REDD-Monitor’s round-up of the week’s news on forests, climate change, and REDD. For regular updates, follow @reddmonitor on Twitter.
1 May 2017
Setting the Rules of the Game at Bonn Climate Change Talks
By Paula Caballero, World Resources Institute, 1 May 2017
What’s true for sports is true for tackling climate change: to make things happen, you have to agree on the rules of the game.
Climate negotiators gathering in Bonn from May 8-18 will be working to do just that by writing a “rulebook” so that the vision of the Paris Agreement on climate change can be translated into action. The collective will to implement the global climate pact is clear: it entered into force years before anyone expected. The logical next step is to agree to the rules and processes that will underpin it.
[India] Why fires are continuing to ravage Uttarakhand forests
By Peter Smetacek, Daily O, 1 May 2017
Three years after the Supreme Court banned the felling of trees above 1,000m elevation in 1981, the cycle of uncontrollable forest fires began in the western Himalaya. Since then, the forests have been devastated by people setting fires repeatedly, once at the end of winter, when the monsoon growth has dried and again in April-May, when Chir pines shed their resinous needles and the forest is covered in a carpet of highly inflammable biomass.
War Lays Waste to Syria’s Forestland, Wildlife
Asharq AlAwsat, 1 May 2017
The civil war waged by the Syrian regime against its own people cast a shadow over forest life in the country through the indiscriminate bombardment with barrel bombs, missiles and other means of mass destruction that affect entire natural landscapes, particularly in hot spots close to Turkish and Jordanian borders.
An economy-based report published by the Syrian Economic Action Group discussed the ecological future of Syria, and environmental and social services the group provides in the war-torn country.
With its diverse terrain and climate, Syria’s environmental scope is rich in varied plant and animal life.
[UK] Sir Richard Branson urges introduction of carbon tax
Belfast Telegraph, 1 May 2017
Sir Richard said he would support a tax on dirty fuels despite it not being “great” for his business interests.
The billionaire owner of Virgin Atlantic has called for a carbon tax to be introduced to “speed up the clean fuel revolution”.
Tycoon Sir Richard Branson, who founded the British airline more than 30 years ago, said he would support a tax on dirty fuels despite it not being “great” for his business interests.
“I think there should be a carbon tax which is not going to be great for me owning an airline or a train company but I think there should be a carbon tax,” he told the Press Association.
[USA] New bill would help California combat climate change
San Francisco Chronicle, 1 May 2017
California’s cap-and-trade program, the crucial mechanism for California’s fight against climate change, is facing stiff headwinds.
The California Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit against the program years ago, challenging the program’s legality because it functions like a tax but did not receive a two-thirds vote in the state Legislature. That lawsuit is still working its way through the courts.
Meanwhile, the state has struggled to find the right fiscal balance between the demands of selling permits and easing businesses into the need to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions.
Logging ban flouted as Vietnamese nationals strip protected forests in Ratanakkiri
By Shaun Turton and Phak Seangly, Phnom Penh Post, 1 May 2017
Illegal logging on a vast scale by Vietnamese loggers has stripped huge areas of protected forests in recent months, with fresh piles of felled timber and rutted logging routes in Ratanakkiri province flatly contradicting the government assurances the trade is over.
In January, even as Environment Minister Say Sam Al told reporters in Phnom Penh that large-scale logging was all but finished in Cambodia, loggers working for Vietnamese timber traders were cutting in Ratanakkiri’s protected areas in a “systematic” cross-border raid on the eastern Kingdom’s forests.
2 May 2017
Aid Reaches New Peak, OECD Reports
By Ana Maria Lebada, IISD, 2 May 2017
The latest official data released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) show that development aid reached a new peak of US$142.6 billion in 2016, an increase of 8.9% from 2015 after adjusting for exchange rates and inflation. Although increased aid for refugees in donor countries boosted the total, the Organization notes, when stripping out refugee costs aid still rose by 7.1%, having doubled in real terms (up 102%) since 2000.
WWF wins Survival’s “Greenwashing of the Year” award
Survival International, 2 May 2017
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has won Survival International’s “Greenwashing of the Year” award for partnering with seven companies logging nearly 4 million hectares of forests belonging to the Baka and Bayaka “Pygmies” in central Africa.
The award is given to companies or organizations who dress up the destruction of tribal peoples’ forests as conservation.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), based at the Bronx Zoo in New York, has been named as runner-up, also for its activities in the Congo Basin. It has partnered with two logging companies, neither of which have obtained the consent of the tribal peoples in the areas in which they work.
Rewetting Indonesia’s peatlands
By Leona Liu, CIFOR Forests News, 2 May 2017
Experts from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) have been working with the local community in Dompas village, Riau province, for several months now, advising on measures to tackle peatland fires.
“Riau province has the most frequent fires in the whole of Indonesia,” says scientist Herry Purnomo, who runs the project for CIFOR. “These blazes are contributing to climate change and the smoke causes serious public health issues.”
[USA] Senate leader proposes big changes to carbon-pricing program
By Debra Kahn, E&E News, 2 May 2017
Top California lawmakers moved yesterday to overhaul the state’s cap-and-trade system to send revenue back to residents as a “climate dividend.”
State Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D) introduced the legislation, which would launch a new carbon-trading program in 2021. It includes new restrictions on allowance prices as well as on businesses that must turn in the credits to meet state emissions targets in 2020 and 2030.
The plan is aimed at resuscitating shaky auctions that have cut into expected state revenues, as well as smoothing the possibility of sharp price fluctuations in future years. It could also be meshed with other recent legislative proposals to adjust the market to respond to the concerns of environmental justice groups, which say poor and non-Caucasian communities should benefit more from carbon trading. [R-M: Subscription needed.]
3 May 2017
World Wildlife Fund under fire for destruction of native lands in Congo Basin
By Lisa Nikolau, Humanosphere, 3 May 2017
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has won an undesirable award for “greenwashing” after partnering with companies that destroy forests in the Congo without the consent of the tribes that live there.
Survival International’s “Greenwashing of the Year” award is given to companies or organizations that dress up the destruction of tribal peoples’ forests under the guise of conservation.
“WWF’s supporters might be surprised to learn that it’s working so closely with the loggers who are destroying one of Earth’s great rainforests. Congo Basin tribes, the original guardians, are being pushed aside and their societies wrecked,” Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said in a statement.
The Carbon Chronicle
Ecosystem Marketplace, 3 May 2017
It’s that time of year again. We’re less than a month away from releasing the State of Voluntary Carbon Markets 2017 report. This year, we’re launching at Innovate4Climate, the climate finance-based event formerly known as Carbon Expo. Ecosystem Marketplace’s Senior Associate and report author Kelley Hamrick will present major findings and take some burning questions. The conference is held in Barcelona, Spain from May 22 – 25.
Hamrick was also on hand during last month’s Navigating the American Carbon World (NACW), which took place in San Francisco from the 19 – 21. The event focuses on both national and international climate policy along with market-based mechanisms and Hamrick presented preliminary findings from the upcoming report. Among the highlights: drop in volume of transactions in 2016 while REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) overtakes wind as the top project type.
If your carbon footprint makes you feel guilty, there’s an easy way out
By Akshar Rathi, Quartz, 3 May 2017
“We think a lot about our carbon footprint,” says Deborah Markowitz. She diligently recycles, avoids eating meat most days, burns wood pellets for heat, and drives an electric car if public transport isn’t available. That’s all pretty standard fare for the environmentally conscious. But last week she did something that even the greenest of people rarely do.
When Markowitz, a professor of environmental policy at the University of Vermont, traveled with her husband to Washington, DC for the People’s Climate March, she paid $42 to buy carbon credits to offset the three metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by the flight. Markowitz used a service called Native Energy, one of many now offering carbon credits to a growing number of environmentally conscious consumers.
What Really Matters
By Danieal R. Katz, Rainforest Alliance, 3 May 2017
Thirty years ago, during the height of the global deforestation crisis, a small group of young people in Manhattan came together with a singular goal: to save the world’s tropical rainforests from destruction.
We were a motley assortment of young volunteers — among us were a China expert, a toxicologist, a peace corps volunteer, and a masseuse — who stood on street corners, using ironing boards as tables to hawk “Save the Rainforest” T-shirts. We shouted at passersby the news that our planet was losing biodiversity at an alarming rate and encouraged people to stop and talk. Some of those people became new volunteers. Those who had actually been to a rainforest became our guest “experts” at Sunday night events we held at the New York Open Center. Within months, we formed the Rainforest Alliance, one of the first international organizations dedicated to tropical forest conservation.
UK committee urges staying in EU carbon market to ‘at least 2020’
Platts, 3 May 2017
An all-party UK parliamentary committee on Tuesday urged the UK to remain part of the EU’s carbon emissions trading scheme with uncertainty in the energy sector following the UK’s June 2016 vote which narrowly supported an exit from the European Union.
In a statement accompanying a report on the UK’s negotiation priorities for energy and climate change policy, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee said it “recommends retaining membership of the EU Emissions Trading System until at least 2020.”
“The report recognizes that in practice, the EU ETS is performing poorly but says that the UK should seek to negotiate longer term membership on the condition of commitments to future reform,” the committee said.
[USA] California tables new cap-and-trade plan that jumps ahead of Quebec and Ontario
Times Colonist, 3 May 2017
California’s Senate proposed a new and more ambitious carbon credit cap-and-trade system this week, challenging Ontario and Quebec to do the same or get left behind.
Quebec and California have a linked carbon credit market that expires at the end of 2020. Ontario held its first carbon credit auction in March and intends to link to the California-Quebec system in 2018.
Both provinces, however, will need to adapt to California’s proposed reforms if they want to continue working with the state after 2020, said Jessica Green, professor of environmental studies at New York University.
[USA] As the White House Waffles, the World Moves Forward With the Paris Agreement
By Kate Wheeling, Pacific Standard, 3 May 2017
As the Trump administration debates whether to pull out of the Paris Agreement, climate negotiators from around the globe are meeting in Bonn, Germany, this month to settle on the rules and processes that will guide climate action in participating countries.
Some within the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, believe the United States should remain committed to the agreement, if only to have more influence over these very negotiations. In Bonn, climate leaders will hammer out the details of the “rulebook” for the agreement, which will lay out its implementation, ramp up climate commitments, and account for climate finance.
[USA] Trump poised to push world’s best chance to avert climate catastrophe off a cliff
By Joe Romm, Think Progress, 3 May 2017
On Tuesday, major media outlets reported that “momentum has turned against the Paris climate agreement” in the White House, as the Washington Post put it.
After two major meetings, advisers who want the president to exit the landmark emissions-reduction agreement, such as strategist Steve Bannon and EPA head Scott Pruitt, appear to have the upper hand.
On Saturday, President Donald Trump promised supporters he would end “a broken system of global plunder at American expense,” and said he’d make a “big decision” on Paris within two weeks.
[USA] Can California Tap Carbon Markets To Save Its Delta (And Its Drinking Water)?
By Kelley Hamrick and Steve Zwick, Ecosystem Marketplace, 3 May 2017
Fifty miles inland from San Francisco, cows are grazing on lush grass, and small purple flowers seem to pop out of every bush. In the distance, a sailboat glides across the treetops – and it’s not a mirage.
It’s because I’m looking up.
This idyllic farmland is twenty feet below sea level, on a sinking island called Twitchell – one of many in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers converge.
This region provides most of California’s drinking water, but the marshes have mostly been drained, and colossal earthen dikes now loom over lowland farms, guiding massive amounts of water towards the coast in man-made streams that crest above the roofs of farms that now cover most of the delta’s 738,000 acres.
4 May 2017
Indigenous peoples, forest conservation and climate change: a decade of engagement
By Kennan Rapp, World Bank, 4 May 2017
This year’s UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which kicked off last week in New York, marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) is coming up on its own 10-year anniversary. Since 2008, the FCPF has run a capacity building program for forest-dependent indigenous peoples. The initiative, with a total budget of $11.5 million, has worked to provide forest-dependent indigenous peoples, national civil society organizations, and local communities with information, knowledge and awareness to increase their understanding of efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), and to engage more meaningfully in the implementation of REDD+ activities. The program recently wrapped up its first phase (2008-2016), which included 27 projects, and presented the results at a side event to the Permanent Forum.
A 54-Year Conservation Journey
By Peter Seligman, Conservation International, 4 May 2017
My own conservation journey and the seeds of my determination to make a difference outside of government began in 1963. In July of that year, I worked in Wyoming on a ranch. My job was to irrigate pasture, which meant getting wet and dirty and waiting for water to flow from one ditch to the next. It was in those moments of waiting that I began to watch birds and insects, listen to the wind, and taste the sweetness of the tall grass. I knew then that I was hooked on nature.
[China] Thousands sent to fight new forest fire in Inner Mongolia
China Daily, 4 May 2017
A second big fire broke out in China’s largest forest in the Greater Hinggan Mountains on the same day a cross-border fire from Russia was extinguished.
The fire broke out at 12:15 pm on Tuesday in the Beidahe forest in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. More than 8,300 firefighters are working to extinguish the blaze, according to regional fire authorities.
By press time, the fire had engulfed about 50 square kilometers of forest. The firefighters – 2,590 of whom are armed police officers – and 12 helicopters have been sent.
[Indonesia] Peatland fire policy: From past to present
By Una Jefferson and Rachel Carmenta, CIFOR Forests News, 4 May 2017
Almost two decades after the devastating Indonesian wildfires of 1997-1998 drew international attention and prompted a wave of management attempts, extensive fires returned in 2013, 2014, and most severely in 2015, producing a humanitarian and ecological crisis. Since 1998, wildfires have become increasingly decoupled from climate anomaly years, instead occurring on an almost yearly basis.
The destructiveness of the 2015 event has created a renewed burst of political will and governance experimentation around fire management and sustainable management of Indonesian peatlands. It is an opportune moment to take stock of what has been done, and how we can learn from past Fire Management Intervention (FMI) efforts.
The Paris Agreement: Should the U.S. Stay or Should It Go?
World Resources Institute, 4 May 2017
When White House senior advisors recommend whether the United States should stay in the Paris Agreement or not, the right choice is clear. The U.S. should stay in the Agreement. Staying in would benefit the U.S. economy and national security, and it’s the popular choice with the vast majority — 71 percent — of the American people. By contrast, withdrawing from the Agreement would significantly harm the country’s diplomatic relationships and standing in the world, along with its economic and security interests.
5 May 2017
The great climate silence: we are on the edge of the abyss but we ignore it
By Clive Hamilton, The Guardian, 5 May 2017
After 200,000 years of modern humans on a 4.5 billion-year-old Earth, we have arrived at new point in history: the Anthropocene. The change has come upon us with disorienting speed. It is the kind of shift that typically takes two or three or four generations to sink in.
Our best scientists tell us insistently that a calamity is unfolding, that the life-support systems of the Earth are being damaged in ways that threaten our survival. Yet in the face of these facts we carry on as usual.
Negative emissions tech: can more trees, carbon capture or biochar solve our CO2 problem?
By Bianca Nogrady, The Guardian, 5 May 2017
In the 2015 Paris climate agreement, 195 nations committed to limit global warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels. But some, like Eelco Rohling, professor of ocean and climate change at the Australian National University’s research school of earth sciences, now argue that this target cannot be achieved unless ways to remove huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are found, and emissions are slashed.
This is where negative emissions technologies come in. The term covers everything from reforestation projects to seeding the stratosphere with sulphates or fertilising the ocean with iron fillings.
It’s controversial – not least because of the chequered history of geoengineering-type projects, but also because of concerns it will grant governments and industry a licence to continue with business as usual. But many argue we no longer have a choice.
In photos: Indigenous Peoples’ protest in Brazil ends in police brutality
Greenpeace, 5 May 2017
In Brazil last Sunday, a group of farmers viciously attacked a nearby Indigenous community. Thirteen Indigenous People were wounded. Two men had limbs hacked off with a machete.
This kind of violence may seem unthinkable, but it is becoming the rule in the Brazilian Amazon. Each year, dozens of Indigenous People are injured or killed in conflicts with farmers and ranchers over land.
Last week, about three thousand Indigenous Peoples carried hundreds of black coffins to the National Congress in the capital of Brazil, Brasília, to protest the rising violence and to demand rights to their ancestral lands.
Last year, 61 land rights campaigners were killed in Brazil, the highest level of violence since 2003
By Chris Arsenault, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 5 May 2017
Brazil’s government sacked the head of the country’s aboriginal rights agency on Friday amid increasing territorial conflict between indigenous groups and farmers.
No immediate reason was given for Antonio Fernandes Toninho Costa’s removal as president of Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), the arms-length government agency responsible for demarcating land for indigenous people.
However media reports suggested the sacking, announced in a government statement, was at least partially due to the increased violence.
[Fiji] $3.8m funding
By Alisi Vucago, Fiji Times, 5 May 2017
The $3.8 million increase in funding for the national REDD+ Program through the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility from World Bank drove Fiji REDD+ to establish a forest carbon measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) capability.
Permanent secretary for Fisheries and Forests, Samuela Lagataki said the ministry had worked hard since 2009 to enable Fiji to progress in its REDD+ Readiness Phase during the MRV Inception Consultation workshop in Suva this week.
[India] IFS officers say will fight forest fires, man-animal conflict
By Seema Sharma, Times of India, 5 May 2017
A batch of 45 Indian Forest Service officers and two officers from neighbouring Bhutan passed out of the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy (IGNFA) on Friday.
Punit Goyal, who topped the batch and has been awarded Madhya Pradesh cadre, said, “I chose MP as my first preference as the state is endowed with a good forest cover and rich biodiversity. My priority will be to protect natural resources for future generations. I will seek ways to augment forest cover.”
Vaibhav Kumar Singh, the only probationer who got Uttarakhand cadre, said that his focus would be to tackle forest fires. “Forest fire has emerged as one of the biggest challenges for the forestry sector in Uttarakhand. To understand more about it, I will undergo a three-month training in Canada,” said Singh, who hails from Dehradun.
[Indonesia] Capacity building for farmers key to Jokowi’s land reform agenda (Combating Inequality)
Jakarta Post, 5 May 2017
Many have welcomed President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s ambitious land reform plan, which is believed to help alleviate poverty and inequality.
The President’s flagship program, however, has also met with criticism, with some saying it may stall unless it is complemented by capacity building programs for farmers and infrastructure improvements.
“This land reform agenda will fail if we are only talking about land redistribution without deeper analysis,” Ahmad Erani Yustika, the director general for development and empowerment of villages at the Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Ministry, said on Thursday. [R-M: Subscription needed.]
Directionless, US climate negotiators head to UN talks
By Karl Mathiesen, Climate Home, 5 May 2017
As UN climate talks prepare to resume in Bonn on Monday, records show the US state department has had little formal engagement with the process since Donald Trump assumed the presidency.
Governments from across the world, including the US’ key allies and adversaries, have been staking out their positions on matters at once arcane and consequential. Since the beginning of this year, 241 submissions have been made to the various work streams of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Just two are from the US – both pre-Trump.
6 May 2017
Climate science: The bad news in numbers
Malay Mail, 6 May 2017
As UN negotiators meet in Bonn to thrash out rules for implementing the climate-rescue Paris Agreement, the stakes have never been higher.
Following are some key climate measures that illustrate the risks of global warming.
In 2016, Earth’s average surface temperature hit a record level for the third consecutive year since records began in 1880.
The global average temperature was about 1.1°C over pre-industrial levels, and about 0.06°C above the previous record set in 2015, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
Amazon rainforest faces double jeopardy
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network, 6 May 2017
The Amazon rainforest, the greatest and richest of the world’s tropical forests, is vulnerable both from without and within, according to two new studies.
The forested regions in the flood plains at the heart of the Amazon could be more than usually at risk of wildfire that could spread through the rest of the canopy to higher ground.
And although the loss of primary forest has slowed overall in the last 20 years, tree cover is still being lost at the forest’s periphery, as miners, ranchers, growers and loggers continue to degrade secondary forests and woodlands, according to a second study in Science Advances journal.
7 May 2017
Climate Negotiators Roll Up Their Sleeves in Bonn, With or Without the U.S.
By Gustavo A. Silva-Chávez and Brian Schaap, Forest Trends, 7 May 2017
As the next round of climate talks get underway in Bonn, the question on everyone’s mind is whether the United States government will stay in the Paris Agreement – and, if so, under what conditions. Many expect the Trump Administration to reach a final verdict any day now, and its decision will obviously have profound effects that reach far beyond this week’s negotiations. But, as always, the show must go on, and negotiators in Bonn will continue hammering out important pieces of the Paris Agreement rulebook as that drama plays out, and regardless of its outcome.