The Australian government is one of the most enthusiastic promoters of using market mechanisms to finance REDD. The reason? Australia wants REDD to create a loophole in any climate deal large enough to allow emissions to continue in Australia. A new report by Friends of the Earth Australia and Aid/Watch exposes the flaws in the Australian government’s REDD plans.
The report, “What a Scam! Australia’s REDD offsets for Copenhagen,” which is endorsed by WALHI and Serikat Petani Indonesia, concludes that “The Australian REDD offset model breaches Australia’s international obligations, and is a scam: it is not aimed at reducing deforestation, but at creating a source of cheap credits for increased emissions in Australia.”
Download the report here (pdf file, 1.9 MB).
Earlier this year, the Australian and Indonesian Governments made a submission to the UNFCCC which proposed that the UN should recognise carbon credits from REDD. The proposal was based on an Australian Government funded project in Kalimantan, Indonesia, which the Australian Government claims is “the first large-scale REDD demonstration activity”. Australian negotiators are using the project and proposal to argue for forest carbon to be included in REDD. But, as FoE Australia and Aid/Watch point out, indigenous rights are not guaranteed under Australia’s proposals, making them in breach of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that Australia signed in April 2009.
The report notes that the dominant view in the UN negotiations has been “in favour of a market based offset scheme” and the authors use the term “REDD” to mean “REDD offsets”:
The first and most important reason why REDD should be opposed is that, like all offsets, it does not reduce global emissions, and as such cannot solve the climate crisis. Maintaining carbon sinks does not treat the cause of climate crisis, and enables continued and indeed increased emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
[ . . . ]
REDD is a charter for the dispossession of peoples who today have stewardship over forests. REDD jeopardizes the sovereign rights of these peoples as it commodifies forest emissions, and directly imposes globalised commercial power structures on local social relations. It thus empowers speculative and financial elites against the very peoples that historically have conserved forests.
Australia’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) Bill is supposed to reduce Australian emissions somewhere between five and 25 per cent against 2000 emissions by 2020. If all countries in the North adopted such weak targets, we would stand very little chance of avoiding runaway climate change. But the CPRS sets no limit on overseas offsets, meaning that Australia won’t actually need to reduce its emissions at all.
Australia is looking forward to becoming an “offsets trading hub”, according to the CPRS White Paper which discussed Australia’s “significant competitive advantages as a potential hub for emissions trading and related financial services in our region”. If passed by the Australian Senate, the CPRS and associated legislation would recognise “Non-Kyoto international emissions units”, for example carbon credits issued under the law of a foreign country. This would include REDD credits, meaning that offsets generated from projects under the Australian International Forest Carbon Initiative would be counted towards Australia’s emissions targets – even without an international agreement on REDD.
Under the International Forest Carbon Initiative(IFCI), A$200 million will be taken from Australia’s aid budget between 2007 and 2012. Australia’s Minister for Climate Change and Water, Penny Wong, has declined to answer questions about this money. One thing is clear though: The IFCI is not “aid”. A 2009 factsheet produced by the Department of Climate Change explains that the IFCI allows Australia to take “a lead role in the negotiations under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol on how incentives for REDD can be built in a post-2012 global climate change agreement”. Inevitably, “market-based approaches to REDD” are part of Australia’s “lead role”.
In June 2009, the Prime Minister of Australia and President of Indonesia signed the “Indonesia-Australia Forest Carbon Partnership”, which aims “to help both Indonesia and Australia engage in emerging international markets for forest carbon emissions reductions”. While the Partnership has much to say on carbon trading it says nothing about local people’s rights.
The Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership is an Australian-funded project covering about 100,000 hectares of degraded peatland swamp forest in Central Kalimantan. The site is a small part of President Suharto’s failed Mega Rice Project that saw the clearing of more than one million hectares of peat forest. Initially, the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership will work on avoiding the deforestation of 50,000 hectares of peat swamp forest and on rehabilitating a further 50,000 hectares.
A local grassroots group, ARPAG (the People’s Peat Management Alliance), calls for a general rejection of REDD offset schemes in the peatlands of Central Kalimantan. ARPAG opposes offsets because they “keep the practice of ‘business as usual’ and, even worse, sustain dirty and destructive industries”.
“ARPAG reject all form of foreign aid to save peatland that generate from carbon trading or foreign loans under the scheme of REDD or any other scheme. The ‘aid’ will only bring severe impact to people and peatland resources and will undermine people’s sovereignty over resources.”
The NGO Down to Earth points out that since Indonesian Forestry Law fails to protect the rights of indigenous communities:
“in reality, Australia’s funding for REDD means support for the continuation of an unjust forest management regime which has systematically marginalised forest communities and violated their rights to land and resources.”
As if all this wasn’t bad enough, there’s more. While Australia is engineering the REDD policy framework so that it can use Indonesia’s “avoided deforestation” to offset its own emissions, Australia has opted to exclude emissions from forests from its national emissions accounting under the Kyoto Protocol. Australia does so because wildfires release vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, Australia wants to include “harvested wood products” as stores of carbon.
Under Australia’s proposals, then, Australia’s forests can burn down, be logged and converted to industrial tree plantations. Meanwhile, Australian aid money is used to “protect” and “rehabilitate” areas of forest overseas to generate the carbon credits to allow Australia to continue burning coal. Climate justice, anyone?