of carbon offsets, over a year after it announced it would dissolve the controversial Pacific Carbon Trust. The B.C. government issued a procurement call September 18 to fund private enterprise projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions through carbon offsets. Under the program, the government will invest in projects, like tree planting or fuel switching, if the proponent can demonstrate they will reduce greenhouse gases. “B.C.’s carbon neutral government successes have shown that offset projects provide a cost-effective approach to meeting the province’s GHG reduction targets while supporting innovation for new, clean technologies,” B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said. The buying and selling of carbon offsets was previously done by the Pacific Carbon Trust, a Crown corporation set up in 2008.

[Indonesia] To Reduce Haze and Save Indonesia’s Forests, Address the Root Cause of Fires
By Agus Purnomo, The Jakarta Globe, 18 September 2014 | The causes of forest fires are complex. They originate in the most basic problems of poverty and unemployment, the challenges Indonesia has been tackling for decades. In most cases, forest fires are initiated to clear land for agricultural purposes since it is the cheapest way of doing so. Farmers often do not understand the damage they are doing when using fire. It is easy to point the finger at big business, but in reality it makes little sense for them to burn their own plantations and crops. These businesses are just as threatened by the fires as the rest of us. A recent analysis by CIFOR, released in July, shows just how complex the issue of forest fires is, as it is entangled with issues such as land use and land tenure. So while legislation, law enforcement and aid are useful tools, what we really need is to work together to develop a sustainable, long-term solution to forest fires…

[Indonesia] New regional body to net forest criminals
By Margareth S. Aritonang, The Jakarta Post, 18 September 2014 | Indonesia is proposing to lead the forthcoming ASEAN secretariat in charge of joint efforts to mitigate transboundary air pollution caused by land and forest fires in the region. As the last of the signatories to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, Indonesia’s decision to officially adopt the decade-old treaty on Tuesday finally paved the way for the establishment of a joint secretariat that will function to coordinate the information, reports and policies needed to address the problems raised by transboundary haze pollution in the region.

Poland’s carbon emissions billions to be spent on coal, cutting budget deficit
EurActiv, 18 September 2014 | Billions of euros from the sale of EU carbon credits and free emissions allowances, given in exchange for commitments to diversify Poland’s energy mix, will instead be spent on coal and cutting the country’s budget deficit, climate campaigners have said. The allegations, by Greenpeace, the WWF and the Climate Action Network, were made in a report ahead of October’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels and put the spotlight on Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s patchy record on climate change. The summit could be the last time that Tusk represents Poland in international energy negotiations before he takes over as President of the European Council in December, a role in which he must broker consensus among member states. EU leaders will aim to reach agreement on carbon emissions targets for 2030 and inform the EU’s position at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Fires Spread Across Indonesia as Parliament Approves Haze Treaty
By Susan Minnemeyer, Andika Putraditama, James Anderson, Nigel Sizer and Cecelia Song, World Resources Institute, 18 September 2014 | Earlier this week, Indonesia’s parliament ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution—12 years after first signing the agreement to reduce haze pollution from land and forest fires in Southeast Asia. The ratification of the treaty, combined with Singapore’s new Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, sends a clear and overdue signal that illegal land and forest fires in Indonesia, and the resulting regional haze pollution, will no longer be tolerated. Ratification of the law comes not a moment too soon. This week, fires flared across southern Sumatra and West and Central Kalimantan, jeopardizing Indonesia’s forests and the communities and wildlife that call these regions home. And because a tropical cyclone altered the wind direction, haze and smoke returned again to Singapore.

Haze returns to Singapore – and we can expect more of it, new study warns
By Bruno Vander Velde, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 18 September 2014 | This week, windblown smoke from land fires in Sumatra, western Indonesia, has again clouded the skies of neighboring Singapore. And according to a new study, episodes like this one are bound to happen more frequently. The air pollution in Singapore this week has yet to match the record levels seen in June 2013, when the haze made international headlines and caused a diplomatic spat. That crisis spurred action, ranging from a multi-stakeholder workshop to a Singaporean law criminalizing land fires in Indonesia, to the recent news that Indonesia will ratify a regional agreement on transboundary haze, 12 years after the country signed it… “You no longer need extreme drought years for these fires to start,” said CIFOR scientist David Gaveau, the study’s lead author. “All you need to have is a few consecutive days of no rain. So that means that these fires can keep recurring more and more often…”

19 September 2014

To Save the Planet, Don’t Plant Trees
By Nadine Unger, New York Times, 19 September 2014 | As international leaders gather in New York next week for a United Nations climate summit, they will be preoccupied with how to tackle the rising rate of carbon emissions. To mitigate the crisis, one measure they are likely to promote is reducing deforestation and planting trees. A landmark deal to support sustainable forestry was a heralded success story of the last international climate talks, in Warsaw last year. Western nations, including the United States, Britain and Norway, handed over millions of dollars to developing countries to kick-start programs to reduce tropical deforestation. More funds are promised. Deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide. The assumption is that planting trees and avoiding further deforestation provides a convenient carbon capture and storage facility on the land. That is the conventional wisdom. But the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Think beyond forests for a powerful climate solution. Think landscapes
By Peter Holmgren, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 19 September 2014 | More than 120 heads of states and tens of thousands of people will converge on New York next week to focus the world’s attention on the deteriorating state of our climate and the ever-pressing need to take action. Forests will be high on the agenda amid the negotiations, debates and search for solutions – and rightfully so. But advocating for their inclusion in a climate agreement without looking at the bigger picture risks undermining our efforts. Without forests, climate change would be even more severe than it already is. Forests and trees regulate climate and water in landscapes across our planet. They protect soils and provide both nutrition and renewable energy to hundreds of millions of people. Without these services, our food systems would be extremely vulnerable; poor people in particular would lack basic provision for their livelihoods.

Time is right for global focus on forest land rights
By Mark Kinver, BBC News, 19 September 2014 | Recognising the land rights of local people could provide cost-effective protection for many of the world’s tropical forests, a report says. But existing initiatives to tackle deforestation were poorly suited to deal with the issue, it added. However, there was an “unprecedented opportunity” to act as more nations were willing to acknowledge indigenous peoples’ right to own and control land. The report will be presented at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. The document, produced by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and the Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education, warned that growing pressure for land and resources was threatening the long-term future of communities that depended on tropical forests for their livelihoods.

Julie Bishop rejects UN request to strengthen Australian climate targets
By Lisa Cox, The Age, 19 September 2014 | Australia is refusing to take a plan for deeper cuts to greenhouse gas emissions to a special world leaders’ climate summit in New York next week, rejecting calls from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who will represent the Abbott government at the conference on Tuesday, ruled out bringing to the table beefed-up emissions reduction targets, despite hopes the meeting would build momentum towards signing a new post-2020 global climate change deal in Paris next year. US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are among the 125 world leaders who will attend the summit where Mr Ban has demanded “bold announcements and actions” from countries to demonstrate readiness to “scale up” action on global warming.

[Australia] Indigenous owned station sweats on carbon credits future
By Melanie Arnost, ABC News, 19 September 2014 | The Federal Government is trying to provide reassurance to organisations selling carbon credits, that there is a future for their operations. Fish River Station was first indigenous-owned property to sell such credits under the former Labor Government scheme. Melanie Arnost reports, the station’s managers are waiting for find out whether it will continue to be eligible.

Working Towards Zero-Deforestation: Lessons from Acre, Brazil
By Chris Meyer, Alisha Staggs and Dana Miller, EDF + Business, 19 September 2014 | What do companies, governments, civil society organizations and indigenous peoples have in common? Despite their differences, they share a common interest in reducing deforestation, the second largest source of global emissions after fossil fuels. The state of Acre, Brazil provides an example of how REDD+ can bring governments, companies and local communities together to reduce deforestation and increase economic development. Acre has committed to reduce deforestation by 80 percent by 2020 compared to a historical baseline from 1996-2005, which would prevent 182 to 221 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions using REDD+ policies. Also, Acre installed a robust monitoring system of its forests, including satellite imaging to track deforestation.

After 12 years, Indonesia finally ratifies transboundary haze agreement
By Loran Bell, mongabay.com, 19 September 2014 | Indonesia ended 12 years of stalling this week, becoming the last ASEAN nation to ratify an agreement on transboundary haze. As smoke from more than 1,200 fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan pushed air pollution in neighboring Singapore to ‘unhealthy’ levels, the Indonesian House of Representatives ratified the 2002 ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP). The move comes shortly after Singapore approved a bill allowing them to fine foreign companies responsible for producing haze, even if the activities occur outside of the country. The bill is aimed squarely at companies operating in Indonesia who’s land clearing last year pushed Singapore’s pollution index to a record setting 401. (Anything over 300 is considered ‘hazardous’). Singapore again reached 100 this week—an ‘unhealthy’ level at which officials warn individuals should, “reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion.”

[Indonesia] If not us, then who?
By Wimar Witoelar, The Jakarta Post, 19 September 2014 | It starts with a drone taking off to fly over Setulang in Malinau regency in the new province of North Kalimantan. Heady aerial shots over thick tropical forests follow, but there is a feeling that this is more than a scenic ride. This is how the video Dayaks and Drones begins. Soon the context becomes clear. This is the spine of a mapmaking process based on principles of participatory mapping — an age-old technique, for how can maps be made if not through public participation? Yet in 69 years of Indonesian independence the public has not been much involved in making public maps. The weakness of civil society has yielded to centralized political powers that see maps as being essential tools for territorial control.

20 September 2014

Dr. Unger’s Four Scientific Fouls
By Michael Wolosin, Climate Advisers, 20 September 2014 | An OpEd in today’s New York Times by Yale professor of atmospheric chemistry Nadine Unger starts with the headline “To Save the Planet, Don’t Plant Trees.” The article claims that – contrary to both conventional wisdom and the scientific consensus – planting trees and conserving forests is not an effective solution to climate change. While the headline is eye-catching, and attacking conventional wisdom can attract an editor’s attention, the article’s conclusions simply do not have the backing of science. There are at least four major scientific fouls that need to be called.

As debates on market-based instruments continue, forests continue to be lost
By Romain Pirard, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 20 September 2014 | A few years ago, “carbon cowboys” arrived in the forests of Papua New Guinea and announced to the perplexed Papuans that rich countries would soon pay for the carbon stored in their forests in order to fight against climate change. Today this example seems almost of another era, as forest carbon markets through the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism appear moribund. Millions of hectares of natural tropical forests continue to disappear each year, and other market-based instruments are emerging regularly. How will we analyze such instruments? Have we learned the right lessons? Carbon markets were the culmination of a contemporary reflection on environmental (or ecosystem) services. These cover the various benefits that man derives from nature — control of soil erosion, hydrological regulation, maintenance of soil fertility or the enjoyment provided by the beauty of a landscape.

Environmental Funding Bypasses Indigenous Communities
By Amantha Perera, IPS, 20 September 2014 | When she talks about the forests in her native Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, Maridiana Deren’s facial expression changes. The calm, almost shy person is transformed into an emotionally charged woman, her fists clench and she stares wide-eyed at whoever is listening to her. “The ‘boohmi’ (earth) is our mother, the forest our air, the water our blood,” says the activist, who has been taking on mining and oil industries operating in her native island for over a decade. Deren, who counts herself among the Dayak people, works as a nurse and has had numerous run-ins with powerful, organised and rich commercial entities. They have sometimes been violent – she was once stabbed and on another occasion rammed by a motorcycle. After years of taking on wealthy corporations, Deren is now facing a new opponent, one she finds even harder to tackle – her own government.

Palm oil giants announce deforestation moratorium – effective immediately
mongabay.com, 20 September 2014 | Five of the world’s largest palm oil producers have announced an immediate moratorium on palm oil sourced via clearance of potential high carbon stock forests. On Friday, Asian Agri, IOI Corporation Berhad, Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) Berhad, Musim Mas Group and Sime Darby Plantation said they will suspend forest clearing until they have completed a year-long study that aims to establish a threshold for defining what constitutes high carbon stock (HCS) forest. The move comes after intense campaigning by environmentalists pushed dozens of major palm oil buyers to establish zero deforestation sourcing policies for palm oil, which is one of the top drivers of forest conversion in Malaysia and Indonesia. At the time of the announcement, several major palm oil producers and traders — including Golden Agri-Resources, Wilmar, and Cargill — had already established zero deforestation commitments based on a definition of 35 tons of carbon per hectare…

[Guyana] Over 160 Amerindian villages to tap development funding
Stabroek News, 20 September 2014 | Over 160 Amerindian communities are expected to benefit from access to funding to support their development with the signing of a $1.3 billion agreement between the government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Thursday. Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh, Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai and UNDP Resident Representative and UN Coordinator Khadija Musa signed the agreement at the Guyana International Conference Centre to facilitate Phase II of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) Amerindian Development Fund (ADF) Project.

Guyana reports drop in deforestation for 2013
Stabroek News, 20 September 2014 | Guyana has recorded a decrease in the rate of deforestation for last year and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment is crediting new technology and more responsible and low-impact mining practices. The Ministry yesterday announced that the deforestation rate fell from 0.079% for 2012 to 0.068% for 2013, according to interim results from the 4th Annual Assessment of Deforestation and Forest Degradation under the Monitoring Reporting and Verification System (MRVS) for REDD+. [R-M: Subscription needed.]

[Indonesia] Law enforcement key to curbing forest fires
By Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post, 20 September 2014 | In a bid to combat the rampant forest fires on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, the government is planning to strengthen its law enforcement following the country’s decision to ratify a decade-old regional haze treaty. Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) said on Friday that the unit was planning to do so by several means, such as closely monitoring all government units. “We will intensify law enforcement to show that we are capable. The 13 action plans [on forest fires eradication that had been formulated by the government] will be constantly monitored by the UKP4,” Mas Achmad Santosa, the deputy of law enforcement in the UKP4, told The Jakarta Post.

21 September 2014

Coming to terms with terminology: Seeking ‘gray literature’ on landscapes
By Joan Baxter, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 21 September 2014 | What on Earth does “integrated landscape management” mean? If you ask 78 different scientists, you just might get 78 different answers, participants at a recent land-use conference found. Consensus on definitions is a hallmark of science. When there is no consensus, though, things can get unwieldy — especially where science meets policy. So it goes for the “landscape approach” to sustainable development, a framework that encompasses the full spectrum of land uses and actors for land use and management. The term “landscape” has become commonplace in the global discourse on sustainable development and management of land and other natural resources, but the scientific community has yet to agree on a single definition for “landscape approaches,” probably for good reason.

[Guyana] Amerindian leaders for talks on miners’ challenge to land extensions
Stabroek News, 21 September 2014 | Head of the National Toshaos Council Derrick John says that Amerindian leaders from across the country will soon discuss a proposed action by miners to challenge the Amerindian Land Titling (ALT) project in court and they would likely ask President Donald Ramotar to intervene. “We are concerned,” John told Stabroek News yesterday. “If they do challenge the project, it would not be fair.” He echoed statements by representatives of Amerindian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that Amerindians depend on the land to live. “Our lands mean a lot to us,” he said pointing out that many Amerindians sustain themselves by farming as well as hunting and fishing. At the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) Annual General Meeting on September 11, the organisation signalled its intention to strenuously oppose extensions for Amerindian lands and disclosed that it has set up a fund and hired lawyers in anticipation of future court action.

[Guyana] Rupununi communities move for land extensions
Stabroek News, 21 September 2014 | Concerned at the granting of land for various reasons including large tracts of forest to controversial logging company Baishanlin and others, three North Rupununi communities have applied for extensions to their land. “We have been using these lands and waters for hundreds of years. We feel pain when we see the government giving our land to the foreign logging companies. We feel hurt when government will not give us the indigenous people our land title,” one villager was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the non-governmental organisation Justice Institute Guyana. Following a recent training programme, Apoteri, Rewa and Crashwater claimed extensions to their lands using the Amerindian Act 2006. The Amerindian communities expressed serious concern about the giving out of large tracts of forest to Baishanlin and other foreign companies, while they are still waiting for their traditional rights to be respected, the statement said.


PHOTO credit: Image created using wordle.net.

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