A round up of the week’s news on REDD, in chronological order with short extracts (click on the title for the full article). REDD-Monitor’s news page (REDD in the news) is updated regularly.
By Evan Johnson, Tracy Johns, and Danielle Knight, Forum on Readiness for REDD, no date | The Forum on Readiness for REDD (Forum), with the support of Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF), designed and conducted a formal survey of information uses and gaps for REDD stakeholders, to inform Forum efforts to effectively meet stakeholder information needs… When asked in what formats they find information on REDD, respondents most frequently cited websites (94 percent)… There are four websites that stand out notably in frequency of use: UNFCCC (27 responses); REDD Monitor (12 responses); World Bank FCPF (11 responses); UN-REDD Programme (11 responses).
Forest Peoples Programme, April 2011 | Closing the gap between international human rights law and realities on the ground is the most important challenge facing forest peoples. Advances in international law have brought a general recognition that indigenous peoples do have rights to own and control their lands and territories and the natural resources within them. But it remains a hard struggle to get international organisations, like the World Bank, to adjust their standards to align with these advances in international law. This issue of our newsletter provides updates on the continuing tussles to get the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, to adopt acceptable policies on indigenous peoples and for their engagement in the palm oil sector. Sustained engagement has led to improvements in both policies but serious weaknesses remain.
NICFI and NORAD, no date | Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) will be organizing a workshop – “Oslo REDD Exchange” – 23-24 June 2011. The Oslo REDD Exchange 2011 workshop will focus on how to promote the social sustainability of REDD+, with a particular emphasis on the exchange of experiences from the field. The Oslo REDD Exchange will possibly be the first of a planned series of REDD Exchanges and workshops.
Forestry Commission, no date | The Forestry Commission of Ghana hosts the Secretariat for Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Degradation(REDD) mechanisms, which is an innovative global initiative aimed at providing the necessary incentives and support to national efforts targeted at reducing carbon emissions as a result of vegetation loss due to deforestation and degradation. As part of measures to ensure the effective coordination and collaboration among key actors and stakeholders involved in the process of REDD/REDD+ implementation, and also to facilitate the provision of support for such actors, the REDD Secretariat is compiling a register of companies, institutions and individuals that are engaged in various REDD/REDD+ projects in Ghana… A non refundable processing fee of GH¢500.00 would be paid upon submission of registration documents.
World Land Trust, no date | In 2010, the WLT, in consultation with IUCN NL, developed and carried out a training programme on the use of carbon as a funding mechanism for conservation with the aim of enabling our African partner NGOs to benefit from increased carbon funding opportunities… The WLT has been committed to addressing climate change for over a decade and was involved in one of the first pre-Kyoto Protocol pilot projects in Belize in the 1990’s; the Rio Bravo Climate Action Project. Since then it has developed its environmental services programme with experience in restoration ecology, ‘softer’ climate-offset projects and large-scale verified REDD+ projects. Through mutual networks, additional trainers with a range of valuable experiences were sourced from: NCRC (Ghana), Peace Parks Foundation (South Africa), Face the Future (Netherlands)… WLT has produced a report… Using carbon as a funding mechanism for conservation; Is REDD+ right for you?
CIFOR, April 2011 | Mozambique has high forest cover, a high deforestation rate and severe forest degradation. It is also one of the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world. Therefore, Mozambique requires a pro-poor REDD+ model that progressively widens its scope to include agriculture and adaptation. Mozambican experts have drafted a national REDD+ strategy, which is currently undergoing government consultation, with public dissemination to follow later in 2011. The main REDD+ initiatives in Mozambique include a Norwegian-funded South–South cooperation programme with Brazil designed to support REDD+ strategy development, and a Japanese-funded readiness initiative on monitoring, reporting and verification and reference levels. Mozambique has a tradition of stakeholder consultation and relatively inclusive processes.
Indian government submission to UNFCCC, no date | This submission from India provides a framework of approach to develop and implement a national REDD-plus strategy and actions pursuant to relevant COP decisions for assessment and monitoring of forest carbon stocks, and also for their enhancement.
11 April 2011
Gauteng Business News, 11 April 2011 | Nedbank Capital has sold more than 98,000 tonnes of carbon offsets to the PPR group, a major French consortium specialising in luxury brands Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Sergio Rossi and PUMA to name a few. Kevin Whitfield, head of African Treasuries, Carbon and Financial Products says, “Facilitated by our Cape Town, Johannesburg and London teams, the transaction is a prime example of the growing international trade in carbon offset programmes as companies around the world seek to reduce their carbon footprints. This transaction is an excellent reference for us as we continue to grow our presence in the carbon market in South Africa, elsewhere in Africa and in other parts of the world.” The carbon credits are linked to Wildlife Works’ leading REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) project in Kenya which takes into account the needs of the local community and biodiversity.
By Mathew Carr and Catherine Airlie, Bloomberg, 11 April 2011 | Chinese environment officials rejected claims in a document indicating some chemical factories may have adjusted output levels to maximize United Nations carbon credits, defying market rules. Among 11 chemical plants in China that receive emission credits for cutting one of the most-potent greenhouse gases, nine curbed production after reaching an allowable cap, according to a Nov. 16 report attributed to the United Nations and marked “confidential.” That may suggest they were maximizing credits rather than filling demand for product, the document said. UN officials declined this week to authenticate the document, obtained by Bloomberg News. The credits from projects that cut hydrofluorocarbon-23, a greenhouse gas that can trap 11,700 times more heat per molecule than carbon dioxide, will be banned in the European Union emissions-trading system starting in May 2013 under a proposal to curb “exorbitant” returns.
Public Agenda (Accra), 11 April 2011 | Low-input farming for cocoa, cassava and oil palm has resulted in widespread deforestation and degradation of West Africa’s tropical forest area, according to a new study by researchers at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). The study was published online this week in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Management. Cocoa production in West Africa is an important commercial sector and a source of livelihoods for about two million households in the region. For the last 20 years Côte d’Ivoire has been the largest producer both in terms of output and numbers of producers, followed by Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon with these four countries now accounting for 70% of global cocoa supply.
Survival International, 11 April 2011 | Wealthy landowners in Paraguay have been caught red-handed after newly-released satellite images showed their startling destruction of almost 4,000 hectares of forest – which is inhabited by uncontacted Indians. The Brazilian-owned companies, River Plate S.A. and BBC S.A, were busted in a secret operation by state and indigenous authorities in the Chaco region of northern Paraguay. The area is home to the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode, South America’s last remaining uncontacted tribe outside the Amazon. The majority of the Indians’ ancestral land has been taken over by private landowners for cattle ranching. Now settled members of the tribe fear for the lives of their uncontacted relatives.
By Elly Burhaini Faizal, Jakarta Post, 11 April 2011 | Protecting wetlands will contribute significantly to the fight against climate change because of wetlands’ ability to store carbon, experts say. Matthew Warren, a researcher from the US Forest Service, said Saturday that there could be no fight against climate change without conserving tropical wetland forests. “It is a fact that wetlands store a lot of carbon that has the potential to be lost to the atmosphere more rapidly than any other tropical forest type,” he told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of a three-day journalism workshop, “REDD+ and the Role of Wetlands”, in Sanur, Bali. The workshop was held by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Warren said the best possible thing to do in order to cope with climate change was to preserve what already exists.
By Christopher Ram, letter to the editor Stabroek News, 11 April 2011 | The venom in the statements by Messrs. Jagdeo and Nadir show how intolerant the Jagdeo administration has become of independent voices and critical views… I do however feel compelled to respond to the attacks on my colleagues who signed the open letter for their “blasphemy” in expressing their well-grounded fears of abuse of LCDS money by a government that constantly shows only a cynical interest in openness, transparency and accountability and audit of public funds. A government that seems able to find from nowhere sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for spy equipment, for laptops and for various improper activities. I assume those associated with a counter-letter under the Jagdeo-led Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee (MSSC) did in fact read the letter in full and not rely on the government’s misrepresentation of it. To them I wish to pose the following issues relevant to the LCDS…
12 April 2011
By Francezka Nangoy, Jakarta Globe, 12 April 2011 | MEC Holdings is seeking more loans from local commercial banks to help finance its big investment in development projects in East Kalimantan, an executive said on Tuesday. “MEC has placed a billion dollars on infrastructure construction. It has secured a lending deal with international lenders and is looking for possible lending from national commercial banks,” Charles Gaylord Watkins, an MEC director, said on the sidelines of the Indonesia International Infrastructure conference in Jakarta. MEC has secured 5,000 hectares of land in East Kalimantan for its infrastructure work, Watkins said. The project includes 130 kilometers of railway, a seaport and a mine for low-grade coal. The mine is expected to produce two million to three million tons of coal in the first year before rising to seven million tons by the end of 2014, while the port will be able to harbor two cape-sized ships and have a holding capacity of 34 million tons.
By Michael Coren, Ecosystem Marketplace, 12 April 2011 | Voluntary carbon standards are busy fine-tuning themselves for the future. As private developers have struggled to stay afloat amid a global recession, officials at the major voluntary market standards – Climate Action Reserve (CAR), American Carbon Registry (ACR), Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), Gold Standard and others – have stepped up efforts to streamline their programs and ensure a future will be waiting beyond the storm clouds. Everyone has their own approach, but most have chosen the same focus as that of market-leading VCS: simplicity itself. The big picture is streamlining to make the Verified Carbon Standard more useful for developers, verifiers and validators,” says VCS Program Manager Jerry Seager about its first major makeover since 2007. “We were very careful to make sure we were not changing things that were going to be the detriment of anybody. Nothing was dropped. It’s clarifications and additions.”
By Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com, 12 April 2011 | The destruction of 3,600 hectares (8,900 acres) of the Gran Chaco forest in Paraguay by large Brazilian cattle ranching companies has led to a legal complaint filed by a local indigenous-rights organization, since the land in question was one of the last refuges of a group of uncontacted indigenous people in the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode tribe. The loss of the forest was revealed in part by satellite images of the remote area. “I am very worried about this destruction because we don’t know where exactly the people still in the forest are living. I have a sister among them. This is why we don’t want the outsiders to destroy more of the forest with their bulldozers,” Ojinai, an Ayoreo man, told Survival International, a global NGO devoted to indigenous rights.
By Jeff Conant, Climate Connections, 12 April 2011 | An Interview with Santiago Martinez of Amador Hernández, Chiapas… Supposedly, from what we’ve heard about this REDD program, it’s a global program that’s lead by the rich people of the world, the businessmen, the Europeans. They think because they’re rich and they have a lot of resources, they can do whatever they feel like. We’ve heard that REDD is a program that the government is promoting to do what they call “capturing carbon,” and conserving the jungle. As indigenous people, we’re accustomed to working in the milpa [the traditional agricultural plot of maize, beans and other native crops], but now the rich are saying to us, it’s no good to work in the milpa, that we’re destroying the jungle, that when we make the milpa by burning in the forest, we are causing contamination. This is what they tell us.
Corporate Europe Observatory, 12 April 2011 | Plans to exclude some offsetting projects from the EU’s Emissions Trading System, due to be formally approved this month, have been watered down following lobbying by big business. Corporate Europe Observatory has obtained documents which show that BusinessEurope, the International Emissions Trading Association (representing carbon traders), the chemical lobby group CEFIC and some big companies such as Enel, lobbied DG Enterprise to sabotage DG Clima’s proposals. The business groups found an ally in DG Enterprise. The ban will prohibit industrial gas offsets, which currently account for more than half of the available credits and are bought by European polluters as an alternative to cutting pollution at home.
The Citizen, 12 April 2011 | Some of the world’s largest oil, mining, car and gas corporations will make hundreds of millions of dollars from a UN backed forest protection scheme whose initial purpose was to reduce emissions from deforestation carbon by paying poorer countries to preserve their forests. This agreement would allow governments to offset national emissions against forest conservation, and could result in eventual cash flows of $30 billion a year from rich countries, who need to offset emissions, to poor countries, where most of the world’s endangered forest are. But critics say that the scheme amounts to privatization of natural resources. Greenpeace, a non-governmental environmental organization claimed last week that Indonesia planned to class large areas of its remaining natural forests as “degraded land” in order to cut them down and receive $1billion dollars of climate aid for replanting them with palm trees and biofuel crops.
By Rachel Cernasky, Tree Hugger, 12 April 2011 | We knew there were plenty of drawbacks to and imperfections in the REDD program, but a recent Greenpeace report points out one that was a little more unexpected, and unforgivable, than most. Greenpeace explains that many countries eligible for funding through the REDD forest protection program have sought help from experts as they put together proposals for that funding, and that management consulting firm McKinsey & Company began selling itself as an expert in the area of forest protection. But, Greenpeace continues: “It has taken our experts working in both rainforest and donor countries several months to go through these plans for forest funding. They looked at plans provided by Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Guyana and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are all riddled with errors and inaccuracies, make unproven assumptions, and do not include the safeguards set out by nations at the Cancun climate talks.”
By Gaulbert Sutherland, Stabroek News, 12 April 2011 | The company that took over the Simon and Shock International Logging Inc (SSI) forest concession enjoys easier terms than the original holders. Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc. (VHPI), a subsidiary of Coffee Day Limited of India, last year acquired the State Forest Exploratory Permit (SFEP) for 391,853 hectares of forest originally awarded in 2007 to US-based SSI, after signing a MOU with the Government of Guyana and with the original owners of SSI for a total buy-out in which 100% of the shares were transferred to a new subsidiary, Dark Forest Company (S) Pte Ltd. (DFCPL). The company plans to ship logs to India to make furniture and also plans to start a sawmilling operation with a proposed total investment of US$18.7M during the first five years, stated as 2010 to 2015. The original holders had proposed to invest US$26M in three years and offered written guarantees that no logs would be exported. [R-M: subscription needed]
By Janette Bulkan, letter to the editor Stabroek News, 12 April 2011 | If The Times of India report is correct, then the VHPI is another Asian scam like Barama, where the plywood mill has an installed capacity of 108,000 m3 per year but Minister Persaud is apparently overjoyed that Barama will re-start plywood production in June this year at 27 per cent of capacity. Meanwhile, Barama continues to draw down tax rebates as if it was in full plywood production, while actually exporting the bulk of its logs unprocessed to Asia. What is the point, Editor, of the Norway-Guyana MoU calling for a REDD-plus Governance Development Plan if that is just an unused paper process, and what is the point of Norwegian Minister Erik Solheim calling for transparency when Minister Persaud is applauding the above-mentioned non-compliances with national policies and law?
13 April 2011
By Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com, 13 April 2011 | It appears every time a fossil fuels industry claims its energy is ‘green’ or ‘climate-friendly’, scientists discover this just isn’t so. The most recent culprit is natural gas produced by an already controversial method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which extracts the gas from shale basins. A new study in Climatic Change has found that the process of fracking is worse than coal over a 20-year period and about equal over 100-years. Coal had long been considered the worst climate offender of all energy options. According to the study, fracking causes methane leaks – a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon – in addition to carbon emissions when the gas is burned. Over two decades, the emissions are around 20% higher than coal.
By Orin Langelle, Climate Connections, 13 April 2011 | At the Cancún climate summit last year journalist Jeff Conant and I learned that California’s then-Governor Arnold Swarzenegger had penned an agreement with Chiapas, Mexico’s Governor Juan Sabines as well as the head of the province of Acre, Brazil. This deal would provide carbon offsets from Mexico and Brazil to power polluting industries in California – industries that wanted to comply with the new California climate law (AB32) while continuing business as usual… Conant and I took an investigative trip to Chiapas in March… What we uncovered was another battle in the ongoing war between a simpler way of life vs. the neoliberal development model. The following photographs were taken in or near the community of Amador Hernandez, during an over flight of the Selva Lacandona and surrounding African Palm Plantations, and in the “sustainable rural city” Santiago de Pinar.
UN News Centre, 13 April 2011 | Top officials from more than 35 nations covering the world’s three major rainforest regions will gather at a United Nations-backed conference next month to discuss the common challenges faced by these vital ecosystems that support more than a billion people. The aim of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Amazon, Congo, and Borneo-Mekong Forest Basins is to achieve a plan for the sustainable management of forest ecosystems in the three basins. The four-day meeting, which will be held in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, beginning on 31 May, is also part of celebrations of the International Year of Forests (2011).
Survival International, 13 April 2011 | Thousands of Penan tribespeople will be unable to vote in crucial elections on Saturday in Sarawak, in the Malaysian part of Borneo, because they do not have identity cards. The elections in Sarawak state will determine whether or not Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, already in power for 30 years, will stay in office. Taib Mahmud’s government has sold the Penan’s land to logging companies, destroying much of the rainforest they rely on for their survival. But many Penan will have no say in whether Sarawak will keep him as leader or kick him out. Identity cards are free to Malaysians who apply before the age of twelve, but most Penan apply as adults and face penalties. Corrupt officials and middlemen also routinely charge Penan people fees of up to US$100 when they apply. Many Penan have applied several times, making long, expensive journeys to the towns each time, before giving up.
carbonpositive.net, 13 April 2011 | The World Bank Institute and Forest Carbon Partnership Facility have released a free 262-page manual for assessing the true costs of REDD+ action aimed at saving and restoring forests. “Estimating the Opportunity Costs of REDD+” is a guide for those formulating national avoided deforestation policies and programmes under the emerging global REDD+ framework being developed by the UN, World Bank and others. The authors argue that help is needed to identify the hidden costs of reducing deforestation and degradation. While the transaction and implementation costs of programmes to preserve or restore forest are not hard to measure, the opportunity costs, or the losses from land-use activities foregone, are not so obvious. Deforestation most often results from land clearing for agriculture – growing crops or grazing livestock – often more valuable economic activities for the people of forest countries.
Radio Mundo Real, 13 April 2011 | The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism was recently introduced in Nigeria by the government, and it is targeting rich forest areas in terms of biodiversity and natural resources, without the communities that depend on these forests having official information about the effects of the mechanism. Due to the finance this mechanism entails, the Nigerian government is telling communities, that have depended on forests for years, that REDD is a way of development and that they are going to be compensated, but that they cannot depend on those forests anymore. This is what Rita Osarogiagbon, member of Environmental Rights Action – Friends of the Earth Nigeria, said in an interview with Real World Radio. In addition, the activist made reference to the role of questionable companies in terms of environmental care, such as oil giant Shell…
Starbroek News, 13 April 2011 | Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud yesterday defended the transparency of the deal with an Indian company granted 1.82 million acres of forest here and said attempts to label it another “Barama deal” were ”ludicrous” and there would be no large scale export of logs. At a press conference at the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) boardroom yesterday, Persaud emphasized that there was transparency and compliance with established procedures. “Based on the facts, it is clear that the re-allocation was not shrouded in any secrecy”, he said, adding that suggestions to this effect seem to be part of a misinformation campaign. [R-M: subscription needed.]
Kaieteur News, 13 April 2011 | Government yesterday insisted that there was nothing secret about a recent granting of forest concessions to an India’s coffee-making company last year. Amidst swirling questions in the media over the transaction, Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, yesterday said that Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc. (VHPI), a subsidiary of Coffee Day Limited, through a transparent process, was issued a State Forest Exploratory Permit (SFEP) previously issued to Simon and Shock Intl. (SSI), a US company, and a Timber Sales Agreement (TSA) previously issued to Caribbean Resources Limited (CRL). Last week, the Times of India disclosed that VHPI had been granted 1.8M acres of forest land and was interested in shipping logs from Guyana for its furniture business in India. There were immediate questions on transparency and accusations of a possible sweetheart deal.
By Johann Earle, Guyana Chronicle, 13 April 2011 | Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud has debunked assertions that the forest concessions made available to an Indian company have been made in a shroud of secrecy and said that the company is getting no sweet deals, unlike what Barama Company Limited now enjoys. He spoke during a press briefing held at the Guyana Forestry Commission complex in Kingston yesterday. “Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc (VHPI), through a transparent process, was issued a State Forest Exploratory Permit, previously issued to a U.S. company, Simon and Shock Inc (SSI), and also VHPI was issued a Timber Sales Agreement that was previously issued to a Caribbean company, Caribbean Resources Limited. What VHPI got through this process was a re-allocation of the SFEP which was suspended and the TSA which was repossessed,” the Minister said.
14 April 2011
By Ben Cubby, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 April 2011 | A Sydney school thought to have become the first in the world to go ”carbon neutral” by saving a Malaysian rainforest from logging appears to have been deceived by carbon offset company shift2neutral. Oakhill College in Castle Hill announced the deal to protect a forest in Sarawak last year, and students were photographed with certificates supplied by shift2neutral. The Sydney company, based in Westleigh, had earlier provided major events such as a ”green race day” at the Australian Turf Club and the Australian PGA golf championship with certificates purporting to show carbon emissions being reduced. The founder of shift2neutral, Brett Goldsworthy, insists that he is a legitimate player in the swiftly growing carbon offsets industry. But, more than a week after questions about his offsets were raised, he has been unable to provide evidence that his certificates have contained anything but hot air.
By Julian Drape, AAP, 14 April 2011 | One of Australia’s leading carbon sink companies says there needs to be better regulation of the offset market so dodgy operators can’t claim to be tackling climate change when they’re not. It’s been reported that Sydney-based company shift2neutral may not have actually saved a single tree despite selling offset certificates to companies, schools and sporting organisations. Market leader CO2 Australia says the scandal has damaged the reputation of the industry, which helps people wanting to voluntarily reduce their carbon footprint. CO2 sells offset credits to clients such as Qantas, Origin Energy and Rio Tinto, as well as state and local governments. “I hate dodgy operators in the market – it drives me nuts,” CO2 chief executive Andrew Grant told AAP. “The more the government does to introduce high quality standards, rigorous approvals and third-party audits the better, as far as we’re concerned.”
Environmental Finance, 14 April 2011 | A Greenpeace report which slams consultancy firm McKinsey & Company for its work advising rainforest countries such as Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Congo and Guyana, has prompted renewed scrutiny of a key methodology used to assess carbon abatement… Jan Fehse, head of forestry consultancy firm Value for Nature and former head of forestry services at project developer EcoSecurities, said the McKinsey cost curve has been “tremendously effective” in integrating forestry into the UN climate policy process. However, he suggests Greenpeace may have overestimated the methodology’s role in guiding the formulation of national REDD strategies. “McKinsey was asked to come up with country-specific curves and REDD-specific curves, and they did that. How you then translate that those curves into policy is an entirely differently matter,” he said. “Don’t make the assumption that the tool equals policy making,” he added. [R-M: subscription needed]
The Economist, 14 April 2011 | Both the Norwegians and Mr Kuntoro play down the importance of the delay in issuing the decree, and indeed of the moratorium itself. They argue that it matters most as a means to an end: a radical overhaul of Indonesia’s land-use and forest-management systems. These have long been riddled with corruption. Under the 32-year dictatorship of Suharto, which ended in 1998, forest concessions became weapons in the armoury of crony capitalism. Such traditions are hard to break. Much hope is invested in Mr Kuntoro himself, perhaps Indonesia’s most respected civil servant. But success will depend on the political will of the president. Erik Solheim, Norway’s minister in charge of the environment and development, points to the encouraging example of Brazil, which has cut deforestation rates by 70% in five years. Indonesia, he concedes, “is harder”. Ms Galdikas knows what he means. “They all talk a wonderful talk,” she says, “but the forest keeps getting destroyed.”
mongabay.com, 14 April 2011 | Increased fragmentation of political jurisdictions and the election cycle contribute to Indonesia’s high deforestation rate according to analysis published by researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and South Dakota State University (SDSU). The research confirms the observation that Indonesian politicians in forest-rich districts seem repay their election debts by granting forest concessions. Comparing changes in forest cover in different ‘forest zones’ with the proliferation of new administrative regions across Indonesia – a product of decentralization, which grants greater regional autonomy – authors led by Robin Burgess of LSE found that subdividing a province by adding a district increases the incidence of deforestation within that province by 7.8 percent. The number of districts across Indonesia leapt from 291 to 498 between 1998 and 2009.
By Angela Dewan, Asia Sentinel, 14 April 2011 | When Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced last May that his country would halt deforestation for two years starting Jan. 1, he was poised to become the green superhero of the developing world. But fierce corporate lobbying, some of it from an offshoot of the right-wing Tea Party in the US, has been Yudhoyono’s kryptonite, delaying the moratorium by more than three months… Yudhoyono now sits powerless at his desk, tapping his pen, waiting for a draft decree ‑ being drafted without public input ‑ to sign. Without it, the moratorium has no legal basis.
mongabay.com, 14 April 2011 | Indonesia can meet its low carbon development goals without sacrificing economic growth, reports an assessment commissioned by the British government. The research, authored by Dominic Elson, finds that while costs of REDD could amount to two percent of annual GDP by 2030, the benefits of shifting to a greener growth model would more than outweigh the outlays. Gains would come from reduced severity and impact of natural disasters, avoided air pollution and degradation of ecosystem services, and improved productivity – especially on degraded, non-forest land. “Indonesia still has a substantial forest estate and extensive peatlands,” writes Elson. “Sensible management of these landscapes in the context of global carbon markets has great potential to release some of the ‘utility’ value that reflects the true economic, social and environmental value of the forest, not just the short term extraction value.”
Jakarta Post, 14 April 2011 | The government is encouraging forestry firms in Indonesia to adopt “silviculture”, which is the science, art and practice of caring for forests with respect to human objectives, a minister said Wednesday. In a visit to forestry company Sari Bumi Kusuma (SBK) in Katingan, Central Kalimantan (see photo), Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said the government was encouraging intensive silviculture to increase industrial forest productivity. Zulkifli was accompanied by Gadjah Mada University’s Forestry Department dean Naim, and they met with SBK director Jacob. The system would prevent forest degradation because under the practice a logged tree would fall into its designated place and would not topple other intact trees, the minister said, as quoted by Antara news agency. He said six companies in Kalimantan apart from SBK had begun using the system…
The National Business Review, 14 April 2011 | A group of timber importers have pledged to stop buying any wood from Indonesia unless it is legally sourced. Forestry Minister David Carter welcomed the commitment from NZ Imported Tropical Timber Group to bar import and sales of timber from Indonesia unless credible third party verification was provided. The Green Party also welcomed the move but called for government regulation to ensure compliance for all companies. The group represented major importers and retailers of imported timber and Greenpeace NZ. Mr Carter said the move sent a message to overseas companies that illegal logging was unacceptable. “Illegal logging is a serious problem in the countries where it is carried out, resulting in economic, environmental and social losses,” Mr Carter said.
Survival International, 14 April 2011 | Oil giant Repsol-YPF could be threatening the existence of two of the world’s last uncontacted tribes, according to a damning new report by Survival. The Spanish-Argentine oil company has been targeted for its work in ‘Block 39’ in northern Peru, one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. More than 75 pieces of evidence have been collected showing the tribes’ presence in the region, including abandoned gardens, crossed spears and sworn testimonies of sightings. But Repsol claims it is not enough to prove the Indians exist.
WWF UK, 14 April 2011 | The UK government has pledged support for Brazil to help them protect biodiversity and halt deforestation. DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman made the commitment on a trip to Brazil, building on the progress made at last October’s Convention on Biological Diversity conference. UK environment secretary Caroline Spelman went to Brazil last week to pledge support for the species-rich country’s conservation plans. This included offering £90,000 to help Brazil’s government kick off a new roadmap that follows up on objectives agreed at last year’s Convention on Biological Diversity conference in Nagoya, Japan. Brazil’s environment minister, Izabella Teixeira, stressed that this is an important moment of cooperation on biodiversity conservation, and the first step along a solid path from Nagoya.
Stabroek News, 14 April 2011 | Simon and Shock International Logging Inc (SSI) had opted, as part of its business model, not to export logs and perhaps this was one of the reasons it could not have moved forward with its investment, according to Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud. The Minister made the comment in response to a question as he defended the arrangements with Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc. (VHPI), a subsidiary of Coffee Day Limited of India that sees the company now controlling 1.82 million acres of forest here. Since the deal was reported, there has been an outcry regarding the transparency with which the arrangements were concluded and the Alliance For Change (AFC) yesterday denounced the “secretive manner” in which the forest acreage was awarded “to a company with apparently no background qualification in the forestry sector”. [R-M: subscription needed.]
By Janette Bulkan, letter to the editor, Stabroek News, 14 April 2011 | With reference to the information from the press conference held by Minister Robert Persaud on April 12 about VHPI and reported variously in all three daily newspapers on April 13, perhaps you could jog the memory of Minister Robert Persaud about the wording of the National Forest Policy and the procedures of the Guyana Forestry Commission for handling applications for logging concessions? Perhaps the Minister could be more explicit about the findings of the due diligence carried out to check the applications from VHPI for areas previously held by Simon & Shock under a State Forest Exploratory Permit (SFEP) and by Caribbean Resources Ltd as Timber Sales Agreement 04/89? The Minister may not recall why the Forests Act was amended in 1996 to provide for SFEPs during a moratorium on logging concessions.
Guyana Chronicle, 14 April 2011 | It seems as if whenever there is any major investment venture in Guyana, a group of cynics would attempt to create a ‘Great Wall of China’ to prevent it from materialising. The latest attempt is with respect to the venture by the Indian company, Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc (VHPI). According to these cynics, the concessions granted by the government were shrouded in secrecy and is another “sweet deal”, implying non-transparency and corruption. However, one is prompted to ask where were these cynics when the Barama deal was clinched under the Desmond Hoyte administration? Furthermore, where were these cynics when the GNTC wharf was sold, under the then privatisation programme, at a rock-bottom price? Where were these cynics when the Guyana Telephone Corporation (GTC) was sold to the current GT&T at far below the market price and given a 20-year monopoly status?
15 April 2011
Jakarta Post, 15 April 2011 | Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan says the government will recycle old permits and allow the conversion of up to 3 million hectares of forests into plantations – despite a recent moratorium. The forests in question were comprised of 3 million hectares of reserves in Sumatra and Kalimantan, among other places, that were previously licensed to companies that had yet to begin operations. “We gave licenses to 251 companies who should have converted [the forests] to sugar cane plantations about five, six or 10 years ago, but they never did,” Zulkifli said during the opening of the IndoGreen Forestry Expo 2011 on Thursday. The ministry’s forestry planning directorate has since revoked the licenses, Zulkifli said. “We will offer [the licenses] to businessmen who are ready to invest, especially in sugar cane plantation business, to reach Indonesia’s target of sugar sufficiency, or the crude palm oil business,” Zulkifli said.
Cutting Edge Asia Pacific (EIA/Telepak), 15 April 2011 | The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) is the first ever in Asia and will govern a trade estimated to be worth about US$1 billion a year. Once the VPA is operational, Indonesia will only permit the export of timber licensed from a national timber legality assurance system and, for their part, EU customs authorities will prevent any unlicensed Indonesian products from entering the EU. The VPA is a massive blow to the timber barons who have long been ransacking Indonesia’s precious rainforests, and is the culmination of more than a decade of relentless campaigning by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency and its Indonesian partners Telapak to expose the criminals involved in illegal logging, lobby for legislative change and build the capacity of Indonesian civil society. Final negotiations for the VPA were concluded on Thursday, April 14 in Brussels, and it is expected to be formally signed in Jakarta on May 5.
Bretton Woods Project, 15 April 2011 | Early April saw the launch of the new World Bank Group strategy for engagement in the palm oil sector, which failed to resolve civil society concerns over several issues, including the rights of indigenous peoples and how performance standards will be applied across supply chains. The strategy outlines the conditions and standards under which the Bank will invest in the controversial palm oil sector, and brings to an end the moratorium on investments in palm oil announced by Bank president Robert Zoellick in September 2009. The original suspension followed years of pressure from civil society and indigenous peoples groups over the negative social and environmental impacts of palm oil plantations, including in projects financed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank’s private sector lending arm.
Forest Carbon Portal, 15 April 2011 | From the view here in the US, climate policy is certainly in the doldrums. UN talks shift back into neutral, and US policymakers seem keen to go nowhere fast. The movers and the shakers all seem to be outside these political bodies with continued developments in the voluntary market and the willingness for Guyana and Norway to stick their necks out on a bold template for financing REDD+. In Bangkok, the latest round of UN climate talks last week failed to produce any substantial progress on sticking points left from Cancun. The Kyoto Protocol appears more precarious than ever, and consensus on numerous technical issues including financing and market mechanisms even beyond the role of REDD+ seems a tall order by the next Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa.
carbonpositive.net, 15 April 2011 | More than three months after a landmark moratorium on deforestation in Indonesia was due to take effect, the initiative is not in place as Jakarta battles to resolve the details of the forest clearing ban. Last year, Norway offered Indonesia $1 billion under a deal that would see Jakarta place a two-year moratorium on forest clearing. The deal is at the frontline of global efforts to establish a REDD+ mechanism to halt deforestation in developing countries and is being watched closely around the world. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was hailed for his part in the agreement but has since struck much domestic resistance to its implementation. He is awaiting the drafting of a decree needed to bring in the required laws but the devil lies in the detail of what’s included in the ban and what’s not.
By David Ritter, Greenpeace International, 15 April 2011 | We’ve upped the pressure on one of the big beasts in the corporate jungle, a consultancy firm called McKinsey. Earlier today, I joined a panel of speakers at the Civil Society Policy Forum of the Spring Meeting of the World Bank in Washington DC to talk about McKinsey and how they contribute to forest destruction… Among the large and lively audience was Benoît Bosquet, Coordinator of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) at the World Bank. At the end of the presentations, Mr Bosquet admitted that the concerns over McKinsey’s secrecy about their method were widely shared, noting that ‘the blackbox is a problem for everybody’. Mr Bosquet also emphasised that forest plans should be informed by good economics – presumably in contrast to the false assumptions and mathematical errors that characterise the ones McKinsey have a hand in.
By Ankit Joshi, my.studyindenmark.dk, 15 April 2011 | My masters thesis on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) wherein I am looking at the history of forest governance in India from a colonial top down perspective to a recent participatory approach to a market based one in the form of REDD+. The government has been keen to implement the REDD+ as it has the potential of providing the Indian government, incentives to the tune of USD 3 billion if utilised well. There are however, some unresolved issues with regards to equitable distribution of incentives on account of ambiguous land tenures and weak community rights. Approximately 93% of all forest cover in India is owned by the state and communities have a share of just 3%. In contrast communities manage 18% of the forests in the form of joint forest management groups.
Stabroek News, 15 April 2011 | The State Forest Exploratory Permit (SFEP) granted to Simon and Shock International Logging Inc (SSI) in 2007 expired last December, according to documents released by the government last evening on a much-questioned forest deal. Last year, Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc. (VHPI) bought out SSI, thereby acquiring the permit but it is not clear from the document if the SFEP had been extended. Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud did not immediately respond last evening to a request for clarification on this. [R-M: subscription needed.]
17 April 2011
By Nick Engelfried, GreenAnswers.com, 17 April 2011 | More than thirty developing countries are coming together to find ways of cooperating on protection of the world’s tropical rainforests. In what may be the largest and best-coordinated international forest conservation attempt ever, the different nations will meet at a summit in the Republic of the Congo later this spring in hopes of coming to agreement on a treaty. This is just the latest example of developing countries taking initiative on global environmental issues, and has important implications for the fight against climate change. Though less important than the burning of fossil fuels for energy, deforestation is believed to be responsible for 15-20% of global carbon emissions. Part of the impetus for developing countries coordinating forest protection efforts is their desire to be able to bring an organized forest strategy to international climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa this December.
The Hindu, 17 April 2011 | Climate-watchers have expressed dismay over the Union Government’s willingness to actively get involved in the controversial Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) Plus programme sponsored mainly by the developed countries and said it would take away the rights of indigenous and forest dwelling populations gained through the Forest Rights Act of 2006… Civil society groups working with indigenous people around the world are alarmed at the REDD Plus proposals and perceive them as a “ploy for capturing control over forests” by governments and private companies. One of the disturbing aspects of the programme is the participation of multi-national business giants known for their scant regard for rights of forest people. Two official negotiators from India took part in the first REDD Plus partnership workshop organised on the margins of the United Nations climate change talks in Bangkok earlier this week.
Stabroek News, 17 April 2011 | With about 60 per cent of the project time having already elapsed, the Amaila Falls access road project at the end of March was only about 22 per cent complete prompting the government to advise contractor Fip Motilall to subcontract some of the work as well as to increase his labour force on the site. Senior government engineer Walter Willis explained to this newspaper that Motilall, the President of Synergy Holdings Inc, had been advised to subcontract some of the work, especially parts related to the construction of bridges. He said the government had advised him to pour more resources into his operations. This, he explained, would mean that Motilall may need to acquire additional labour. He said Synergy Holdings has started only one of the 15 timber bridges that it has been contracted to do. This bridge is only about 18 per cent complete. [R-M: subscription needed.]
By Janette Bulkan, letter to the editor, Kaieteur News, 17 April 2011 | In his letter (“Ram and Bulkan need to start getting their facts right), SN 15 April 2011), Dr Roger Luncheon, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, says – “Mr Ram and Dr Bulkan (as well as Mr. Ramjattan and others) claimed in a letter to Norwegian Minister Erik Solheim that the only justification for the Amaila Hydro Power project was a one-and-a-half page entry in the LCDS. This is ludicrous – the 2011 Amaila Falls Environmental and Social Impact Assessment update alone is 2,500 pages. It sets out comprehensive information about the proposed project, explains the consultative process – and is transparently available at www.amailahydropower.com. Did Dr Bulkan, Mr. Ram and Mr. Ramjattan really expect to be treated seriously when they omitted such basic information?” Dr Luncheon may have mis-read that open letter.