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REDD in the news: 18-24 May 2015

REDD-Monitor’s weekly round up of the news on REDD, forests and climate. The links are organised by date (click on the title for the full article). REDD-Monitor’s news links on are updated regularly. For past REDD in the news posts, click here.

The chaos factor
By Paul F Steinberg, Geographical Magazine, May 2015
Policymakers have rallied around the idea of reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide by paying landowners in poor countries to protect their forests. As a supplement to emissions cuts in industrialised countries, forest-based carbon capture holds great promise. But in the rush to craft an agreement that includes developing countries, there is a question no one is asking: Is sustainable governance of forests even possible within political systems that are themselves unsustainable, experiencing chronic turnover through wars, constitutional crises and coups?

GOFC-GOLD Sourcebook training materials for REDD+ monitoring and reporting
GOFC-GOLD, May 2015
Objectives of training materials: To respond to the need for technical assistance and guidance for countries to develop REDD+ MRV systems, the overall aim is to provide learning and teaching material to enable countries to develop capacities and implement REDD+ monitoring and reporting. The materials were developed based on existing good practice guidance on REDD+ related forest monitoring; in particular on technical material provided in the GOFC-GOLD Sourcebook. The materials were developed by building upon the international GOFC-GOLD expert network and have undergone an independent review process that resulted in a consolidated set of training materials that is ready for use.

18 May 2015

Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF
By Damien Carrington, The Guardian, 18 May 2015
Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments. The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.

Smart reforestation must go beyond carbon: expert
By Catriona Moss, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 18 May 2015
Keeping carbon stored in trees. That’s one major way of tackling climate change. Natural regeneration, replanting, native tree plantations, commercial plantations and agro forestry systems have all be used as part of reforestation efforts. But a new study has found we can do better by ensuring that communities and ecosystems surrounding and within the forests are also more resilient to climate change. And it’s all in the planning. The study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) warns reforestation that ignores the adaptation benefits of replanted forests, using a variety of different practices and tree species, could make local communities and ecosystems more vulnerable to the future impacts of climate change, thereby undermining their effectiveness.

Unilever boss urges world leaders to reduce carbon output
By Roger Harrabin, BBC News, 18 May 2015
The head of Unilever has called on world leaders to raise their game in the battle against climate change. Chief executive Paul Polman said governments must set clear CO2 targets to force low-carbon innovation. Speaking ahead of a business climate summit in Paris this week, he urged fellow chief executives to help create a “political licence” for politicians to promote clean energy. But firms dependent on cheap fossil fuel energy are unlikely to agree. “It’s clear that, increasingly, the business community is aware of the costs of climate change. Momentum is swinging towards people realising that we need to take urgent action to stay below two degrees [increase in global average temperature],” Mr Polman told BBC News.

EU nations push for industry handouts as MSR deal leaves “massive” loophole
By Ben Garside, Carbon Pulse, 18 May 2015
EU governments, fearing carbon leakage, are manoeuvring to ensure their industries get access to more free carbon allowances via an MSR loophole that could see hundreds of millions of the units benefit big emitters. Earlier this month, EU lawmakers struck a landmark deal on the supply-curbing MSR, which observers say could at least double carbon prices by 2020. While the proposal could withhold up to around 1.8 billion EUAs from the market by the end of the decade, a clause in the agreed text may end up cutting that figure by half by ringfencing a plethora of the allowances in an effort to prevent heavy industry seeking cost cuts from relocating outside the EU. “It’s a massive loophole and it could mean hundreds of millions of allowances return to the market,” said Emil Dimantchev, an analyst at Thomson Reuters Point Carbon.

German ministry softens CO2 emission demands for power plants
By Markus Wacket, Reuters, 18 May 2015
Germany plans to force coal-fired power plant operators to reduce their CO2 emissions by 2020 by less than previously planned, according to an economy ministry document seen by Reuters on Monday, bowing to opposition from within the industry. Thousands of coal workers marched in Berlin last month to protest against plans to slap a levy on the oldest and most polluting power plants, which unions say could put 100,000 jobs at risk. The levy is aimed at forcing coal operators to slash their emissions and stop Germany from falling short of its target to cut greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. But RWE, the country’s largest power producer, warned the measure would lead to the immediate closure of its lignite-fired power plants.

[Guyana] New government
Stabroek News, 18 May 2015
Congratulations are in order for President Granger and the APNU+AFC coalition on their electoral victory. The campaign conducted by the opposition alliance is a hopeful sign for a different form of politics and a transformed type of governance. While there were the usual allegations about the level of corruption in the PPP/C government and the abuse of power, the campaign did not descend into the type of vile race division engineered by former President Jagdeo on behalf of the PPP/C… Accountability and value for money in government procurement will by necessity be high on the agenda even in the absence of a procurement commission. At a minimum there must be fairness, transparency and a clear-cut mechanism to challenge the award of contracts. International investors such as Bai Shan Lin and Vaitarna must account comprehensively for the commitments they have made to the state for the right to extract and export precious natural resources.

[Guyana] Gov’t to review Agreements/Contracts inked by PPP/C –transition team to ascertain extent of State assets — HPS Harmon
By Gary Eleazar, Guyana Chronicle, 18 May 2015
Head of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS), Lieutenant Colonel (Rt’d) Joseph Harmon, who has been appointed to lead the Government transition team by Head of State, Brigadier (rtd) David Granger, has assured that A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Government will hit the proverbial ground running, with specific priorities already identified.A priority, according to HPS Harmon, is that of State Property and Assets, Key Personnel at State Institutions, and policies pursued by the previous administration… While in Opposition, APNU+AFC had lamented the manner in which a number of large Government projects were being pursued, and even their feasibility. Among the high-profile projects to have grabbed headlines were the Amaila Falls Hydro-Electric Project… Policies pursued in the forestry, gold and related sectors have also been identified by the APNU+AFC Government as areas for review.

19 May 2015

[Australia] Large tree-planting project to be carried out
Bundaberg NewsMail, 19 May 2015
A company tasked with assisting big business to offset carbon emissions is set to undertake a large tree-planting project in the Barolin Nature Reserve. Environment and Natural Resources portfolio spokesman Danny Rowleson said the approval of Greenfleet’s proposal in this week’s Ordinary Meeting was a win for council, the community and the environment. “For very minimal investment from council we will be able to see one of our region’s most popular and significant natural areas revitalised through the planting of a variety of native tree species,” Cr Rowleson said. “Council regularly undertakes tree planting projects in the reserve in partnership with local business and community groups on a much smaller scale. “Without the assistance of Greenfleet, a project of this scale would not otherwise be within council’s budget or resources.” He said the project would include planting a variety of native trees on approximately 65 hectares of bare land…

[China] Dear Li Keqiang: ‘Please respect our rights and environment’
By David Hill, The Guardian, 19 May 2015
What would you say to Premier Li if you could talk to him for a minute or two, particularly if you were currently involved in fighting, or struggling in some way against, a Chinese-backed project? I put that question to various people across Latin America. Monica Lopez Baltodano, from Nicaragua, says she would raise one particular project with Li: the increasingly infamous plan to build a canal across the country which involves cutting right through Lake Cocibolca, which she calls the “biggest and most important reserve of drinking water in all of Central America.” “Chinese businessmen, together with our ambitious and unwise leaders, are proposing to build the canal that would cross the lake for more than 100 kms,” says Lopez Baltodano, from the Popol Na Foundation. “The canal will generate profits, but will cause irreversible humanitarian damage. What will be lost forever is the only source of fresh water for everyone in our region…”

Merkel, Hollande, commit to global climate protection
By Kirsten Grieshaber, Associated Press, 19 May 2015
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande confirmed their commitment to fighting global warning Tuesday, gathering with others in Berlin to prepare for this year’s U.N. Climate Change Conference. Merkel and Hollande said in a joint statement that both countries “are firmly decided to take all efforts to reach an ambitious, comprehensive and binding U.N. climate agreement by the end of this year in Paris.” The preparatory talks in Berlin involve 35 countries. The Paris summit in December aims to curb climate change and rising global temperatures, which scientists say are largely driven by carbon emissions. The European two leaders said they “are committed to the goal of limiting global temperature increases at least to below 2°C compared with pre-industrial levels.”

[Guyana] Local operators forced out…BaiShanLin takes over river transport
Kaieteur News, 19 May 2015
There is growing anger by local contractors over unfair competition from BaiShanLin, a Chinese company that has been handed waivers, tax breaks and duty-free concessions by the Jagdeo administration. Days after truckers complained that BaiShanLin has been taking away their businesses, there are more accusations now. This time, barge operators who have been fetching sand and logs for local private companies, are accusing BaiShanLin of muscling its way in and hijacking the riverain transportation business. An operator who has been in business for more than two decades, said that his usual 10 trips a month have been reduced to almost zero. “I have more than five crewmen and they have families. My payroll is almost $1M monthly. How can we compete against the Chinese when they have been granted so many concessions? “We pay taxes on everything. I am asking the new President, David Granger, to investigate this. They are offering their service far cheaper than us.

South Korea’s power boost
By Anthony Fensom, World Coal, 19 May 2015
Coal demand in South Korea is on an upward trend, with the world’s fourth-largest coal importer expected to increase imports to 131 million t in 2015 from around 120 million t last year on the back of new coal-fired power plants, despite a new tax on imports… In July 2014, the government imposed a new tax on coal imports for power generation, while cutting duties on some alternative fuels, aiming to curb power consumption and CO2 emissions ahead of the launch of a new carbon trading scheme in January 2015. However, coal used for purposes other than power generation was exempted from the tax, which is likely to shift demand towards higher calorific value coal. According to Thomson Reuters Point Carbon, South Korea’s emissions trading market is the second-largest in the world behind the EU, but an oversupply of carbon credits will minimise potential switching from coal to gas-fired power.

[USA] Climate change: Gov. Jerry Brown signs climate pact with other states, foreign provinces
By Jessica Calefati and Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News, 19 May 2015
Hoping to build momentum for a stronger international climate change deal in December, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed an agreement between California and 11 other U.S. states and foreign provinces to sharply limit emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. “This global challenge requires bold action on the part of governments everywhere,” Brown said. “It’s time to be decisive. It’s time to act.” Under the U.S. Constitution, only the federal government can sign treaties with other countries. But Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger before him have staged several high-profile news events to commit California and other states to non-binding accords in which they agree to limit industrial emissions that the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists say are causing the planet to continue warming.

20 May 2015

Dirty air and disease: why we must end the subsidy of fossil fuels
By Nicholas Stern, The Guardian, 20 May 2015
The world is starting to realise that fossil fuels are not cheap. It is increasingly clear that oil, coal and gas have huge hidden costs that are omitted from prices, and they are therefore heavily subsidised. The latest evidence about how expensive fossil fuels really are has been provided this week by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an organisation that monitors the progress of the world’s economy. It estimates that oil, coal and gas will receive US$5.3tn in subsidies this year around the world. That is the equivalent of 6.3% of global GDP. The IMF correctly argues that the damages and costs caused by fossil fuels, through impacts such as air pollution, congestion, traffic accidents and climate change, should be treated as subsidies if they are not included in the prices paid for oil, coal and gas.

Climate countdown: 200 days to Paris
By Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle, 20 May 2015
The United Nations Climate Secretariat UNFCCC – based in Bonn, Germany – is working around the clock to prepare for the key Paris meeting and ensure that governments put firm pledges on the table. The next round of preparatory talks will take place in Bonn early in June. But climate change has become an issue on the agenda of other key international meetings. This week, Germany’s Chancellor Merkel hosted the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin. The annual round of informal talks was launched in 2010, after the failed climate summit in Copenhagen the year prior. Among the representatives of 35 countries attending were the president and foreign minister of France, which will host the key talks at the end of the year. Paris is also currently staging a Climate Week, which will include a high-level business summit to mark the “200 days” to Paris talks.

Why the Paris climate summit will boost REDD+
By Mariama Vendramini, Environmental Finance, 20 May 2015
2015 is set to be a decisive year for forests and initiatives that reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). Loss of forests and land use change is responsible for approximately 20% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but has been poorly covered by mandatory carbon reduction schemes. The Kyoto Protocol only considers reforestation as valid, disregarding many other forestry activities such as improved forest management (IFM) and avoided deforestation. Even its support of reforestation was via restrictive methodologies that inhibited it from properly taking off as a sector. The combination of the Warsaw Pact for REDD+ Action and the expected Paris Agreement in December will be a game changer for forestry. The former set REDD+ as an official tool to mitigate climate change, while the latter will, hopefully, reach a binding agreement that will drive widespread emissions reductions.

Mismatched graph creates confusion in Canada’s UN climate pledge
By Sophie Yeo, The Carbon Brief, 20 May 2015
Canada has submitted its intended contribution to the UN’s forthcoming climate deal, but its new target has done little to remedy its reputation as a climate laggard… According to Canada’s INDC, a 30% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 marks a significant deviation from how its emissions would be projected to grow in the absence of current policies… Yet this graph, which shows emissions in 2030 as below 1990 levels, appears to paint an incorrect picture of Canada’s own intended target. The black line in this graph appears to be based on emissions data excluding land use and forestry, which Canada has included in its target. If these sectors are included, Canada’s 30% reduction on 2005 levels would leave total emissions in 2030 higher by 6% than they were in 1990…

[Canada] Green Party Challenges Conservatives on Green House Gas Targets
Net News Ledger, 20 May 2015
Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP (Saanich – Gulf Islands), issued the following statement regarding the Harper Conservatives’ announcement of its climate targets: “In 2009, Stephen Harper announced Canada’s climate commitments at Copenhagen, but never put in a plan to reach these targets by 2020. If we had started working on this in 2009, we may have achieved them; now we are way behind. Once again, Stephen Harper has no clear plan to reach the targets he announced; when asked if the Conservatives would consider international carbon credits to make up for the shortfalls in their plan, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq refused to answer and walked away from the press conference. “We can do better than 30%, but we will not achieve the goal of lowering Canada’s emissions through provincial action alone, nor will methane regulations get us there…”

China’s Climate Pledge Will Include New Commitment To Forests
By Jeff McMahon, Forbes, 20 May 2015
Look for China to make new investments in forestry and deeper cuts in carbon intensity when it delivers its tardy climate pledge to the United Nations “soon,” a Chinese official said in Chicago Tuesday… 2. Greater carbon sink from forestry. Expect China to expand forests in a land that has been deforested for millennia , and to tinker with existing forests so they more effectively capture atmospheric carbon. China pledged in 2009 to expand its forests by 40 million hectares and forest-stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020. According to the World Bank, China’s forest cover has increased since then from 21.7 percent of land area in 2009 to 22.6 percent in 2012, the most recent year for which the bank has data. China’s reforestation program was ambitious even before the Copenhagen summit, but some observers have questioned its long-term success because China has relied on fast-growing species that are non-native and unlikely to thrive.

China sets 40% carbon intensity reduction target for industry
By Stian Reklev, Carbon Pulse, 20 May 2015
Chinese manufacturers must cut their carbon intensity by 40% over the next decade, according to the State Council’s new ten-year action plan for the manufacturing industry. The plan, dubbed “Made in China 2025”, included a raft of targets and strategies aiming to transform China’s industrial sectors in the years ahead. According to the State Council document, manufacturers must reduce their CO2 emissions per unit of industrial added value by 22% by 2020 compared to 2015 levels, and 40% by 2025. It also announced a target to reduce energy intensity in manufacturing to 18% below 2015 levels by 2020 and 34% by 2025. The targets could trigger a further drop in China’s coal consumption, as industry relies heavily on coal, accounting for around half the nation’s use of the fossil fuel.

EU nation envoys suggest use of carbon import tariffs for some sectors
By Ben Garside, Carbon Pulse, 20 May 2015
The EU could impose carbon tariffs to cover the environmental costs of certain imported products such as cement, a panel of member state officials said in a paper published Wednesday, potentially putting the issue back on Europe’s political agenda for the first time since it was quietly shelved in 2010. While some think such tariffs could help make EU climate policy more effective, others say raising the issue risks sparking wider trade conflicts or threatens a global climate deal due later this year. The recommendation was made in a letter dated May 13 by the chair of the High Level Working Group on Competitiveness and Growth published on the Council of the European Union website.

[Germany] Rich countries urged to follow Merkel’s call on climate finance
The Jakarta Post, 20 May 2015
International aid agency Oxfam is urging rich countries to follow German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s call on climate finance for developing nations, which she made in Berlin on Tuesday. Oxfam climate change policy advisor Jan Kowalzig said it was refreshing to see Chancellor Merkel understanding how climate finance was key to securing success at the Paris Conference of the Parties in December. “More rich countries must now follow her call to table a credible plan that ramps up climate support for developing nations, boosting the current US$35 billion a year to an annual $100 billion by 2020,” he said in a release on Tuesday. Kowalzig further said, however, that meeting the $100 billion target by 2020 would just be fulfilling a five-year-old promise.

If you can’t add, don’t subtract from Guyana’s forests – Dr. Roopnaraine
By Kiana Wilburg, Kaieteur News, 20 May 2015
Based on its observations and in some cases, concrete evidence which it accumulated over the years, the A Partnership for National Unity plus Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) has been unrelenting in its criticisms of the mismanagement of the Natural Resources sector. Tipped to head this very Ministry, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine in an interview yesterday told Kaieteur News that should he be confirmed to handle this division, there would be a serious “cleansing process.” Speaking particularly on the affairs of the Forestry Sector, Dr. Roopnaraine said that his plans for this industry which he is most passionate about would not be too different from what he has outlined for mining. The politician asserted that one of the very first things he would seek to look at is the contracts granted under the forestry division.

Primary rainforest cleared for massive palm oil plantations in Peru
By John C. Cannon,, 20 May 2015
More than 9,400 hectares of closed-canopy Amazonian rainforest has been removed for two oil palm plantations in the Peruvian region of Ucayali since 2011, according to scientists working for MAAP, the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project. The two plantations are linked to Czech entrepreneur Dennis Melka. Melka is the CEO of United Cacao, a Cayman Islands-based company that has been accused by scientists and NGOs of clearing more than 2,000 hectares of primary forest for a cacao plantation in another part of Peru while claiming to espouse a “sustainable” approach. He is also the founder, director, chairman, and CEO of United Oils, headquartered in the Cayman Islands according to some associates, and is a Singapore-based “palm oil refiner” according to others. Based on the public statements of at least one American investor, it appears that United Oils has also claimed that its operations are also sustainable.

21 May 2015

Save rainforests or they will worsen climate change, warns ex-WWF chief
By Kate Connolly, The Guardian, 21 May 2015
Claude Martin, the author of a report on the precarious health of tropical forests and a former head of the WWF, said the world ignored the plight of forests at its peril, calling them “vital to the future of humanity” and stressing that governments needed “a wake-up call”. “Tropical rainforests have disappeared from the political radar, having been at the centre of the environmental debate in the 80s and 90s,” Martin said at the launch in Berlin of On the Edge, which was commissioned by the global thinktank Club of Rome. “We need renewed political will to trigger a global conscience about this issue. “Governments are too focused on other environmental issues, as if the forest problems had gone away, when in fact they’re getting worse every day.”

Oil Giants Band Together to Add Voice to Climate Debate
By Tara Patel and Javier Blas, Bloomberg, 21 May 2015
Europe’s largest oil companies are banding together to forge a joint strategy on climate-change policy, alarmed they’ll be ignored as the world works toward a historic deal limiting greenhouse gases. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Total SA, BP Plc, Statoil ASA and Eni SpA are among oil companies that plan to start a new industry body, or think tank, to develop common positions on the issues, according to people with knowledge of the matter. So far the largest U.S. companies — Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. — have decided not to participate, the people said, asking not be named before a public announcement expected as early as next month. Efforts to reduce fossil-fuel investments and spur renewables such as solar and wind power have gathered pace in the past two years with oil companies sitting largely outside the debate.

[Canada] Groups say TimberWest went on logging-spree ahead of new rules
By Sunny Dhillon, The Globe and Mail, 21 May 2015
Environmental groups have accused TimberWest of speeding up logging in the Great Bear Rainforest before tougher regulations take effect – an allegation the company denies. The province notes TimberWest is meeting legal requirements. Sierra Club B.C., Greenpeace and ForestEthics Solutions alleged Thursday that TimberWest has significantly increased its logging of the Great Bear Rainforest in recent years. They said satellite imagery suggests TimberWest logged more than 4,400 hectares of rain forest between 2009 and early 2015. The environmental groups also accused TimberWest of going over its annual allowable cut and called on the company to freeze operations in the region. “This is happening in the southern-most part of the Great Bear Rainforest, with a history of logging, very little old-growth remaining, and species that depend on old-growth,” Jens Wieting, a forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club B.C., said in an interview.

Canada has put its head in the tar sands
Climate Spectator, 21 May 2015
Under its INDC, Canada proposes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels in 2030. This translates to a 21% reduction below 2005 emissions levels excluding forestry, or 2% below 1990 levels. The reality behind Canada’s INDC (and its 2020 target) is that it will have to implement a lot more policies to achieve its pledges. Without including forestry, Canada’s emissions are projected to increase on 2005 levels by 1% and 8% in 2020 and 2030, respectively. Relative to 1990 levels, emissions are expected to increase by 26% and 35% in 2020 and 2030, respectively. But the government is likely to use forestry credits to cover the shortfall. “Canada’s forest sinks are expected to increase through to 2030. This will create a substantial amount of carbon credits that the government can use to avert action on reducing fossil fuel emissions,” said Louise Jeffery, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

[Canada] Leaked letter questions B.C. government’s ability to protect farmland
The Globe and Mail, 21 May 2015
Shortly before he was fired as head of the Agricultural Land Commission, Richard Bullock wrote to the provincial government to complain that the ALC didn’t have adequate powers to protect farmland. Leaked correspondence obtained by The Globe and Mail shows that Mr. Bullock, a passionate defender of B.C.’s agricultural land reserve (ALR), had views that appeared to contradict the government’s public position that the ALC had the authority it needed. However, in an interview Wednesday, B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick denied the claims in Mr. Bullock’s letter. “My letter is prompted by two recent events which I believe demonstrate a need for clear, concise and well-defined regulations,” Mr. Bullock wrote in an April 22 letter to Derek Sturko, the deputy minister of agriculture. “I refer to the biosolid processing issue in Lower Nicola and the use of ALR land for carbon sequestration [carbon credits].”

[Guyana] President Granger tells dept. heads… Zero tolerance for corruption, bribery
Kaieteur News, 21 May 2015
President David Granger signaled intentions to review the current retirement age for public servants, yesterday, saying that his administration also was not keen on placing too many Government workers on contracts. It was the first major engagement between the Head of State and Heads of Department since he was sworn in last Saturday at the Parliament Building. During the morning meeting at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre formerly the International Convention Centre at Liliendaal, the President said that he was expecting the quality of services to improve significantly across the country, with political appointments in the public service not likely to come anytime soon from his administration. He also said that he will be accepting a number of resignations from public servants who resigned from their posts to campaign for the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) for the May 11.

[Indonesia] Going ape: Finding orangutan refuges in Borneo
By Laura Deal, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 21 May 2015
Orangutan populations in the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo have suffered decades of population decline due to habitat loss. In Borneo alone, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that more than 50 percent of the population has been lost in the last 60 years. This loss has drawn attention to the role played by logging and the oil palm industry in the rapid loss of lowland forests—which are the orangutan’s primary habitat. With nearly half of Indonesian Borneo’s remaining forest earmarked for development, conservation groups and environmental activists have called for strong protection of lowland forests to protect the species from Kalimantan’s palm oil and population booms. However, a new study suggests that with climate change, these noble convictions may be misplaced.

[Indonesia] Trans-Papua Highway: Economic development versus conservation
By Freddy Pattiselanno and Agustina Y.S. Arobaya, Manokwari, The Jakarta Post, 21 May 2015
In his four-day trip to Papua and West Papua, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo promised to complete the construction of the Trans-Papua highway, which has been postponed due to various reasons since its start in 2013. He compared the differences among the western, middle and eastern parts of Indonesia and said that when the infrastructure was built, commodity prices in Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua would be more equal. “The gap will no longer be as big as we see right now,” he said… Our survey along the coast of the Bird’s Head Peninsula found that the 571-km stretch of the Trans-West Papua Highway along the coast has split pristine forests and increased the trading of wildlife from remote villages into the nearest market towns. However, despite the tremendous expectations and vast investment in the road development, communities in the region still live below the poverty line.

[South Korea] Local businesses request change to emissions cap
Korea JoongAng Daily, 21 May 2015
Korean businesses across more than 25 sectors issued a statement Wednesday requesting that the government reassign carbon credits due to the current emissions cap being excessively strict, which has led some heavily-emitting sectors to lose their competitive advantage against global rivals. Participating associations include the automotive, petrochemical, steel and energy sectors, of which domestic manufacturing giants Posco, LG Chem and SK Chemical are members. In a joint statement issued from the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), composed of 25 sector associations and 38 energy companies, the group demanded that the government recalculate the emissions cap for each industry; reassign the emissions cap for the 2015-2017 period based on that new calculation; and review Korea’s carbon emissions forecast for 2020.

[USA] How agriculture’s resilience to climate change benefits us all
By Sara Kroopf, EDF, 21 May 2015
In the Mississippi River Delta, there is a voluntary program that incentivizes landowners and farmers to restore wetlands on their property, since there is proof that restoring wetlands can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help buffer coastal populations from storm surges. In California, there is a carbon protocol currently under review that would incentivize wetland restoration to sequester carbon, protect against floods, and improve habitat… The California Air Resources Board is in the final stages of approval for a protocol that would allow rice farmers to generate carbon credits by reducing methane emissions while sustaining production and providing critical wetland habitat for migratory birds. When approved, this will be the first crop-based protocol, setting the stage for other agricultural protocols in the near future.

[USA] Air Resources Board holds 11th cap-and-trade carbon auction
By Allen Young, Sacramento Business Journal, 21 May 2015
The California Air Resources Board held its second quarterly carbon auction related to its cap-and-trade program Thursday, and the eleventh auction since the program began in late 2012. The governments of California and Quebec jointly held the auction, which relinquished about 77 million carbon credits for private buyers. Each credit is worth 1 metric ton of allowable carbon dioxide. Total revenue from Thursday’s auction will be released June 17, said Air Resources Board spokesman David Clegern. The last auction, held in February, yielded approximately $630 million for the state of California. That revenue is split, with half of the money going to utility companies to offset costs for electricity users and the other half funding high-speed rail and other projects related to clean air, water conservation, building efficiency or infrastructure.

[USA] CBC approves carbon credits deal with BP
Tribal Tribune, 21 May 2015
The Colville Business Council approved two resolutions read off from the Management and Budget Committee Chair Billy Nicholson in Special Session that promise the sell of potential carbon offset credits to British Petroleum in a 100-year contract, today, May 21. The first resolution approves a limited waiver of sovereign immunity that enables the Colville Tribes to apply to list potential carbon credits with the California Air Resources Board through California’s Cap-and-Trade Program. The second approves an agreement with BP to sale any listed credits with the international company. Both Jack Ferguson, Keller District, and Nancy Johnson, Nespelem District, voted against the resolutions that both passed 6-2.

22 May 2015

Axa to ditch €500m of coal holdings in 2015
By Megan Darby, RTCC, 22 May 2015
French insurance group Axa has pledged to sell €500 million of coal assets before 2016, citing climate concerns. The biggest institutional investor to shun coal stocks, Axa also plans to sink €3 billion into low carbon sectors by 2020. Henri de Castries, the company’s chief executive, revealed the move at Climate Week Paris and encouraged others to follow. “The facts are undeniable. If we think we can live in a world where temperatures would have increased by more than 2C we’re just fooling ourselves,” he said. On the insurance side of the business, he said increasingly intense and frequent extreme weather saw AXA pay out more than €1 billion on weather-related insurance claims last year. “Climate risk for us is neither an ideological or theoretical issue: it is a core business issue, as we are already seeing the impact of increasing weather-related disaster risks.”

Fossil fuel giants reject calls to keep oil, gas and coal in ground
By Megan Darby, RTCC, 22 May 2015
Very few fossil fuel executives today openly reject the basic science of man-made climate change. US coal giant Peabody’s recent attack on “flawed models” was an exception. Indeed, at this week’s Business and Climate Summit in Paris bosses of Statoil, Glencore and Total are joining calls for an effective global emissions-cutting deal. Saudi Arabia’s oil minister is present, talking up his country’s renewable energy plans. But their responses to warnings coal, oil and gas assets could be “stranded” by climate action tell a different story. “We are going to produce oil and gas for a long time and I see no scenarios where that is not the case,” says Statoil’s Eldar Saetre, in a typical statement. There is not a single coal, oil or gas company that has a business plan in line with the internationally agreed 2C warming limit. The emissions from burning their products, as things stand, will blow the carbon budget.

Shareholder Pressure Increasing Over Climate Change Risks
By Tara Patel and Stefan Nicola, Bloomberg, 22 May 2015
Energy companies are facing increased scrutiny over their carbon emissions as pension funds worth billions grow anxious about the risks posed by climate change. Philippe Desfosses, chief executive officer of ERAFP, a pension fund for French civil servants, warned of the risks posed by rising sea levels and warming temperatures at a business and climate conference in Paris that finishes Friday. “There is a legal risk that is coming,” Desfosses said. “If there is a carbon risk for a business, how can CEOs of pension funds justify that they don’t give a damn and won’t mitigate it?” Business leaders met over three days to work out common positions on environmental policies that will feed into a United Nations effort to reach a global treaty on climate change later this year. Their decisions on issues such as the production and use of coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, could lead some investors to shun their shares.

Brazil’s ditching of climate change targets may not signal policy shift
By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, 22 May 2015
First it was there. Then it was gone. The long-awaited announcement of Brazil’s new climate target came and went with a sleight of hand that caused an uproar among environmentalists this week. But rather than signalling a shift in policy, as some had feared, the sudden appearance and disappearance of the country’s CO2 reduction goals appears to have more to do with diplomatic mistakes, realpolitik priorities and the greater importance of the US than China, the Guardian has learned. The plan to set a ceiling on carbon dioxide emissions first appeared in the draft of a joint climate statement from Brazil and China ahead of a meeting between Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Chinese premier Li Keqiang. That text included the much-anticipated goal: “Brazil has announced its intention to establish an upper limit to its emissions by 2030.” But these sentences had been dropped when the final version was posted…

[Cambodia] UN comments not welcome
By Vong Sokheng and Charles Parkinson, Phnom Penh Post, 22 May 2015
The UN should be seen and not heard, at least when it comes to Cambodia’s controversial draft NGO law, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong said yesterday. Taking public issue with comments about the legislation for the second time in as many days, Namhong strongly criticised four UN agencies for statements made on the subject, after calling their heads to a meeting at his office yesterday morning. “There are no words allowing you to comment or criticise the royal government about the draft law, which is not under your mandate,” Namhong said. “The draft law has nothing to do with human rights, with children, with the Cambodian population or women.”

[Canada] Locals Versus Corporate Carbon Offsets in British Columbia
By Elizabeth Harball, Scientific American, 22 May 2015
As consumers start worrying more about climate change, big businesses are increasingly looking to forests to assuage their greenhouse gas guilt. The concept, called forest carbon offsets, is fairly straightforward—a company pays to plant trees, sometimes even buying land to do so, and the carbon taken in by the forest cancels out emissions the company produces in other places. But Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC (RB), a major U.K.-based company behind well-known household products like Lysol, Woolite and Durex condoms, is learning that acquiring forest carbon offsets sometimes means the acquisition of new neighbors—neighbors that aren’t necessarily happy with what’s being done with the land. As part of its sustainability efforts, RB is buying up farms in the Canadian province of British Columbia and planting trees there by the millions.

[Canada] B.C. government warns of limits on tree planting
By Mark Hume, The Globe and Mail, 22 May 2015
After saying for weeks that the amount of farmland being lost to carbon sequestration projects in B.C. is not a significant problem, the provincial government has written to the head of a foreign company suggesting that it indeed is an issue of concern. British-based multinational Reckitt Benckiser has been buying farmland and replanting trees to sequester carbon, thereby taking the land out of agricultural production. But in a letter, the government has told the company it must get approval from the Agricultural Land Commission if it wants to register a covenant in B.C. that would allow it to trade carbon credits. The covenant would force the land to be protected from future logging for 100 years. Farmers and ranchers in the Cariboo suggest that means the land would be out of agricultural production for that long. But a company representative said in an e-mail Thursday that it is not trading in carbon credits…

India Won’t Shift Away From Coal, Minister Tells UN
By DR Benny Peiser, Canada Free Press, 22 May 2015
India has told a high-level energy meeting here that it will not be fair to expect it to move away from coal to meet energy requirements of millions of Indians, underscoring that coal will continue to remain the “mainstay” of its energy needs for the “foreseeable future.”—Press Trust of India, 22 May 2015 Just as in all other countries, including the developed world, coal will continue to remain the mainstay of our energy related needs for the foreseeable future. In all fairness, it would not be correct to say or to expect India to move away from coal when we are at the cusp of our developmental journey.—Indian Energy Minister Piyush Goyal, Press Trust of India, 22 May 2015

[USA] Record heat roasts parts of Alaska, where it’s warmer than Washington, D.C.
By Jason Samenow, The Washington Post, 22 May 2015
Since Wednesday, high temperatures (well into the 70s) in Fairbanks, Alaska have outdone the highs (in the 60s to mid-70s) in Washington, D.C. The Last Frontier is in the midst of an extended streak of record-challenging warmth that will continue through next week. Alaska’s warmest temperatures, with respect to normal, have actually focused north and east of Fairbanks. Barrow – Alaska’s northernmost city, located above the Arctic circle – has logged record highs four of the past five days, including a toasty 47 on Thursday. That’s some 18 degrees above normal.

23 May 2015

Shell CEO backs climate change warnings as well as need to keep drilling
By Carl Surran, Seeking Alpha, 23 May 2015
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A, RDS.B) CEO Ben van Beurden endorses the view that the world’s fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned unless a way is found to capture their carbon emissions, but maintains that hydrocarbons will be needed for years to come. Justifying Shell’s decision to drill exploration wells in the Alaskan Arctic, the CEO says: “The decline in existing production is always going to be faster than the decline that the most successful [low carbon] policies can create. There is always going to be a need for investment.” But van Beurden criticizes calls for pension funds and foundations to divest from energy companies, in particular The Guardian’s “Keep it in the Ground” campaign, and considers it a simplistic solution.

24 May 2015

China readies national carbon market to fight climate change
By Jack Chang, AP, 24 May 2015
At first, the numbers and company names flashing on a big board in Beijing’s financial district suggest a booming market. A closer look indicates otherwise: The scrolling list rotates the same dozen or so trades, all from last year. The lights from the Beijing Environment Exchange — one of seven pilot markets in China for trading carbon — raises questions for the country as it prepares for next year’s roll-out of a nationwide system that could help the world’s biggest emitter of heat-trapping carbon dioxide rein in its emissions… So far, the pilots have failed to make a noticeable dent in carbon emissions, with about 978 million yuan, or $158 million, traded since their launch in 2013, compared to the 7.2 billion euros, or about $8 billion, of carbon offsets that were traded in the European market in its first year of operation, 2006.

[Guyana] Forestry expert urges investigation of Asian logging companies
Kaieteur News, 24 May 2015
Civic-led (PPP/C) administrations to mainly Asian logging companies have one forestry expert now urging the new Government to launch an investigation to ensure that there is no repeat of these “sweetheart” deals. There have been increasing accusations, both locally and internationally, that blatant examples of companies like Chinese-owned BaiShanLin and Malaysian-owned Barama Company Limited, are evidence that the previous companies failed to perform their duties and ensured that Guyana benefitted from foreign investments. Experts like Girwar Lalaram, who has spent decades in the logging industry serving for several years as Chairman of Malaysian-owned Barama, believe that immediate action should be taken against these companies. Lalaram, the economist, is also calling for a forensic audit to be done on both BaiShanLin and Barama.

[Guyana] Go-Invest was kept in the dark on many foreign investments
By Abena Rockcliffe, Kaieteur News, 24 May 2015
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest), Keith Burrowes, said yesterday that Guyana’s premier investment agency can only account for about 10 percent of the foreign investments made in the country in recent years. Burrowes made this known as he conducted a telephone interview, during which he found it necessary to note that he has no political allegiance and is fully prepared to work with the new government… However, when asked about his preparedness to tell the new government how Guyana has been benefitting from the many foreign investments made in the country, Burrowes dropped the bomb that his company can only account for 10 percent of the total investments. He said that most foreign investments in Guyana’s natural resources whether gold, diamond or timber went through the Ministry of Natural Resources which was headed by Robert Persaud. Companies like “Bai Shan Lin did not come through us.”

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