REDD-Monitor’s round-up of the week’s news on forests, the climate crisis, REDD, and natural climate solutions. For regular updates, follow @reddmonitor on Twitter.
21 October 2019
Climate scientist: our profession is letting down humanity – we must change the way we approach the climate crisis
By Wolfgang Knorr, The Conversation, 21 October 2019
As a climate scientist of more than 25 years, I’m proud of the work my profession has done in recent decades to alert humanity to the unfolding climate crisis. But as the emergency becomes ever more acute, we scientists need to alter the way we approach it – or face being part of the problem.
Climate science has in large part been a remarkable success story. Swedish physicist Svante Arrhenius accurately calculated how much a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would warm the planet as early as 1896.
The World Ablaze: Why Our Forests Are Burning
Rainforest Alliance, 21 October 2019
From the Amazon to the Arctic, forests around the world are burning. Catastrophic manmade fires are raging across the Brazilian Amazon, imperiling the world’s most biodiverse forest. In Indonesia, annual blazes set to clear land for oil palm plantations are ravaging the ancient rainforests of Kalimantan and Sumatra. In the wake of the unprecedented wildfires that tore through the frozen lands of Siberia and Alaska this summer, many fear that the worst is yet to come. As the global alarm sounds, many are asking why our forests are burning-and who is to blame?
World Bank accused of double standards over IFC Amazon projects
By Rob Dwyer, Euromoney, 21 October 2019
The World Bank made a stumbling defence of its track record of causing environmental and social damage when financing projects in the Amazon. Speaking at a seminar at the IMF/World Bank meetings in Washington on October 18, Valerie Hickey, practice manager for the environment and natural resources in LAC at the World Bank, said: “Development is hard and we have made mistakes, but we have learned. [Though] sometimes we forgot what we have learned.”
Shades of REDD+: Bridging the National vs Project Divide
By Charlotte Streck, Ecosystem Marketplace, 21 October 2019
We must tackle tropical deforestation if we’re to meet international climate and biodiversity goals, and to do so we must confront humankind’s hunger for the food, fuel and fiber that drives deforestation. This is a daunting task and excruciatingly difficult. Cooperation in addressing deforestation seems to be essential, offering win-win outcomes for governments and private investors. However, a look at the history tropical forests’ inclusion under the climate regime shows that agreeing on how to create incentives for reducing deforestation has been hard. From the beginning, a private sector-driven vision clashed with one that sought to empower governments, often one at the expense of the other. Here I argue that, if we are to conserve forests, we need both private direct investment and national plans, and the challenge is bringing them into alignment.
As 2020 approaches, the climate action spotlight is on forests
By Breanna Lujan, Environmental Defense Fund, 21 October 2019
With 2020 fast approaching, countries, companies, and other stakeholders are taking stock of their climate commitments. As they consider ways to meet and enhance climate goals, interest in net zero emissions commitments and carbon removal technologies has grown. But what these discussions reveal is that forests are crucial. Capable of significantly reducing net emissions at a low marginal cost, and in the short-term, forests are an important piece of the climate change mitigation puzzle.
Farming could be absorber of carbon by 2050, says report
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, 21 October 2019
If one in five people in richer countries went near-vegan, and threw away a third less food than they currently do, while poor countries were assisted to preserve their forests and restore degraded land, the world’s agricultural systems could be absorbing carbon dioxide by 2050 instead of adding massively to global heating as they do at present.
Tree-planting and improving the fertility of soil through better farming practices would also be needed, according to a study of global forests, farming and food systems published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Getting Ethiopia REDD+ ready
By David Charles, CIFOR Forests News, 21 October 2019
Forest protection is not usually a huge money spinner. Logging, mining, clearing forests for grazing, or building a new city – these are ways trees are often turned into easy dollars.
But rampant deforestation represents the largest share of the land use changes that are responsible for 13 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, research shows, which makes chopping down trees second only to burning fossil fuels in the undistinguished league table of the biggest anthropogenic contributions to global warming.
The Chain: France’s Court Ruling on Palm Oil-Derived Biofuels to Shift End-User Markets Away From the EU
Chain Reaction Research, 21 October 2019
France’s constitutional court upheld the country’s efforts to restrict the use of palm oil in biofuels.
On October 11, 2019, oil major Total lost its fight in French court to utilize tax breaks for palm oil use for biofuels. The court’s ruling is a major blow to Total, which will lose USD 88 million at its biorefinery in southeastern France. The company had invested USD 330 million to upgrade the plant to utilize palm oil. The ruling will also contribute to the palm oil industry shifting away from the EU and pivoting toward more sales to Asian countries.
Indonesia forest fires: Area burnt so far this year exceeds all of 2018
Reuters, 21 October 2019
The amount of land in Indonesia consumed by fires through September this year has exceeded the amount burned during all of 2018, according to data given by a government official on Monday.
Raffles Panjaitan, forest fire management acting director at the Forestry and Environment Ministry, told reporters that by the end of Sept 2019 a total of 857,756 hectares had been burned.
22 October 2019
Critical connectivity: Isolated protected areas could become epicenters of extinction
By Bill Laurance, ALERT, 22 October 2019
Famed biologist Daniel Janzen once proclaimed, “No park is an island.” What Janzen meant is that the isolation of a park is corrosive for its ecology and deadly for its biodiversity.
The natural movements of species across landscapes are as essential to life as the flows of wind and water. But such movements are being stymied as parks and protected areas become increasingly isolated from their surrounding natural habitats—thanks to the ever-expanding footprint of agriculture, infrastructure, and other human activities.
These celebrities cause 10,000 times more carbon emissions from flying than the average person
By Stefan Gössling, The Conversation, 22 October 2019
The jet-setting habits of Bill Gates and Paris Hilton mean that they produce an astonishing 10,000 times more carbon emissions from flying than the average person. This was the conclusion of my research mining their social media accounts (tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts) as well as those of a number of other celebrities for clues as to where they were in the world over the course of 2017 and how they got there. As such, this estimate is conservative – they may well have taken more flights and not volunteered the information to their millions of followers.
The fires decimating the rainforests can only be stopped if we side with communities over corporations
By Lindsey Allen (Rainforest Action Network), Newsweek, 22 October 2019
Across the globe, tropical rainforests are burning. Even as the Amazon continues to burn, the rainforest in the Congo Basin –– the second-largest rainforest on Earth – is on fire. And again in Indonesia, the third-largest and some of the oldest rainforests in the world are going up in smoke.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, the skies turned black from smoke. In Indonesia, the toxic haze –– a dense and unrelenting noxious mix – is turning the sky a vibrant red and threatens the lives of 10 million children, along with countless endangered species that call the forest home. This is the worst fire season in Indonesia since 2015, when more than 2.6 million hectares of forest, peat, and other land burned, an area roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts. In 2015, the haze was responsible or the premature deaths of 100,000 people, according to the World Bank.
Ashes to action: 3 things we know about the Amazon fires
By Bruno Vander Velde, Conservation International, 22 October 2019
The smoke has cleared from fires that raged in the Amazon in August and September, darkening skies and making headlines around the world.
Now, science and policy experts at Conservation International and elsewhere are sifting through the ashes, looking for patterns and working on a number of fronts to prevent future fires — and prevent the Amazon biome from pitching over the dreaded “tipping point,” at which the world’s largest rainforest would mutate irrevocably into scrubland.
[USA] A Disaster in Itself
By Michael Brune, Medium, 22 October 2019
“Climate change has created a new wildfire reality for California,” warned a 2019 report commissioned by Governor Newsom. Ten of the state’s most destructive wildfires have occurred since 2015, and 15 since 2000.
The recent mass power outages — and the ones planned for this week — are one method of adapting to that new climate reality. Citing heightened wildfire risk, California utility PG&E cut off power to an estimated 2 million Californians in early October. Less than two weeks later, they say they’ll subject an additional 500,000 customers to outages. And unfortunately, more shutoffs are coming. They may even be “the new normal,” according to Region 9 of the EPA, which covers California.
[USA] SEC secures lifting of stay in action against co-conspirator of Ponzi scammer Renwick Haddow
By Maria Nikolova, FinanceFeeds, 22 October 2019
The civil action launched by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against James Bernard Moore, one of the alleged co-conspirators of Ponzi scammer Renwick Haddow, is finally set to budge, as the Court has agreed to lift the stay in this lawsuit.
On October 21, 2019, Judge Lorna G. Schofield of the New York Southern District Court granted the SEC’s motion to lift the stay in the action against Moore. Counsel for all parties will have to appear for an initial pretrial conference with the Court on December 2, 2019.
[USA] Can this company build a better carbon offset?
By RP Siegel, Grist, 22 October 2019
Carbon offset programs are typically billed as an undo button for climate-harmful activities. You can, for example, pay extra for an airline ticket in order to fund the planting of trees to neutralize the harmful impact of the emissions generated by your flight.
It’s a well-intentioned idea, but it doesn’t always work. Offset programs are not well regulated, are plagued by accounting errors like double counting, and sometimes give credit where they arguably shouldn’t — for instance, for forest management activities that would be done whether or not the program existed. Then there is the moral hazard question: Might offset schemes encourage more emissions by making people and companies feel that they have permission to pollute?
23 October 2019
Tropical forest fragmentation nearing ‘critical point,’ study finds
By Morgan Erckson-Davis, Mongabay, 23 October 2019
Deforestation in the tropics is caused by many different human activities that vary in intensity depending on location. In South America, industrial agriculture is the big driver of deforestation while smallholder farming is pockmarking Congo rainforest and logging for high-value timber species is having devastating effects on the forests of mainland Southeast Asia.
Yet, despite the diversity of these activities, a new study published this week in Nature shows they have had a surprisingly similar overall impact on the world’s tropical forests – an impact that appears to be reaching a “critical point” past which the consequences may be catastrophic.
Amazon rainforest ‘close to irreversible tipping point’
By Dom Phillips, The Guardian, 23 October 2019
Soaring deforestation coupled with the destructive policies of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, could push the Amazon rainforest dangerously to an irreversible “tipping point” within two years, a prominent economist has said.
After this point the rainforest would stop producing enough rain to sustain itself and start slowly degrading into a drier savannah, releasing billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, which would exacerbate global heating and disrupt weather across South America.
As 2019 Amazon fires die down, Brazilian deforestation roars ahead
By Sue Branford and Maurício Torres, Mongabay, 23 October 2019
In late August, as dramatic images of raging Amazon fires were relayed around the globe, the Brazilian government at first made denials, then finally took action. President Jair Bolsonaro announced his Guarantee of Law and Order Operation (GLO), and the nation’s armed forces were rapidly deployed to implement the plan and control blazes.
A month later the army proclaimed the operation “effective,” having “destroyed 17 illegal camps and apprehended 74 vehicles and over 20,000 liters [3,500 gallons] of fuel.” Most important, the number of forest fires fell by 25.1 percent in September, according to IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency. General Hamilton Mourão, standing in as president while Bolsonaro visited the UN in New York in September, decided to extend the operation for another month.
The Indigenous Groups Fighting for Their Land in a Fire-Ravaged Amazon
By Denisa Strebova, Vice, 23 October 2019
For decades, people have been setting fire to the Amazon, mainly to clear land for farming and cattle ranching. But the sheer scale of this year’s destruction was devastating, attracting global attention and pointing it to the fact that things are getting worse. According to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), 45,256 fires were detected from January to August 2019, an 84 percent increase from the same period last year.
[USA] Trump administration sues California over cap-and-trade agreement with Canada
By Anna M. Phillips, Alexa Díaz, and Tony Barboza, 23 October 2019
The Trump administration took aim Wednesday at one of California’s premier climate change policies, suing the state for entering into a cap-and-trade agreement with the Canadian province of Quebec to lower fossil fuel emissions.
The lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice argues that California overstepped its legal authority by forging an agreement with another country designed to limit air pollution and climate-warming greenhouse gases. Only the federal government has this power, according to the suit. Also named as defendants are state’s top air quality regulator and the Western Climate Initiative, a nonprofit group California created with neighboring states to promote similar policies.
24 October 2019
Research outlines ‘roadmap’ for land use to slow climate change
Mongabay, 24 October 2019
Overhauling how humans manage Earth’s surface could account for the equivalent of 15 billion metric tons (16.5 billion tons) of CO2 every year through a combination of lower emissions and higher sequestration, according to a new report.
That amount of carbon is almost a third of what we need to mitigate by 2050 to keep the global temperature rise under 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, scientists say.
These U.N. Climate Scientists Think They Can Halt Global Warming for $300 Billion. Here’s How
By Adam Majendie and Pratik Parija, Time, 24 October 2019
$300 billion. That’s the money needed to stop the rise in greenhouse gases and buy up to 20 years of time to fix global warming, according to United Nations climate scientists. It’s the gross domestic product of Chile, or the world’s military spending every 60 days.
The sum is not to fund green technologies or finance a moonshot solution to emissions, but to use simple, age-old practices to lock millions of tons of carbon back into an overlooked and over-exploited resource: the soil.
Does Carbon Offsetting Really Work?
By Ciara Gillan, CleanTechnica, 24 October 2019
Since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 (an extenuation of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the practice of offsetting carbon emissions has been long utilized by large corporations, businesses, and individuals alike. From purchasing carbon credits to making personalized payments to climate change projects in developing countries, carbon offsetting has been viewed as a viable option by many in the battle against global warming.
Chile says ‘no chance’ of riots derailing APEC, U.N. climate meet in Santiago
By Natalia A. Ramos Miranda, Dave Sherwood and Aislinn Laing, Reuters, 24 October 2019
Chile, grappling with violent protests that rocked the capital Santiago for days, will not let the riots derail plans to host two major global meetings in coming months, Foreign Minister Teodoro Ribera said on Thursday.
He said that there was “no chance” of calling off the Nov. 16-17 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit or the United Nations climate change conference COP25 in December.
[USA] ‘Extremely critical’ fire danger: Wildfires erupt in California
By Matthew Cappucci and Andrew Freedman, The Washington Post, 24 October 2019
Rapidly spreading wildfires have erupted amid “extremely critical” fire danger in parts of California, with conditions likely to escalate risks to Southern California, including the Los Angeles area, through Friday.
In Northern California, the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, about 75 miles north of San Francisco, rapidly expanded in size early Thursday morning, torching 10,000 acres in just four hours. A red-flag warning is in effect for much of the San Francisco Bay area through 4 p.m. Thursday, as high offshore winds of up to 60 mph in some locations, combined with extremely dry air, create ideal conditions for rapidly spreading wildfires. The offshore winds in Northern California are forecast to slacken as the day goes on, potentially giving firefighters a window to make gains on that blaze and any others that erupt during the day.
[USA] Trump expands attack on Calif. climate programs
By Jean Chemnick and Benjamin Storrow, E&E News, 24 October 2019
The Trump administration yesterday broadened its campaign to neutralize California’s political leadership on climate change, this time by taking aim at its global influence.
EPA and the Department of Justice have maneuvered for months to undercut California in its efforts to challenge President Trump’s agenda at dismantling rules to address climate change.
The agencies worked in unison to impair the state’s historic role in setting stronger-than-federal standards for vehicle greenhouse gas emissions. When California negotiated a deal on vehicle efficiency with four major car manufacturers, DOJ filed an antitrust lawsuit. EPA, meanwhile, threatened it with the loss of highway funds, alleging that California had shirked regulations on air pollution.
25 October 2019
What’s driving tropical deforestation? Scientists map 45 years of satellite images
Phys.org, 25 October 2019
Tropical forests are under increasing pressure from human activity such as agriculture. However, in order to put effective conservation measures in place, local decision-makers must be able to precisely identify which areas of forest are most vulnerable.
A new analysis method spearheaded by researchers from the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the University of Rennes-2 could hold the key.
The real reason some scientists downplay the risks of climate change
By Dale Jamieson, Michael Oppenheimer, and Naomi Oreskes, The Guardian, 25 October 2019
Although the results of climate research have been consistent for decades, climate scientists have struggled to convey the gravity of the situation to laypeople outside their field. If anything, the wider public only recently seems to have awakened to the threat of the climate crisis. Why?
In our new book, Discerning Experts: The Practices of Scientific Assessment for Environmental Policy, we attempted to illuminate how scientists make the judgments they do. In particular, we wanted to know how scientists respond to the pressures, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, that arise when they know that their conclusions will be disseminated beyond the research community – in short, how scientists are affected when they know the world is watching.
Green Climate Fund attracts higher pledges, open for more
By Laurie Goering, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 25 October 2019
Wealthier countries on Friday promised nearly $9.8 billion over the next four years to an international fund to help poorer nations develop cleanly and adapt to climate stresses, with nearly a dozen nations doubling their previous commitments.
The total was slightly higher than the $9.3 billion committed to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) at its first pledging conference in 2014, and came despite the absence of commitments by previous major donors such as the United States.
Trying to Plant a Trillion Trees Won’t Solve Anything
By Adam Rogers, Wired, 25 October 2019
Only a monster would say no to this pitch: The best way to beat climate change—the warming of Earth caused by gases like carbon dioxide emitted by human industry, leading to rising sea levels, worsening fires and storms, drought, and disease—is simple. Plant a trillion trees. It’d be “one of the most effective carbon drawdowns to date,” said an article on the idea in the journal Science this past summer. And who doesn’t love trees, right?
Except the math turned out to be a little shady. Last month a bunch of climate scientists and ecologists piled onto that tree research in the same journal, calling out numerous errors in the first team’s calculations.
Planting trees to take on climate change isn’t as easy as YouTubers might think
By Justine Calma, The Verge, 25 October 2019
YouTubers are on a mission to plant 20 million trees. Hundreds of YouTubers are calling on their audiences today to donate money to the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation, with every dollar raised turning into a tree seedling in the ground. “We want to show that YouTube isn’t just a drama fest, that we actually have real influence and can make real change,” Jimmy Donaldson, who goes by MrBeast on YouTube and started the campaign dubbed #TeamTrees, said in a private video seen by The Verge.
BP invests in forest carbon offsets leader Finite Resources
BP, 25 October 2019
BP Ventures has invested $5 million in Finite Resources Inc, parent company of Finite Carbon, a US-based forest carbon management company. The investment will enable Finite Carbon to grow a new line of business to incentivize sustainable forest management, financed by businesses seeking to voluntarily offset carbon emissions.
Finite Carbon was founded in 2009 and has since become the largest developer of forest carbon offsets in North America with more than 40 forest projects covering nearly three million acres. The company offers landowners a single-source solution for inventorying, managing, and monetising forest carbon assets.
The mystery multinational linked to illegal dairy deforestation in Colombia
Illegal Deforestation Monitor, 25 October 2019
Dairy firms, including a multinational corporation, are helping to fuel widespread illegal deforestation in the Colombian Amazon as cattle ranchers continue to clear thousands of hectares of protected forest.
The National Parks of Colombia (PNNC) – the government agency responsible for managing protected areas – has raised the alarm about illegal deforestation in the Amazon department of Meta linked to the dairy industry.
[Kenya] How to protect forests and wildlife while surrounding communities benefit—the first REDD+ project in the world
UN environment programme, 25 October 2019
Tsavo region is known for its dry spells. It is no easy place for people and cattle to survive or make a living.
One day, an American businessman who came to do a safari in Kenya fell in love with its wildlife but noticed the difficulties the communities around the wildlife sanctuaries faced. He set up Wildlife Works and in 2011 their Kasigau Corridor Project became the first Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) project in the world to be validated and verified by two standardizing bodies—the Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. Together, the two standards evaluate every aspect of the project, including how you calculate your carbon emission reductions, as well as whether the benefit-sharing to communities is fair and equitable. Wildlife Works developed a methodology for the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project to measure carbon in a dryland forest as opposed to a tropical rainforest.
[Kenya] Sengwer demand recognition as tribe and forest dwellers
By Gordon Osen, The Star, 25 October 2019
They lived as hunters and gatherers in Embobut forest for centuries and while at it, they got assimilated by their neighbours, making their ancestral forest land dissipate.
Now the Sengrew community is demanding their land back and wants to be recognised as a distinct ethnic group.
26 October 2019
Pragmatics take precedence in scientific approach to landscape restoration
By Julie Mollins, CIFOR Forests News, 26 October 2019
Landscape restoration and adaptation are a journey not a destination, said Ravi Prabhu, deputy director general of research at World Agroforestry (ICRAF), addressing delegates attending the Global Landscapes Forum at the United Nations in New York.
“We’re going to be doing this for generations as we adapt to changes and restore land,” he said, urging the international community to focus on meeting sustainable U.N. food security and climate goals through practical scientific solutions.
Richard Branson: ‘Aviation can be carbon neutral sooner than we realise’
By Gwyn Topham, The Guardian, 26 October 2019
Life has been quite a trip for Sir Richard Branson so far, and this weekend will be no exception as he flies to the US from Tel Aviv via London with space rockets on his mind.
He is heading to Wall Street to ring the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange as his spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, becomes a listed company tomorrow.
Three dead in Mexican forest fires
Reuters, 26 October 2019
Three people were killed and hundreds evacuated from their homes as fires spread through forests in northern Mexico near the U.S. border on Friday, officials said.
A fire near the town of Tecate, about 30 miles (50 km) east of the border city of Tijuana, was first detected Friday afternoon and was about 35% contained, according to national forest commission CONAFOR.
27 October 2019