More than 2,200 people attended CIFOR’s dog and pony show at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta, organised together with Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry. Holmgren explained that this turning point is a result of three global processes. Holmgren promised that the Forests Asia Summit would show “how central — and integral — forests and landscapes are for making progress in these”.
Here’s how Holmgren sees these three processes, with forests in the centre of each of them.
- The post-2015 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals:
“We have, and must take, the opportunity to demonstrate that forestry contributes strongly to all development priorities. But for this to happen, sectors must work together to find combined landscape solutions.”
- The next climate agreement:
“The IPCC reports show us just how important are food systems and forest management. They show that adaptation and mitigation in the land-based sectors are a very big part of the solution.”
- The Green Economy initiative:
Green growth with equity, indeed, in my view, starts with sustainable investments in the landscape. Let’s remember that forestry is a cornerstone of the Green Economy.
The “Sustainable Development Goals” came out of the Rio+20 Conference in 2012. They are to be finalised by the UN General Assembly this summer. The Sustainable Development Goals replace the Millennium Development Goals, and were dreamed up in Rio because it was obvious that the Millennium Development Goals would not be met by the deadline of 2015. Not an auspicious start for a “world turning point”.
The next climate agreement takes over from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which utterly failed to reduce CO2 emissions:
The negotiations for the next climate agreement do not include finding ways of leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Without reducing emissions from fossil fuels addressing climate change is impossible, but Holmgren doesn’t mention this omission.
A Green Economy is, according to UNEP, one which is “low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive”. Economic growth will continue with money pouring in from the private sector. Emissions will go down, because the economy will be, er, green.
In 2011, UNEP produced a 630-page report about the Green Economy. Perhaps surprisingly, the report doesn’t analyse the global economic and financial crisis – the worst in 80 years. As Larry Lohmann of The CornerHouse points out, the report contains no analysis of the causes of the crisis, or links between financialisation and the Green Economy.
It’s interesting to look at how UNEP views forests through its lens of the Green Economy. Opportunities listed in the report include sustainable forest management, the growth of protected areas, and payments for ecosystem services and REDD+.
These three “opportunities” are all deeply problematic. The concept of sustainable forest management has been used for years by the timber industry to expand industrial logging concessions in primary forests throughout the tropics.
Protected areas have often been set up at the expense of indigenous communities and local communities living in and around the protected areas.
UNEP mentions the Noel Kempff project in Bolivia as a successful payment for ecosystem services project. This is the same project that Greenpeace described as a “Carbon Scam“. In a 2009 report on the project, Greenpeace questioned the project developers’ claims on leakage, additionality, permanence and their ability to measure accurately the amount of carbon stored in the forest.
UNEP and Holmgren both mention Indonesia and Norway’s US$1 billion REDD deal. Of course, neither of them mention the fact that Norway’s money comes from oil. Or that Norway invests far more in forest-destroying companies through its Government Pension Fund – Global than it spends on its attempts to protect forests.
Holmgren introduced Indonesia’s president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as “someone who does not shy away from making and keeping commitments”. At another CIFOR event in 2011, Yudhoyono had promised to dedicate the next three years of his presidency to protecting Indonesia’s forests.
Holmgren lists Yudhoyono’s achievements: a moratorium on new forest concessions; the country’s new REDD+ Agency; a constitutional court decision that returned customary forests to indigenous peoples; and Yudhoyono’s promotion of “inclusive, green growth”.
Holmgren didn’t mention the existing forest concessions, that are not addressed by the moratorium and that cover 78% of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia’s pilot REDD province. Neither did he mention the fires in Sumatra that produced record breaking pollution in Singapore last year. Nor did he mention the coal mining boom in Indonesia or the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (MP3EI) which proposes new roads, new railways, the expansion of the mining industry, and huge new areas of oil palm and industrial tree plantations.
And obviously, Holmgren didn’t mention the fact that the rate of deforestation since the moratorium has doubled, reaching two million hectares a year in 2011 and 2012.
Holmgren might be right when he says that the world is at a turning point. But if we rely on his proposed solutions, it’s more likely to be the sort of turning point that water takes before plunging out of sight down the plughole.