REDD-Monitor’s round-up of the week’s news on forests, climate change, and REDD. For regular updates, follow @reddmonitor on Twitter.
31 December 2018
Towards zero deforestation
UN environment, 31 December 2018
The human population is still growing and needs space and resources. It is, therefore, not easy to reconcile development, biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation efforts. Which areas can be allocated for development and what should be off-limits to conserve forests and biodiversity? And how do we ensure that stakeholders, including governments and the private sector, respect minimum standards for land use planning processes?
The uncontacted tribes of Brazil face genocide under Jair Bolsonaro
By Fiona Watson, The Guardian, 31 December 2018
On 1 January, Jair Bolsonaro will be sworn in as Brazil’s 38th president. He has expressed open disdain for the indigenous peoples of Brazil, and it is no exaggeration to say that some of the world’s most unique and diverse tribes are facing annihilation. Genocide is defined by the UN as “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. Large-scale mass genocides rightly receive global attention, yet countless others go unreported and unpunished because the victims number only a few hundred, or even a few dozen.
1 January 2019
Permafrost thaw unsettles the Arctic
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network, 1 January 2019
In just one human generation, citizens of the far north could find themselves on shifting soils as the region’s permafrost thaws. Roads will slump. Buildings will buckle. Pipelines will become at risk of fracture. And in 2050, around three fourths of the people of the permafrost could watch their infrastructure collapse, as what was once hard frozen ground turns into mud.
All this could happen even if the world keeps the promise it made in Paris in 2015 and limits global average warming to just 1.5°C above the level for most of pre-industrial history.
The value of nature in smart development
By Maxwell Gomera, Eco-Business, 1 January 2019
In November 2017, scientists working in Sumatra, Indonesia, made an exciting announcement: they had discovered a new species of orangutan, bringing to seven the number of great ape species globally.
But one year later, the only home of the 800 wild Tapanuli orangutans is being cleared for a $1.6 billion dam and hydroelectric power plant. Although the project will contribute less than 1 per cent of the country’s planned generating capacity, scientists say it will lead to the extinction of this rare species. This raises, once again, a key question: what is nature worth?
2 January 2019
Rainforests: storylines to watch in 2019
By Rhett A. Butler, Mongabay, 2 January 2019
2018 wasn’t a great year for tropical rainforests, with major conservation setbacks in Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, and the United States coming on top of back-to-back years of high forest cover loss. Here are ten storylines we’re watching in the world of rainforests as we begin 2019.
‘Momentum is growing’: reasons to be hopeful about the environment in 2019
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, 2 January 2019
Extreme weather hit the headlines throughout 2018, from the heatwave across much of the northern hemisphere, which saw unprecedented wildfires in Sweden, drought in the UK and devastating wildfires in the US, to floods in India and typhoons in south-east Asia.
According to the World Meteorological Organisation, last year was the fourth hottest on record and confirms a trend of rising temperatures that is a clear signal that we are having an effect on the climate. Droughts, floods, fiercer storms and heatwaves, as well as sea level rises, are all expected to increase markedly as a result.
Free Markets to Combat Climate Change
By Chris Edwards, Cato Institute, 2 January 2019
One of the concerns about climate change is that it may generate more natural disasters such as hurricanes and forest fires. People living along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts or in forested areas of California may face higher risks if pessimistic climate predictions come true.
That is disagreement about large-scale policy actions we might take to try and reduce future climate risks. Washington State voters, for example, soundly rejected a carbon tax on the ballot in 2018. People are skeptical of big government solutions to climate change.
Peatlands for today and tomorrow
By Christi Hang, CIFOR Forests News, 2 January 2019
Peatlands are increasingly playing a bigger role in forest conservation thanks to their extraordinary proficiency at carbon sequestration.
In November Forests News reported that the ‘bogs’ had finally been given the spotlight. The newly established International Tropical Peatlands Center (ITPC) is set to open its doors in 2019, to bring ‘researchers, governments, civil society and other stakeholders together to ensure the conservation and sustainable management of peatlands throughout Southeast Asia, the Congo Basin and Peru’.
[Brazil] Jair Bolsonaro launches assault on Amazon rainforest protections
By Dom Phillips, The Guardian, 2 January 2019
Hours after taking office, Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has launched an assault on environmental and Amazon protections with an executive order transferring the regulation and creation of new indigenous reserves to the agriculture ministry – which is controlled by the powerful agribusiness lobby.
Rewind 2018: Development and fire eat up India’s forest cover
Down To Earth, 2 January 2019
Forest cover in the country has increased by about 1 per cent, according to the biennial State of Forests Report 2017 released this year, but Niti Aayog says 21.23 per cent of the land is under forest cover. Also, protests took place against government acquiring forest lands for development projects.
According to Niti Ayog, India has a 21.23 per cent land under forest cover against recommended 33 per cent recommended in the national forest policy.
[India] Set up ‘green police’ to stop environmental crimes: Activists
The Times of India, 2 January 2019
Citing the slow progress in cases of environmental crime, particularly the destruction of mangroves, three ecology-focused groups have appealed to CM Devendra Fadnavis to set up a specialised green police.
3 January 2019
COP24: Green groups warn of pitfalls in ‘forests for climate’ deal
By Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 3 January 2019
A plan adopted by delegates at last month’s climate summit in Poland to weaponize forests in the fight against global warming could have a disastrous outcome, environmentalists say.
The Ministerial Katowice Declaration on Forests for the Climate builds on the universal understanding that forests are a key carbon dioxide sink and must be considered a major part of efforts to cap the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2030. Sixty-four countries have expressed their willingness to endorse what’s become known as the “forests for climate” declaration as of Dec. 17, after the conclusion of the summit in Katowice, Poland, with more expected to follow suit.
Nine vital signs found for forest health
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network, 3 January 2019
It is a given of climate science that forest health, the consequence of protected and biodiverse forests, will play a vital role in containing global warming. Now a new study for the first time offers foresters, botanists and conservationists the tools to test the health of a vast woodland.
And a second, separate study confirms an ominous discovery: trees can be counted upon to greedily consume ever more atmospheric carbon dioxide – but only while the natural supply of nitrogen holds out.
President Bolsonaro ‘declares war’ on Brazil’s indigenous peoples – Survival responds
Survival International, 3 January 2019
Jair Bolsonaro has started his Presidency in the worst possible way for the indigenous peoples of Brazil. Taking responsibility for indigenous land demarcation away from FUNAI, the Indian affairs department, and giving it to the Agriculture Ministry is virtually a declaration of open warfare against Brazil’s tribal peoples.
Tereza Cristina, the new head of the Ministry, has long opposed tribal land rights, and championed the expansion of agriculture into indigenous territories. This is an assault on the rights, lives and livelihoods of Brazil’s first peoples – if their lands are not protected, they face genocide, and whole uncontacted tribes could be wiped out.
This onslaught on Brazil’s first peoples attacks the heart and soul of the Brazilian nation.
How China’s Big Overseas Initiative Threatens Global Climate Progress
By Isabel Hilton, Yale Environment 360, 3 January 2019
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013, has been described as the most ambitious infrastructure project in history. It is a plan to finance and build roads, railways, bridges, ports, and industrial parks abroad, beginning with China’s neighbors in Central, South, and Southeast Asia and eventually reaching Western Europe and across the Pacific to Latin America. The more than 70 countries that have formally signed up to participate account for two-thirds of the world’s population, 30 percent of global GDP, and an estimated 75 percent of known energy reserves.
[UK] Carl Mortished: Do we really want to be free of EU carbon trading rules?
By Carl Mortished, Evening Standard, 3 January 2019
Everyone in the markets is feeling a little bruised after last year’s rout. UK investors are on average 12% poorer, US stocks suffered their worst year since the crash.
No one escaped punishment, except for one rather special group of investors.
Anyone owning a hoard of EUAs — that’s EU Allowances, for the uninitiated — is sitting on quite a windfall.
These esoteric instruments — tradable permits to emit carbon dioxide — have soared by 200% in a year, a gain that is causing hand-wringing, nail-biting and even panic in businesses that consume a lot of energy.
[USA] Five Big Things Governor Brown Did on Climate Change
By Lauren Sommer, KQED, 3 January 2019
In 1977, the 39-year-old governor of California led a puzzled press corps to a blustery stretch of coastline near Bodega Bay.
“I heard that you were going to come out here and talk to the whales,” one reporter said to him.
“No, I came out here to see,” said Gov. Jerry Brown. “The idea of the project is to put hydrophones in the water and pick up the sounds that the whales make as they go through their migration south.”
Al Gore: America Is Close to a ‘Political Tipping Point’ on Climate Change
By Eward-Isaac Dovere, The Atlantic, 3 January 2019
Al Gore is mostly done with politics these days. Though he popped up at a campaign stop with Hillary Clinton in 2016, he’s otherwise safely in the very small group of nationally known Democrats not thinking of running for president in 2020.
But Gore remains engaged on his signature policy issue: climate change, for which the national political conversation is just starting to catch up to his warnings from decades ago. While he was a senator, through his eight years as vice president, and during his 2000 presidential campaign, Gore was tagged on the campaign trail as a global-warning alarmist obsessed with data and far-off predictions. Now, between the growing support for the Green New Deal in Congress and the presidential candidates railing against climate change, the Democratic Party has made aggressive action central to its developing identity.
4 January 2019
Global climate action is nothing without local backing
By Barbara Fraser, CIFOR Forests News, 4 January 2019
Global climate negotiations take place on the international stage, bolstered by countries’ national policies. But preventing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and other land-use changes requires work at the local level.
For those efforts to be effective, it is important to understand who is involved at each level and in every sector, and how they interact, say scientists from CIFOR, who have conducted research about such multi-level governance.
To halt deforestation, researchers say we must listen to the forests
By Michael Taylor, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 4 January 2019
Conservationists and palm oil companies tackling deforestation and forest fires must rely less on satellite imagery and instead start listening to the sounds of the forests, according to a report published on Friday.
The use of “bioacoustics” to record, monitor and log background sounds – like animals, insects and human activity – provides data needed for more effective conservation, researchers said in a paper published by the journal Science.
Tell us more on palm oil sources, say buyers
By Alex Kirby, Climate News Network, 4 January 2019
Companies selling products which contain palm oil need to be upfront about where it comes from, so as to relieve consumers of the burden of making sustainable choices, a UK study says.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge say companies should not rely simply on purchasers’ own awareness of the need to make environmentally responsible decisions, but should publicly disclose the identities of their palm oil suppliers.
Brazil Was a Global Leader on Climate Change. Now It’s a Threat.
By Lisa Viscidi and Nate Graham, Foreign Policy, 4 January 2019
This coming November, delegates from nearly every country had been scheduled to gather in Brazil to discuss climate change at the 25th United Nations Conference of the Parties. When the meeting was planned, Brazil seemed a logical choice to host it. Not anymore.
Brazil depends more on renewable energy sources (including biofuels) than any of the world’s other large energy consumers. And between 2005 and 2012, it also ran a successful campaign to reduce deforestation by about 80 percent. But the election of Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president has thrown the country’s status as an environmental beacon into doubt.
[EU] Commission publishes draft rules to ensure investment firms and insurance distributors consider sustainability topics when advising clients
European Commission press release, 4 January 2019
The Commission has today published draft rules on how investment firms and insurance distributors should take sustainability issues into account when providing advice to their clients. Today’s announcement forms part of the Commission’s Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth first put forward in May 2018, and would amend delegated acts under the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) and the Insurance Distribution Directive. The new draft rules will help integrate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations and preferencesinto investment advice and portfolio management, and into the distribution of insurance-based investment products.
[Indonesia] Plantations engulfed in land disputes
By Kharishar Kahfi, Jakarta Post, 4 January 2019
Though the number of land disputes has decreased this year, the government is faced with resolving issues over vast swathes of land.
The Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA) revealed on Thursday that there was a drop in the number of agrarian conflicts last year, from 659 conflicts in 2017 to 410 in 2018.
But in terms of the amount of land involved, the number increased to more than 807,000 hectares of land from 520,488 ha in 2017.
The plantation, property and agriculture sectors were riddled with the most disputes.
5 January 2019
6 January 2019
Plastic-free flights and blockchain offsets: The sustainability success stories of the week
Edie, 6 January 2018
Published every week, this series charts how businesses, city leaders and sustainability professionals are working to achieve their ‘Mission Possible’ across the campaign’s five key pillars – energy, resources, mobility, built environment and business leadership.
From the completion of a large-scale community solar project in the US, to a carbon-neutral construction project in Greece, each of these projects and initiatives is empowering businesses, local authorities and governments to achieve a sustainable future, today.