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 is updated regularly. Click here for past REDD in the news posts.
By L. R. Carrasco (National University of Singapore), Prepared for the 14th Annual BIOECON Conference, 18-20 September 2012, Kings College Cambridge, UK | REDD+ – United Nations program for reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation – is intended to curb emissions due to deforestation by offering compensation for reductions with respect to historical or future deforestation reference levels. Compensation based on reference levels of deforestation has been shown to be politically controversial and unfair to countries with low historical deforestation rates. New mechanisms able to incentivise countries in all phases of the forest transition are necessary. We propose a reference-free, assumption-free and international leakage-immune mechanism based on balancing compensations for carbon sequestration services with capped penalizations for annual deforestation emissions.
Rights and Resources Initiative, August 2012 | This is the quarterly email update (newsletter) from the Rights and Resources Initiative, for the second quarter of 2012.
6 August 2012
theautomaticearth.com, 6 August 2012 | A few days ago, I posted an article on how the Brazilian government has sacrificed the lush Amazon Rainforest for short-term economic profits over the course of a few years. Today, I’d like to share more “good news” about the global environment that probably went unnoticed by many people (h/t Jaded Prole). About two months ago, Nature published a report by a group of 21 scientists who arrived at a very startling conclusion – Earth’s ecosystems are heading for an “imminent, irreversible collapse” well before the century is out. Sound a bit too extreme and alarming? Perhaps, but the authors feel that the logic and data to back up such a conclusion are all there. One key factor, for example, is the rapid loss of biodiversity in our ecosystems – something Brazilian federal de-regulators should know all too much about. That’s just one factor among many others, though.
By David Boyle and May Titthara, Phnom Penh Post, 6 August 2012 | In a rare victory for those battling to preserve Prey Lang forest, the government has cancelled four economic land concessions in the area totalling more than 40,000 hectares that threatened pristine ecosystems. Another 3,200 hectare ELC in Koh Kong province has also been cancelled, while two more in Kratie province and one in Mondulkiri province totalling 30,000 hectares have been restricted, according to an unofficial translation of a letter from the Council of Ministers to relevant ministries obtained by the Post. The letter dated July 2 declares that four ELCs totalling 40,618 hectares have been cancelled in Kampong Thom’s Sandan district because they are located in the middle of evergreen and semi-evergreen forest inside “the largest low-land [contiguous evergreen] forest in Southeast Asia” – Prey Lang.
By Christine Padoch, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 6 August 2012 | With global demand for commodities like palm oil, soy and beef rapidly increasing, and the supply of usable lands dwindling, can forests survive? Can the planet’s growing billions be better fed, clothed and housed without destroying tropical forests? A new article by scientists from several US and Brazilian institutions suggests that promoting more efficient agricultural land use while also enforcing anti-deforestation measures may have achieved just that in what was once the tropics’ most notorious area of forest loss: the infamous “Arc of Deforestation” at the southern edges of Brazil’s Amazonia.
Warsaw Business Journal, 6 August 2012 | Over 30 planned energy projects from major Polish and foreign firms will not benefit from free CO2 allowances after 2013. Following a ruling by the European Commission in mid-July, a total of 36 energy projects, including new coal-fired and gas-fired power plants, will be denied free CO2 emission permits. They include PKN Orlen’s planned 450-600 megawatt (MW) gas-fired power plant in Płock, as well as new power blocks at coal-fired plants belonging to PGE (Opole), Enea (Kozienice) and Energa (Ostrołęka). Projects by Poland’s Tauron, France’s EDF and GDF Suez, as well as Vattenfall, are also affected by the ruling.
Korean Herald, 6 August 2012 | The Asian Forest Cooperation Organization, or AFoCO will be established after three years of preparation through an agreement between the governments of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Korea on forest cooperation. Through it, Seoul will attempt to actively strengthen international forest affairs among Asian countries through climate change mitigation and forest cooperation projects. It also plans to disseminate the nation’s “Low Carbon Green Growth” platform to Asian countries. During an Independence Day ceremony in 2008, President Lee Myung-bak proposed a new growth paradigm that balanced economic development and environmental protection, running counter to the conventional perspective that environmental activities hampered economic development.
By David Roberts, White Mountain Independent, 6 August 2012 | If everything goes according to plan, the White Mountain Apache will be able to retire all their debt within the next year or two and start putting millions toward economic development. The source of the immediate funds, says Tribal Planner Joe Waters, is carbon sequestration payments from California companies. Initial payments could run from $20-36 million, with an annual payment thereafter of $1.5-2 million. The root cause of the bonanza is California’s recent legislation demanding refineries, utilities, and other manufacturers either cut their carbon emissions with expensive scrubbers, or find a way to buy credits through a “cap and trade” program. The best way to sequester carbon, says Waters, is when trees absorb carbon dioxide and emit only oxygen.
7 August 2012
By George Monbiot, The Guardian, 7 August 2012 | Payments for ecosystem services look to me like the prelude to the greatest privatisation since Rousseau’s encloser first made an exclusive claim to the land. The government has already begun describing land owners as the “providers” of ecosystem services, as if they had created the rain and the hills and the rivers and the wildlife that inhabits them… Land ownership since the time of the first impostor has involved the gradual accumulation of exclusive rights, which were seized from commoners. Payments for ecosystem services extend this encroachment by appointing the landlord as the owner and instigator of the wildlife, the water flow, the carbon cycle, the natural processes previously deemed to belong to everyone and no one. But it doesn’t end there. Once a resource has been commodified, speculators and traders step in. The Ecosystem Markets Task Force now talks of “harnessing City financial expertise…”
Forest Carbon Asia, 7 August 2012 | 23 regional and global forestry experts came together from May 3rd – 4th, 2012 to attend a workshop in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, co-organized by the USAID-funded Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests (LEAF) program and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on “Reduced Impact Logging: Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies in the Emerging Forest Carbon Economy.” The event gathered government officials from the Indonesian, Fijian, Papua New Guinean and Malaysian forestry departments, participants from international forestry organizations, faculty from several universities from around the world, and representatives from the UN-REDD program and USAID to review the current status of Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) implementation in Asia, and to discuss challenges and opportunities in improving the sustainable management of production forests for climate change mitigation.
Stabroek News, 7 August 2012 | President Donald Ramotar has instructed Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh to this week sign the disbursement agreement to set up the Amerindian Development Fund. “I have requested of the Minister of Finance that during the course of this conference on behalf of the government of Guyana, to sign off on the disbursement agreement for the flow of the GRIF (Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund) funds, to allow for the implementation of (the) Amerindian Development Fund agreement with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to fund villages community projects. The agreement will see our villages benefit for approximately $360 million over the period of time,” Ramotar told Amerindian leaders at the opening of the sixth annual National Toshaos Council (NTC) conference yesterday. The funds will come from monies earned from Guyana’s forestry partnership with Norway. [R-M: Subscription needed.]
Guyana News and Information Discussion Forums, 7 August 2012 | Guyana shared its information and experiences on climate policies, strategy and stakeholder engagement processes during a two-day climate change and REDD+ workshop in neighbouring Suriname which a Government team, headed by Shyam Nokta, Presidential Adviser and Head of the Office of Climate Change is currently attending. The workshop is part of collaboration between the two countries on climate change and REDD+.
By Fidelis E. Satriastanti, Jakarta Globe, 7 August 2012 | The Forestry Ministry has so far this year issued permits to convert more than 300,000 hectares of forest into plantations, an official said on Tuesday. Tri Joko Mulyono, the ministry’s director for forest area zoning, said permits were issued for 342,709 hectares so far this year, compared to a total of 4.9 million hectares in 2009, 8,613 hectares in 2010 and 366,259 hectares in 2011. “It [Permit issuance] decreased drastically in 2010, almost stopping due to the moratorium on the conversion of forest areas, but then it rose again the year after that,” he said. Even under the moratorium, he said, there were exceptions to allow conversion for plantations related to vital and strategic projects, including for geothermal energy, oil and gas, electricity, rice or sugarcane. Conversion could also be approved for ecosystem restoration, he said.
By Kizito Makoye, AlertNet, 7 August 2012 | A logging boom has hit Tanzania’s tourist-drawing Kilimanjaro region, reducing the region’s native forests, hitting rainfall and leading to unusually high temperatures. The increasingly extreme weather has come as a surprise to people who live a stone’s throw from one of the world’s heritage sites, and who had been used to a cold, misty climate. Joshua Meena, 72, a resident of Machame, told AlertNet that the annual rainfall in the region has been dwindling from year to year over the past decade, affecting farmers who depend on growing coffee and bananas for a living. “Our livelihood is affected because these crops thrive under a cool climate and also need enough water,” he said. And in Moshi municipality, eyebrows are raised at the region’s rising temperatures, which now sometimes surpass 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Farenheit) – on occasion higher than the country’s normal hottest places, Dar es Salaam and Tanga.
Wall Street Journal, 7 August 2012 | Gibson Guitar Corp. agreed to pay a $300,000 fine to resolve a federal criminal investigation into allegations that it illegally imported wood from Madagascar and India, in a case that has fanned debate about whether the strict enforcement of a century-old conservation law poses a threat to jobs. The case grabbed national attention nearly a year ago after agents from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service raided Gibson, seizing raw materials and nearly 100 guitars and shutting down production at the Nashville, Tenn.-based company, whose guitars are used by musicians including B.B. King and AC/DC’s Angus Young. Federal officials said Monday that Gibson acknowledged it “may have violated” laws in Madagascar, a country that has struggled with illegal logging and deforestation, when the company acquired unfinished ebony fingerboards through a supplier in 2008 and 2009.
By Lawrence MacDonald, Center for Global Development, 7 August 2012 | Reducing carbon emissions from forest clearing and degradation has become an important part of the international climate agenda. But how can we create incentives to reduce deforestation, and how can we measure success? My guest on this week’s Wonkcast, visiting senior associate Michele de Nevers, tells me that the answers to these questions are more valuable than ever – if we don’t act quickly, our forests will disappear. “It will take a lot of action to make sure the forests are not continued to be cut,” says Michele. “There’s enormous pressure on forests due to pressures of land conversion for growing grains needed to feed animals to meet the increasing demand for meat products in middle-income and developing countries.”
8 August 2012
By Elisabeth Rosenthal and Andrew W. Lehren, New York Times, 8 August 2012 | When the United Nations wanted to help slow climate change, it established what seemed a sensible system. Industrial gases were rated based on their power to warm the atmosphere. The more dangerous the gas, the more that manufacturers in developing nations would be compensated as they reduced their emissions. But where the United Nations envisioned environmental reform, some manufacturers of gases used in air-conditioning and refrigeration saw a lucrative business opportunity. They quickly figured out that they could earn one carbon credit by eliminating one ton of carbon dioxide, but could earn more than 11,000 credits by simply destroying a ton of an obscure waste gas normally released in the manufacturing of a widely used coolant gas. That is because that byproduct has a huge global warming effect. The credits could be sold on international markets, earning tens of millions of dollars a year.
By Barbara Lewis, Reuters, 8 August 2012 | The woody core of EU climate strategy, biomass, has won its place because the bloc deems it carbon neutral, an assumption that hides fatal flaws in its credentials, critics say. Increasingly, the EU relies on biomass – covering anything from olive stones to old blackcurrant bushes – to generate heat and power. For the purposes of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, biomass used as fuel is counted as carbon neutral. The underlying assumption is its emissions are offset by the planting of a new tree. Felled wood, until burnt, is a carbon store. The reality is much more complicated, say environmentalists, who are concerned creative accounting is belying the true state of the world’s forests, while EU climate goals slip from grasp.
By Matthew Carr, Bloomberg, 8 August 2012 | Some U.K. emitters are seeking to opt out of the European Union’s carbon market to cut administrative costs. The 244 installations include two EON AG combined heat and power plants and Barclays Plc’s 5 North Colonnade building in Canary Wharf, London, according to a list published on the website of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The facilities seeking to opt out had emissions of about 2 million metric tons a year, less than 1 percent of Britain’s emissions covered by the bloc’s carbon program, the department known as DECC said today in an e-mailed response to questions. Administrative costs for small emitters are estimated at more than 1 pound ($1.56) a ton, compared with 4 pence a ton for large emitters, according to the e-mail. Total savings for industry in the eight years through 2020 will be about 80 million pounds, the department said on its website.
IPPMedia.com, 8 August 2012 | The governments of Norway and Finland have dished out USD5m which would be used in the campaign to improve transparency and accountability and reduce illegal logging in the forestry sector. Speaking at the launch of the five years campaign dubbed ‘Mama Misitu’, the Finish Ambassador to Tanzania, Sinikka Antila, said the campaign is expected to result in tangible changes in behaviour, increased transparency by government and private sector officials. “The ultimate goal is to reduce the illegal harvesting of timber in Tanzania and thus the rate of deforestation,” she said. According to a report by the Controller and Auditor General, only 4 percent of the forest reserves have management plans, the remaining 96 percent are not managed in accordance with the national legislation.
Reuters, 8 August 2012 | The United States reaffirmed support for a U.N. goal of limiting global warming after criticism from the European Union and small island states that Washington seemed to be backing away. “The U.S. continues to support this goal. We have not changed our policy,” U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said in a statement on Wednesday. Almost 200 nations, including the United States, have agreed to limit rising temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above pre-industrial times to avoid dangerous changes such as floods, droughts and rising sea levels. The EU Commission, small island states and environmental activists urged the world to stick to the target on Tuesday, fearing that Washington was withdrawing support. Temperatures have already risen by about 0.8 degree C.
By Ed King, RTCC – Responding to Climate Change, 8 August 2012 | It can’t be easy being Todd Stern. The US Special Envoy for Climate Change operates in a polarised political environment, domestically and internationally. At home the debate over whether climate change even exists is as hot as ever. Abroad he has to contend with the fact that many believe the USA is ignoring its historical responsibilities and tacitly undermining the UN climate negotiations. But what he says still counts. So when Stern argued that insisting on a target of keeping global warming below 2C would lead to “deadlock” at the talks he was hit from all sides.
9 August 2012
By Gabriela Ramirez Galinod, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 9 August 2012 | Despite a multitude of land tenure reforms over the past 20 years opening legal channels for communities to gain rights to their forests, the fair sharing of forest management responsibilities between local people and governments is still a major struggle, says a new CIFOR study. “Our study illustrates how the transfer of rights has typically been incomplete so reforms that should have facilitated legal participation of communities in the forest sector are being undercut by burdensome regulations and start-up costs that actually create barriers to community participation,” said Peter Cronkleton, scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research and co-author of the study in Conservation and Society. “If community groups are trying to use forest resources sustainably, governments should support their efforts rather than create obstacles or regulatory burdens.”
mongabay.com, 9 August 2012 | Deforestation in Belize has accelerated since late 2010, reports a new satellite-based assessment of the tiny Central American country’s forest cover by CATHALAC (the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean). The analysis used NASA Landsat-7 imagery to compare forest cover between early 2010 and early 2012. It concludes that Belize’s forest cover fell from 62.7 percent to 61.6 percent during the period, a decline of 25,264 hectares. The annual loss of 12,632 ha is more than a quarter higher than the rate observed between 1980 and 2010, when deforestation averaged around 10,000 ha per year. A technical report detailing the analysis will be released soon according to CATHALAC. A 2010 study by the group found that most deforestation between 1980 and 2010 occurred outside protected areas, where land is being converted for agriculture and plantations.
By Felix Chaudhary, Fiji Times, 9 August 2012 | Discussions on the ownership of carbon emitted from forests were the feature of talks between representatives of government departments, resource owners, non-government organisations and the forest industry at a workshop in Suva last week. Organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the German Agency for International Co-operation (GIZ) in collaboration with the Fiji Forestry Department and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Carbon Rights and REDD+ was held at the Holiday Inn. According to a SPC statement, ownership of carbon rights is an important issue for Fiji because of the strong customary land tenure and control of natural resources. “The owner of the carbon rights will enjoy both benefits and risks: the benefit of the revenues that protecting the forest can generate, but also the risks in the event that the forest resource is lost,” the statement said.
By Denis Scott Chabrol, Demerara Waves, 9 August 2012 | Several Amerindian communities are on the verge of tapping into US$6 million that Norway has paid Guyana to preserve its tropical rainforests and help absorb greenhouses gases that cause climate change. That tranche is part of the US$70 million that Norway has paid into the Guyana REDD + and Investment Fund (GRIF) for Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). The agreement was signed at the National Toshaos Conference that was held at the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC), Liliendaal. Amerindian Affairs Minister, Pauline Sukhai told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) said that the “administrative mechanism” would be put in place almost immediately to disburse the funds to the communities. Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Nigel Dharamlall said more than 166 Community Development Plans are on the table to benefit from the Norwegian funds.
By Eduard Merger, Christian Held, Timm Tennigkeit and Tom Blomley, 7th Space, 9 August 2012 | Several global REDD+ cost elements studies have been conducted in the past, demonstrating that payments for maintaining forest carbon stocks have a great potential to be a cost-effective mechanism for climate change mitigation. These studies have mostly drawn from highly aggregated top-down approaches without estimating the full spectrum of REDD+ costs, thus underestimating the actual costs of REDD+. This study explicitly supports a bottom-up approach to data assessment, based on three REDD+ pilot projects in Tanzania, representing an area of 327,825 ha. By estimating the full spectrum of REDD+ costs, we separately estimated opportunity, implementation, transaction and institutional costs of REDD+ and developed a practical and replicable methodological framework to consistently assess REDD+ cost elements.
By Richard Ingham, AFP, 9 August 2012 | The United States ran into crossfire on Wednesday after it called for “flexibility” in climate talks yet acknowledged this may not guarantee meeting the UN’s target on global warming. Europe and Africa demanded that a two-degree-Celsius (3.6-degree-Fahrenheit) objective set at the 2009 Copenhagen summit be honoured while small island states, more vocal, accused Washington of backsliding. The skirmishes came ahead of new talks in Bangkok starting at the end of the month for a global treaty to roll back greenhouse-gas emissions which stoke atmospheric warming, damaging Earth’s climate system. In a barely-noticed speech in New Hampshire on August 2, chief US negotiator Todd Stern said negotiations had to avoid a rigid formula that prompted nations to defend their own interests and avoid painful concessions. Calling for “flexibility,” he argued that a format that enabled progressively greater commitments would be easier to negotiate and ratchet up…
By Richard Black, BBC News, 9 August 2012 | Todd Stern, who leads the US negotiating team in the UN climate convention (UNFCCC) and performed the same role at the recent Rio+20 summit, told an audience at Dartmouth College that insisting on the target in negotiations would lead to “deadlock”. The approach needed more “flexibility”, he said. The negotiations he’s referring to concern the Durban Platform – an oddly-chosen name for a process agreed at last year’s UN talks in South Africa. Governments agreed to conclude negotiations by 2015 on a new global deal that would include to different extents every nation, to come into effect in 2020.
10 August 2012
By Tony Juniper, The Guardian, 10 August 2012 | The new discourse about “natural capital” is seen by some as another step towards the degradation of the biosphere. George Monbiot wrote is such terms this week… But to paint such a one-sided picture is a dangerous game. For decades campaigners have fought for the protection of nature for its own sake, and while there has been notable progress (seen for example in the rapid increase in protected areas worldwide, which will hopefully continue irrespective of purely economic evaluations), the overall trends have not been encouraging. The destruction of unprotected forests, loss of soils, depletion of aquifers, extinction of animals and plants and plunder of the oceans has continued apace. It seems that the moral argument has gained insufficient traction, and that in the absence of new frames continuing population and economic growth will cause more damage.
By Gabriela Ramirez Galindo, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 10 August 2012 | Agricultural reform settlements in the Brazilian Amazon have often been associated with high deforestation rates, thus they seem as a natural target for initiatives to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+). However, differences in the deforestation history and levels of economic development among settlements may have important implications for the design of such initiatives, say scientists. Brazil’s land reform program that aimed to bring “People without land to land without people” has resulted in over 8,500 settlements covering more than 84 million hectares of forest throughout the country. “Some of these settlements are already engaging in logging arrangements with private companies, through mechanisms that resemble payments for environmental services schemes of the type considered under REDD+,” said Driss Ezzine-de-Blas, researcher at CIRAD.
Kaieteur News, 10 August 2012 | As Guyana joined the world in observing World Indigenous Peoples’ Day yesterday, Government has inked an agreement for the implementation of the Amerindian Development Fund with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Amerindian Development Fund will see the creation of sustainable economic ventures providing opportunities in Amerindian communities. It is being made possible through funding under Guyana REDD Investment Fund (GRIF). The Guyana REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Investment Fund –GRIF, was established in October 2010 as the mechanism through which Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) projects will be funded. The agreement was signed by Ministers of Finance and Amerindian Affairs, Dr. Ashni Singh and Pauline Sukhai, respectively, and Resident Representative of UNDP, Khadija Musa.
By Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com, 10 August 2012 | Indonesia’s ambitious targets for boosting pulp and paper production to make it the world’s lowest-cost producer are at odds with its push for green economic growth should expansion proceed on its current business-as-usual path, said a forestry expert presenting at the annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) in Bonito, Brazil. Chris Barr, director of US-based non-profit Woods & Wayside International, said that while Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has made a series of “progressive” and “apparently sincere” statements on combating climate change, reducing deforestation, and developing sustainable forestry, strong forestry sector interests have effectively undermined Indonesia’s moratorium on new forest concessions, making it difficult to achieve the president’s “7/26” plan for reducing emissions 26 percent from a projected 2020 baseline while maintaining 7 percent economic growth.
ICIMOD, 10 August 2012 | Nearly 30 visitors from ICIMOD partner organizations in Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, and Pakistan visited the Kayerkhola watershed in Chitwan 24–25 July to learn about the ongoing pilot REDD+ project. The trip promoted the exchange of knowledge and lessons learned between local communities and ICIMOD’s regional partners. Representatives from regional partner institutions were given valuable information that they can take back to their respective countries, including lessons learned from the pilot REDD+ project on: the importance of social and gender-inclusive approaches in promoting the sustainability of REDD+ projects; the need for alternative arrangements for forest-dependent communities, like the promotion of stall feeding or allocation of patches of degraded land in community forests where grazing has been banned to allow landless households to grow fodder for their livestock…
11 August 2012
The Pioneer, 11 August 2012 | The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has developed a programme for enhancing various aspects of environment and forestry in India. This was one of the collaborative programmes of mutual interest on forests, climate change and biodiversity discussed during a visit by a delegation comprising representatives of USAID, New Delhi and United States Forest Service (USFS) to the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE). The US delegation was led by Dr Dale Boseworth from USFS, other delegation members included Minister Counselor for Agriculture Affairs at US Embassy New Delhi, Allan Mustard, Sasha Gottlieb and Valdis Mezainis from USFS and Varghese Paul from USAID.
12 August 2012
PHOTO credit: Image created using wordle.net.