From 7-9 September 2009, environment ministers and senior officials from the European Union took part in a high-level meeting in Strömstad, Sweden: “Visions for Biodiversity Beyond 2010 – People, Ecosystem Services and the Climate Crisis“. At the end of the meeting, the chair produced a series of conclusions.
Surprisingly, for this sort of meeting, the problem of over-consumption in the North was acknowledged. Paragraph 18 of the conclusions states: “The impact of European consumption on global biodiversity needs to be addressed.” The conclusions also include two paragraphs about REDD.
Paragraph 22 includes targets for stopping forest loss. But as REDD-Monitor has pointed out previously, this is meaningless unless the UNFCCC changes its definition of “forests” to exclude industrial tree plantations (and clearcuts). Especially in the context of a discussion about biodiversity, this is crucial.
22. The global forest cover loss should be halted by 2030 at the latest and gross tropical deforestation should be reduced by at least 50% by 2020 compared to current levels. Enhanced incentives for action on REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) should therefore be created. Action in this area enables developing countries to take more active part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and as such, help building a bridge between developed and developing countries.
23. A successful outcome of UNFCCC CP 15 in Copenhagen, December 2009, is crucial for securing biodiversity and ecosystem services in the future. Ecosystem services will in turn be decisive for successfully implementing climate change policy. The new climate change regime and the vision for biodiversity must be able to support synergies between climate change, biodiversity policies and the development agenda, including rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. The REDD+ mechanism should be designed to support such synergies.
It’s difficult to say whether the glass is half full or half empty. Or whether the glass and its contents have already been packaged up and sold to Goldman Sachs as part of a collaterised debt obligation deal. While it’s good that “rights of indigenous people and local communities” are referred to, the market bias is clear. “Enhanced incentives” could mean anything, and it seems it’s no longer possible to discuss “biodiversity” or “ecosystems”, without adding the word “services”.
Pavan Sukhdev, economist and study leader for The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) was a keynote speaker at the meeting. There’s an interview with Sukhdev on the meeting website, under the headline, “Pavan Sukhdev wants to put a price on nature“. In response to the question, “How can values of biodiversity/ecosystem services be integrated in the corporate and public sectors?” Sukhdev replied:
“I keep returning to the phrase ‘you cannot manage what you do not measure’. So we must incorporate the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services, our Natural Capital, into our National Accounts. As a fundamental first step towards integration, the value of forest carbon stock must begin to be captured in National Accounts.”
Sukhdev’s might be correct in saying “you cannot manage what you do not measure”, although communities all over the world have managed their forests successfully for hundreds of years without measuring “biodiversity and ecosystem services”. And his reply might make sense from an economist’s perspective, but it has little to do with the realities of forest ecosystems, where measuring the carbon stored is extremely complex. Many governments interested in REDD funding cannot even measure the area of the forests in their countries, let alone measure the amount of carbon stored in the forests.
PHOTO credit: Sweden’s Minister for the Environment Andreas Carlgren, Gunnar Seijbold/Regeringskansliet.