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Two new Carbon Trade Watch factsheets: Key arguments against REDD+ and Some key REDD+ actors

Two new Carbon Trade Watch factsheets: Key arguments against REDD+ and Some key REDD+ actors

Last week, Carbon Trade Watch released two new factsheets: “Key arguments against REDD+”, and “Some Key REDD+ Players”. Be warned: you are in for a rocky ride if you belong to the camp that believes that REDD is the best hope for saving the rainforests, that safeguards will protect indigenous peoples’ rights and that carbon trading is the only way of raising sufficient funding for REDD.

Carbon Trade Watch was set up in 2002 as the Environmental Justice project of the Transnational Institute. It has produced several reports documenting the flaws in pollution trading models. It was among the co-founders of the Durban Group for Climate Justice and Climate Justice Now!.

Here’s how Climate Trade Watch describes its “Key Arguments Against REDD+” factsheet on its website:

No to REDD+! REDD+ is still being negotiated. There are many who defend REDD+ for valuing ecosystems services; there are others who see it as the only way to protect forests and stabilize the climate. But whatever form REDD+ takes, even if it includes Human Rights safeguards, it will be designed to allow industrialized countries and polluting industries like Shell, BP and Rio Tinto to continue polluting. Corporations and Northern countries responsible for the climate crisis need to take responsibility for their own emissions by addressing the structural changes necessary to be made in the North and stopping pollution at the source. Human rights, environmental rights and cultural practices of forest-dependent and Indigenous Peoples must be protected from REDD+.

The factsheet, which was produced together with Global Justice Ecology Project and the Indigenous Environmental Network, can be downloaded here (pdf file, 260 KB).

Carbon Trade Watch describes the second fact sheet, “Some Key REDD+ Actors”, as follows:

REDD+ rewards polluters with carbon credits, allowing them to elude their responsibility to reduce emissions at source. There are billions of dollars at stake and no real obligation to respect human or collective rights – the so-called “safeguards” mentioned in the negotiating text states that they should only be “promoted and supported” rather than being obligatory for governments. These sneaky words are absolutely inadequate to protect Indigenous and forest-dependent Peoples’ rights. REDD-type projects have already resulted in land grabs, jailings, servitude and threats to cultural survival. It is crucial to ask who is gaining from REDD+, who is making the decisions, where is the money coming from and who is pushing REDD+, and why. Below is an overview of some of the key players who are behind designing, implementing and profiting from REDD+.

The factsheet can be downloaded here (pdf file, 260 KB).

Carbon Trade Watch’s latest newsletter includes an invitation to sign the position on Women and REDD, that was drawn up during the UN climate conference in Cancún, December 2010.

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  1. Only complaint about the otherwise excellent Carbon Trade Watch briefing on ‘REDD+ Actors’ is that it says so little about the role of companies such as Rainfoerst Alliance and SGS that are aiming to make money for themselves by selling pieces of paper ‘certifying’ forest carbon offsets.

    One only has to look at the reasons behind the demise of the Forest Stewardship Council’s credibility to understand just what a key and pernicious role these organisations can play in destroying what is basically a good idea.

  2. The factsheet has it a little backwards I think. Two wrongs still dont make a right. REDD may be flawed and/or abused but still…carefully designed and implemented, it has the potential to help both the groups that the factsheet says will be hurt and the forest environment at the same time.
    I can see how the argument that it is more important to force a reduction in emissions is attractive, how exactly do you addresses the argument that forcing those reductions would by extension reduce power production and transportation method for many many people. Seems to me that given THAT fact…the reductions will not be tolerated by most peoples and their governments.

  3. @ Ric

    Yes, you’ve summed-up the situation perfectly: why should we in rich countries be expected to turn down the heating, stop using our enormous cars, switch off the air-con, or turn our lights off when we are not using them, when instead we can get the poorest of the poor people in the world to stop doing the farming they need to do in order to feed themselves?

    After all, those people mostly have no power and if they don’t “tolerate” it, their governments can simply do what they usually do: send in the army and shoot them.

    Much better solution all round. Thanks, Ric…

  4. As someone who works on REDD, I clearly have a vested interest in making these programs work. With that said the categorical opposition to REDD is missing the point. It is strange that so much energy is directed at a program that aims to preserve forest as opposed to industries that are actively destroying it. In the Indonesian context (where I work) most forestland has been allocated for agricultural development or industrial timber extraction. This blog is correct to repeatedly point out that not enough land is allocated to community control. However, neither REDD nor the prospect of REDD based funds is responsible for this. Instead decades of official corruption as well as an emphasis on industrial estate crops has led to some of the highest deforestation rates in the world. REDD provides some level of mitigation to this but it will not be nearly enough on its own. Greater government capacity, enforcement and a change in priorities are also necessary. REDD is really a stopgap measure and has gained traction because it assigns a commercial value to standing forest.
    We have worked on a variety of projects some of which are within oil palm concessions and others to fund the establishment of community forests and management I’m not sure why this blog assumes that REDD+ is necessarily incompatible with indigenous land tenure and other collective land use rights. If anything strengthening land tenure for local users, coupled with sustainable forest management is something that could be considered a generator of carbon credits. Strengthening communal land rights can be effective in reducing deforestation (See Oliveira, Asner 2007). Why it is assumed REDD can’t be used to bolster these types of programs is never really explained. Obviously REDD is flawed and there are perverse incentives involved that tend to reward bad behavior rather than good stewardship.
    Finally, REDD should not be used by industrialized economies to avoid making sacrifices. Since about 1/5 of emissions come from land use change, other sectors also need to be targeted. REDD is one tool that can be used to slow deforestation while national strategies are developed. In the mean time perhaps the authors of this blog should spend more time articulating a better and politically feasible alternative to REDD.

  5. The doom list presented by CTW contains all the reasoning assuming the progam shall fail on all aspects and some how forgets to mention that carbon trading including REDD+ is designed as temporary solution to the static aspects of existing (consuming) cultures and infrastructure. The whole offsetting strategy is supposed to be a part of our collective solution (and is supposed phase out over time). The fact that the package of actions is not agreed upon (Setting targets and hard caps with regulations with or without partial offsetting possibilities, increased funding for clean energy development, reduce meat consumption, population control (oops did I say that)) is the main reason why REDD+ as a individual program will not be EFFECTIVE. If the leaders of our species can get their act together and agree to a collective approach on reducing climate change that includes most of all reductions of GHG emissions then REDD+ will be an effective tool for the near future to improve forest governance before these land look like Europe and large tracts of the USA while give emitters the chance to convert to a cleaner state in economical possible way.

  6. And what do REDD countries do? Flush these guys? Go to hell with REDD?
    Guess your perspectives are too centered on the REDD proposed by McKinsey
    and not on what developing countries want and need to do, independently of
    the international expectation on offsets.

  7. @ BF

    “If the leaders of our species can get their act together and agree to a collective approach on reducing climate change that includes most of all reductions of GHG emissions then REDD+ will be an effective tool…”

    Indeed. And that is the ‘IF’ we should all be focusing on. If, as at the moment seems to be the case, they DON’T “get their act together”, then we (and the world’s forests) are all doomed, and REDD ain’t going to make the slightest bit of difference to that.


    “Guess your perspectives are too centered on the REDD proposed by McKinsey
    and not on what developing countries want and need to do, independently of
    the international expectation on offsets”.

    See the above. Completely setting aside the fact that countries such as Guyana, Indonesia and DRC have very clearly shown that they want the REDD money being dangled in front of them, but are not prepared to make any meaningful reductions in forest carbon emissions, the fact remains that even those countries genuinely concerned with protecting their forests are wasting their efforts (in climatic terms) unless the industrialised world reduces its emissions.

  8. @ Witness
    Thanks for pointing out important actors we didn’t cover… addressing all of the actors involved is impossible unless we write an extensive book but this factsheet will inevitably expand its scope and we will care to include actors such as the Rainforest Alliance and SGS!

    By saying “it is strange that so much energy is directed at a program that aims to preserve forest as opposed to industries that are actively destroying it” you hit exactly the point of our “categorical opposition to REDD”.
    The first factsheet is precisely explaining why REDD’s aim is not to preserve the forests but on the contrary, to benefit those industries that are actively destroying it.
    Agricultural industry and timber extraction companies are main players for pushing REDD (as explained in the second factsheet). As you said, the highest deforestation rates have been developed due to complex politic-economic context in which corporations have played a mayor role and our starting point is that REDD, since its inception, is being developed to continue and even increase these real drivers of deforestation, it does nothing to stop industrial agriculture or monoculture plantations to begin with.

    I can agree with you when you say “enforcement and a change in priorities are also necessary”, but wait a minute, REDD is not at all a regulatory or enforcement scheme but a market-based approach (with the reddiness phases just preparing countries to insert them in the markets) with the incentive to allow polluters to do business as usual. So, isn’t it contradictory to try to make a change in priorities when the market has been already for a long neoliberal time the number one priority and is now given a bigger and easier entrance to forests?

    “I’m not sure why this blog assumes that REDD+ is necessarily incompatible with indigenous land tenure and other collective land use rights.” I think there is an oversimplification of what land tenure entails. Even though we overlook at the fact that none of the REDD documents enforce the FPIC or the UNDRIP (so communities don’t have much opinion on what is going to happen to their territories – in the case of the ones that do have legal land tenures); it is not established who owns the carbon stored in the forests, who will benefit form this, who will be responsible in case of a fire or any other natural accident, what are the “new” rights of the communities over what was before “their” resources… Borner et al (2010) analyzes how there are potential contradictions between existing land tenure rights, the REDD regulations and legislation – for the need to standardize information and values – and the distribution and sharing of benefits among REDD actors.

    A way more extensive discussion is the fact of generating carbon credits. It is explained how the generation of credits will allow more business as usual and will not lead to any transformation. Offsets increase greenhouse gases, shift the responsibility to countries in the south, and communities affected by polluting industries (anywhere) will continue to be affected. See

    There are already MANY alternatives in the ground that are not based on the markets or on putting a price on standing trees. Maybe is time to listen and see more carefully to this options…

    REDD has a particular framing of the problem of “deforestation” which validate and legitimizes certain tools (markets), actors (WB, UN…) and solutions (carbon/offset markets) while marginalizes others.

    Your response comes with the assumption that the offsetting strategy has indeed come out of a collective process and that it will phase out. As wee see the push to increase the carbon markets and offset mechanisms while silencing marginalizing and opposed voices, I cannot see this happening. What do you mean by a “collective approach”, one based on corporative/profit means? After all these years with the EU carbon markets in place, there has been no phase out or transformation to a cleaner economy, so why assume it would do now? See

  9. Climate change is happening not just a question of keeping the forests alone, as in the REDD program, so it should state industiri must reduce its emissions by 20% in accordance with the Kyoto protocol. so that the balance between state jerjadilah berkembangan with industrial countries where they have to save the planet from climate change.

  10. Very thought provoking. Can you please cite your sources and references for the statements relating to people being excluded from forests by landgrabs, evictions, fences, armed guards, etc.

  11. @Mr M. (#10) – There are many examples posted on REDD-Monitor. Try clicking on the “REDD and rights” tag in the sidebar. It’s also worth reading through the Forest Peoples Programme E-Newsletters. The April 2011 issue includes several examples.

    This extract from the Governors Climate and Forest Task Force newsletter is also relevant:

    “The Government of Aceh and the REDD Task Force are also developing an institutional framework for the long-term management of the Ulu Masen Ecosystem through REDD. Currently the government of Aceh has recruited 2,000 people for PAMHUT (Forest Guards) funded by Revenue Expenditure Budget Aceh to strengthen the role of rangers/PAMHUT in forest protection.”

    Especially when read in conjunction with this article: “Selling the wind,” about involving local communities in the Ulu Masen project.