On 1 February 2011, Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, awarded two concessions covering a total area of 18,855 hectares for conversion to rubber plantations. No surprises there, then. Hun Sen’s government awards land concessions on an astonishingly regular basis. But these two concessions are perhaps a little more surprising because they are inside a national park.
Last week, Financial Times journalist Fiona Harvey lamented that “Without a sturdy fundraising mechanism, REDD is worthless.” Her solution is to revive carbon trading, “with a mighty effort of political will.” Her timing could hardly have been worse, coinciding as it does with the closure of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme to spot trading in carbon credits after yet another fraud.
The forests in the Congo Basin, the second largest area of tropical forest in the world, are receiving increasing interest. Enormous amounts of carbon are stored in these forests, meaning that REDD proponents are increasingly looking at these forests to “offset” continued pollution in the rich countries.
Of all the topics under discussion at Cancún, perhaps the oddest is a proposal from Brazil to include something called “forests in exhaustion” in the clean development mechanism. In short, it is a subsidy to the plantations industry either to re-establish plantations or to clear forests and establish new plantations.
A group of scientists has written to the governments of Indonesia and Norway, to emphasise the importance of not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also supporting “the conservation of Indonesia’s rich and diverse forest ecosystems.”
In 2005, a Japanese company called Oji Paper took over a project to plant 50,000 hectares of mainly eucalyptus plantations in central Laos. The following year, as part of his research in Laos, a Canadian researcher took a series of photographs of forests cleared by Oji’s bulldozers. Now, Oji Paper wants to get REDD funding for its plantations in Laos.
As the UN’s climate negotiations resumed yesterday in Bonn, Germany, the Ecosystems Climate Alliance released a statement calling for a new UN forest definition – one that makes clear the difference between native forests and monoculture plantations. A second Ecosystems Climate Alliance press statement released today outlines “outstanding REDD issues” to be addressed in Bonn.
The first thing that you need to know about “forests in exhaustion” is that they are not forests. According to the Clean Development Mechanism, the photograph on the left is a forest. All of it.
Global deforestation accounts for nearly 20 per cent of all CO2 emissions. Everyone knows that. We’ve read it over and over again. The figure comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But recent research takes a new look at the data behind the figure and comes up with a figure of around 12 per cent.
This week, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation is holding the 13th World Forestry Congress, in Buenos Aires. With the slogan “Forests in Development”, the Congress will discuss seven themes, with titles such as “forests and biodiversity”, “producing for development”, “caring for our forests” and “people and forests in harmony”. It all sounds harmless, perhaps even progressive. It is not.