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Oilwatch: “California, Don’t let Shell Roast the Planet!”

On Earth Day, 22 April 2013, Oilwatch International put out a statement opposing the inclusion of REDD in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32). Meanwhile, Wildlife Works, a company developing REDD projects in Africa held a “REDD talks” workshop in California, promoting REDD as a carbon trading mechanism.

The positions expressed by Oilwatch and Wildlife Works are at polar extremes in the REDD debate. Oilwatch states that “REDD allows polluters to keep polluting and global warming to get worse.” Wildlife Works tells us that REDD “provides an immediate solution to combatting climate change.”

But as Oilwatch points out, carbon trading allows Shell, one of the most polluting companies on the planet, to buy forest carbon credits and continue burning fossil fuels and emitting pollution. Obviously, this is not a solution to climate change.

California, Don’t let Shell Roast the Planet!

Oilwatch International
Statement on Rejecting California REDD
Earth Day, April 22, 2013

Californians are renowned for being environmental savvy so we at Oilwatch International were dismayed to learn that the State of California may let
 climate criminals like Shell and Chevron off the hook by including a false 
solution to climate change called REDD in its global warming law.

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) is a 
carbon offset scheme whereby polluters use forests and land as supposed
 sponges for their pollution instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at

REDD allows polluters to keep polluting and global warming to get worse. The
 State of California’s climate change law, AB32, currently includes domestic 
REDD offsets, and may soon be broadened to also include international 
REDD offsets from countries like Mexico, Brazil and Nigeria.

We denounce the trading of pollution for forests as the worst kind of protection
racket. The State of California has already made a mockery of its efforts to 
tackle global warming by using carbon trading and offsets. We ask that 
California not add injury to insult by including REDD as well.

While forest dependent communities suffer from carbon offset projects that 
grab and exploit their forests as mere carbon sinks, polluters such as Shell
 are expanding their operations through a scam that is clearly nothing more
 than trading hot air.

Both Californians and the world are harmed by REDD-type projects. For 
example, Shell recently purchased 500,000 carbon offsets credits from a
 forestry project on over 200,000 acres in Michigan that not only will grant 
Shell’s refinery in Martinez, California permission to pollute and spew
 carcinogens, but will also push the planet further down the road to 
catastrophic global warming.

Making forest carbon offsets official policy reproduces the toxic injustice and
environmental racism that plagues low-income communities in the global 
North, while exposing vulnerable communities in the global South to flagrant
 human rights violations, land grabs, displacement, and destruction of our
 biocultural heritage.

We speak from Nigeria, where Shell is a climate criminal and infamous for the
genocide against the Ogoni People. We speak from Ecuador where Chevron
is a climate criminal and trashed the Amazon. We speak from Turtle Island,
 where our lands and our peoples have been devastated by dirty energy—from
 coal to fracking to flaring to tarsands. We speak from planet Earth, where 
fossil fuel civilization has brought the biosphere to the brink of collapse.

Shell’s hot air purchases in the USA and abroad portend great danger to
 Indigenous Peoples and forest dependent communities across the world. 
Trading pollution for forests threatens Indigenous Peoples’ rights, resources,
territories and very survival.

Carbon trading and REDD in the California encourage dirty energy industries
to lock in their polluting systems rather than powering down as climate
 science demands.

Even the United Nations itself admits that REDD could result in the “lock-up of
forests,” “loss of land” and “new risks for the poor.

We affirm the declaration of the NO REDD in Africa Network that REDD does
 not halt deforestation, but rather is emerging as a new form of colonialism,
 economic subjugation and a driver of land grabs so massive that they may
 constitute a continent grab.

We stand with the Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local
Communities on Climate Change against REDD and for Life who denounce
 REDD as potentially the biggest land grab of all time with devastating
 consequences for Indigenous Peoples in whose lands and territories the
 majority of forests are found.

We stand with La Via Campesina, the world’s largest peasant farmer 
movement that rejects REDD and denounces that it may undermine food 
sovereignty, cause hunger and result in a counter-agrarian reform.

We stand with our sisters of the World March of Women who oppose REDD
 because they know it could constitute a new form of violence against women.

We affirm the founding principles of Climate Justice Now!, which stipulate that 
the root causes of global warming must be tackled now and false solutions not

We affirm the Cochabamba Accord of the Peoples’ Summit on Climate 
Change which rejects REDD and demands greenhouse gas reductions at

We know California will not be fooled by REDD. Common sense requires that
 we end fossil fuel addiction, not let corporations such as Chevron and Shell
 continue to profit while setting the planet ablaze.

We don’t buy the REDD hype, and neither should the State of California.
 Please, for the good of people and planet, reject REDD in California. The
 world will thank you.

Ivonne Yanez

Quito, Ecuador
Oilwatch International

Nnimmo Bassey

Benin City, Nigeria
Oilwatch International

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Leave a Reply

  1. How can REDD “provide an immediate solution to combatting climate change” if, when based on carbon trading, it results in zero net emissions reductions?? Surely what Wildlife Works mean is that REDD “provides an immediate solution to combatting financial shortages?”

  2. Hold on… we **totally** undervalue our forests. The California global warming law, AB32, allows for a very small percentage of emissions to be offset – I think 5%? – which means that IF a REDD project is a high quality one, this has the potential of helping us value our forests, yet doesn’t reduce the emission reduction demands on polluters very much at all. I just recently visited the Valdivian Coastal Reserve in Chile, a Nature Conservancy project (, a great project which embodies exactly this potential. If we kill this because many offset projects have been lame, those that are good, and good ones yet to come, won’t be able to rise above the fray and we’ll keep stupidly undervaluing our forests. The standards that are included in AB32 require very high quality projects that do protect forests and do support the surrounding local communities; we should give it a chance.

  3. @Ted Cheeseman (#3) – Thanks for this. The Valdivian Coastal Reserve is an interesting project. TNC bought the land in 2003 after a plantation company went bankrupt. The project is now in a process of validation under VCS. The additionality argument will make for interesting reading – presumably TNC will have to argue that unless they get money from the sale of carbon offsets they would sell the land to a pulp and paper company that would replace the forests with eucalyptus monocultures.

    Apart from that, I think there are two problems with carbon offsets that you are overlooking:

    1. Carbon offsets are not the only way of funding forest conservation projects, or even the only way of funding REDD.

    2. No matter how good the forest project generating the carbon credits, polluting companies will buy the credits in order to offset their on-going pollution. As Treefellas (#1) points out the result is zero net emissions reductions.

  4. @Chris Lang – and thank you. If I understand the history correctly, the additionality would be that had TNC not bought the land, the existing timber concession to legally cut around 1100ha of the 50,000ha reserve would most likely have gone to another logging company who would have converted it to timber plantation. They funded the purchase with a loan (internal to TNC), with the hope and intent to pay it back with REDD funding. In the area, it is remarkable how ubiquitous plantation is; there is now almost no native forest in the area. Because REDD funding is so uncertain today, the fault of a lack of credibility in the many poorly conceived offsetting projects, they are in parallel of course seeking philanthropic funding to make the project a success.

    Yes you are right it is not the only way to fund forest conservation. Is there enough forest conservation? I believe not! It’s pretty evident that we undervalue forests, and REDD funding holds the potential – albeit very tarnished due to credibility issues that desperately need to be improved – of showing, and realizing, the value of these forests. And *especially* REDD has the potential of bringing that value to the local community.

    So, instead of trashing REDD, we should be looking to find the *good* REDD projects, hold them up as examples, and hold all offsetting to similarly high standards.

    As far as zero net emission reductions, if a carbon emitting company can offset a small proportion of their emissions (I believe under the CA system, 5%), they must buy one offset ton for each ton emitted. How does this not result in net reductions? Similar trading was a very successful, economically efficient route to reducing SO2 emissions to reduce easter seaboard acid rain. If it is cheaper and easier for me to reduce my emissions, why should I not reduce my emissions (if I wouldn’t have done so otherwise – the additionality) and sell you that right to emit what I would have done? Is the goal here to damage industry or to reduce emissions. Yes, I understand Oilwatch wants Shell to suffer, but if the emissions reduction system is used as an axe to hurt industries we don’t like, the goals of the system will suffer most of all.

    And, as far as net reductions are concerned, the VCS verification standards that the Valdivia project is working toward are *very* conservative, resulting typically in more emissions actually reduced than offsets sold. Clearly this is the case ~~ 1100ha of would-be logged forest is funding the protection of 50,000ha of land, including a marine ecosystem and beyond. We should be careful what we kill when we are acting with an agenda!

  5. @Ted Cheeseman

    Well said. All great points.

    TO NOTE: Instead of fighting REDD+ in California’s market we would be of better service to fight coal bed methane offset projects which are subsidizing the coal industry’s profits and NOBODY COMPLAINS. Coal bed methane could easily be solved be regulation but that is not possible in today’s political system. Please, please attack them!

    Caveats to the compliment above is that the theory of structuring of cap-and-trade systems to meet emission reduction goals is sound the results are still uncertain. California’s AB 32 is an update from the EU-ETS model which had a number of flaws. The SO2 markets are distinctly smaller in scope and number of effective emission reduction solutions. The ‘hacked’ governments of today are too heavily influenced by industry lobbyists. This was part of the reason why the EU-ETS failed. We shall see about California. This experiment is needed to inform global warming solutions.

    Where is the policy on global warming? We need a restructuring of global finance, trade, and economies. AB 32 is the best we have right now in the U.S. Some of us work to make it the best piece of legislation possible for the people, planet, and all living beings here now and to come.

    The best attribute of offsets and emission trading is to incentivize human ingenuity in creating emission reductions that are not visible to policy makers. However that theory in practice becomes convoluted in implementation due to politics and I agree in offset project types with quantifying suppressed demand such as REDD+, Improved Cooking Stoves, HFCs, LifeStraw, etc. since the veracity of forecasts is speculative. From projects I know the QA/QC by methodologies and verifiers (in VCS and in CDM) have at times erred in favor of more credits, there have also been many where they have reduced the number of credits dramatically. This will always be an issue with project applications of methodologies because developers are incentivized to maximize predictions of emission reductions and the verifiers are overworked. I and others work to address this from inside the system.

    Safeguards and sector-based crediting offer ways to address these problems by setting conservative thresholds and addressing leakage issues. In theory offsets can work as long as they are a small part of the pollution permit portfolio a company submits to meet a cap. The CDM created over $215 billion in financial transfers to the South which funded low carbon development. I cite this in full knowledge of the convolution of intermediaries and corporate beneficiaries. We need a reinvention of our economic model of growth/development. We need investment into that future. There are examples where REDD+ is doing that work. Showcase them too.

    The intensity of our debate will shape REDD+ and any other mechanism to address global warming from different sources. Lets keep it up.

  6. @Observing REDD. Excellent point in context about coal bed methane. Thank you for the thoughts. Our pioneering California experiment will be closely watched, and hopefully will not fumble too much. It’s smoggy here in the bay area today, and I’d like it clearer here… and worldwide