Environmental activists yesterday occupied the Washington DC offices of Environmental Defense (ED), one of the leading architects and NGO advocates of carbon trading. The protest was led by Dr Rachel Smolker, daughter of Robert E. Smolker, a Founder of ED, who said her father would be “rolling over in his grave” at the direction the organisation has taken.
Environmental Defence has long argued in favour of REDD forest carbon trading, and has dismissed concerns that this would further weaken already faltering carbon markets. The eco-activists from the Global Justice Ecology Project and Global Forest Coalition said that carbon trading had “utterly failed”.
Scepticism has been growing about the views and motivations of a number of the large pro-carbon trading, mostly US-based, conservation and environmental organisations. Observers point to the fact that some of these organisations now rely substantially on corporate funding, or have representatives of large industries in influential positions on their Boards. It is increasingly being seen that these groups and their corporate patrons have a mutual interest in getting conservation projects – especially in carbon-rich tropical forests – into the carbon markets, as this would both generate funds for continued expansion of their programmes, and would ensure a supply of cheap offset credits for dirty industries seeking to avoid making cuts in pollution.
Unfortunately, what would clearly be a ‘win-win’ situation for the conservation/industry groups, is increasingly looking like a ‘lose-lose’ situation for the planet. Yesterday’s action is unlikely to be the last of its kind.
Climate Activists Invade DC Offices of Environmental Defense, Daughter of ED Founder Accuses NGO of Pushing False Solutions to Climate Change
Press Release from Rising Tide North America – 1 December, 2008 –
Washington, DC – As the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change opened today in Poznan, Poland, grassroots climate activists took over the Washington DC office of Environmental Defense. The activists stated that they had targeted ED, one of the largest environmental organizations in the world, because of the organization’s key role in promoting the discredited approach of carbon trading as a solution to climate change.
Dr. Rachel Smolker of Global Justice Ecology Project and Global Forest Coalition read a statement, which said in part, “My father was one of the founders of this organization, which sadly I am now ashamed of. The Kyoto Protocol, the European Emissions Trading Scheme and virtually every other initiative for reducing emissions have adopted their market approaches. So far they have utterly failed, serving only to provide huge profits to the world’s most polluting industries. Instead of protecting the environment, ED now seems primarily concerned with protecting corporate bottom lines. I can hear my father rolling over in his grave.”
The activists rearranged furniture in the office, illustrating how marketing carbon is “like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” Others held signs reading “Keep the cap, ditch the trade” and “Carbon trading is an environmental offense.”
Leo Cerda, an indigenous activist with Rising Tide Ecuador said, “ED wants to turn the atmosphere and forests into private property, and then give it away to the most polluting industries in the form of pollution allowances that can be bought and sold. Not only is this an ineffective way to control emissions, it is also a disaster for the poor and indigenous peoples who are not party to these markets and are most impacted by climate change.”
ED has been key in establishing the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a business consortium advocating for a cap and trade system with extremely weak emissions reductions. US CAP allows polluters like Duke Energy, Shell, BP, DuPont, and Dow Chemical to claim they are green while continuing with business as usual. In recognition, activists awarded ED the “Corporate Greenwash Award,” a three foot tall green paintbrush. “We think this award is appropriate since Environmental Defense spends more time painting polluters green than actually defending the environment,” said Matt Wallace of Rising Tide North America.
Opposition to carbon trading is growing as it becomes apparent that market based schemes do little to fight climate change while helping corporations rake in profits. Earlier this year, over 50 groups came together in the US to denounce carbon trading in a Declaration Against the Use of Carbon Trading Schemes to Address Climate Change. Globally, hundreds of environmental, social justice, and indigenous groups have come together to oppose such market based initiatives as inherently unsustainable and ineffective in creating a just transition away from fossil fuels.
Dr Rachel Smolker’s full statement is available here.
PHOTO Credit: Rising Tide North America.