By Chris Lang
In 2019, seven out of ten of the top ten posts on REDD-Monitor were about forests and climate change, with three posts about frauds and scams.
Two of the three fraud posts are about carbon credit scammer Sami Raja. In January 2019, Raja was sentenced to eight years in prison in the UK, but he’d already fled to Dubai. He featured in an article in The Telegraph last week.
The other fraudster in the top ten is James Moore, who in June 2019 was found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy in Renwick Haddow’s Bar Work’s investment scam.
A post about BuzzFeed News’ investigation into human rights abuses in the name of conservation associated with WWF was the most popular post on REDD-Monitor last year. BuzzFeed’s journalists Tom Warren, Katie J.M. Baker, and Marcus Engert have produced a series of articles on the problems with WWF’s model of conservation.
Two posts are about the fires in the Amazon, including an excellent Guest Post by Lauren Gifford, “The Amazon fires mark the end of REDD+”. Another posts about fires in the Arctic also features in the top ten last year.
The remaining three posts are about Natural Climate Solutions. One is a compilation of responses critiquing the ETH-Zürich paper in Science that highlights “global tree restoration as our most effective climate change solution”.
Another post, written with Simon Counsell of Rainforest Foundation UK, takes a critical look at the assumptions behind the 2017 paper titled “Natural Climate Solutions”. It turns out that the so-called “science” behind the paper actually looks a lot more like magical thinking.
The last post in the top ten is about oil company Eni’s plans to avoid responsibility for its emissions by covering a vast area of Africa in tree plantations for carbon offsets.
- 4 March 2019
A year long investigation in six countries by BuzzFeed News finds that the World Wide Fund for Nature funds eco-guards who have tortured and killed people. Buzzfeed News’ report, written by Tom Warren and Katie J.M. Baker, is available here.
The report is based on “more than 100 interviews and thousands of pages of documents, including confidential memos, internal budgets, and emails discussing weapons purchases”.
Two weeks ago, REDD-Monitor wrote about a con artist called Sami Raja. On 18 January 2019, Sami Raja was sentenced to eight years in prison at Southwark Crown Court.
UPDATE – 11 February 2019: Sami Raja was not at the trial in Southwark Crown Court. He is not in prison. See the response from the City of London Police to REDD-Monitor’s question below.
A couple of people sent me this press release and asked whether I’m sure that Sami Raja is really in prison.
3. Yes, the Amazon on fire. Yes, it burns every year. Yes, this is a problem. No, REDD won’t solve it27 August 2019
So far this year, more than 72,000 forest fires have started (or been set by cattle ranchers) in Brazil’s rain forest. That’s an 80% increase over the same period last year. But the amount of CO2 emitted from the fires is lower than in 2010 and significantly lower than in the early 2000s.
The fires in the Amazon have led to something of a media feeding frenzy. Spoiler alert: the fires are really bad, although not quite as bad as some of the media coverage would suggest.
On 18 January 2019, Sami Raja was sentenced to eight years in prison at Southwark Crown Court. He was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. Four other men were sentenced in September 2018. Between January 2012 and August 2013, they miss-sold carbon credits to retail investors through two companies, Harman Royce Ltd and Kendrick Zale Ltd.
UPDATE – 12 February 2019: On 5 February 2019, Sami Raja Consultancy put out a press release. Raja was not at Southwark Crown Court, and is not in prison. See the City of London Police’s response to REDD-Monitor’s questions here.
5. James Moore found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy in Renwick Haddow’s Bar Works investment scam13 June 2019
On 7 June 2019, James Moore was found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy for his role in the Bar Works investment scam. Moore was convicted after a one-week trial before the U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman.
Moore was convicted of partnering with Renwick Haddow in soliciting investments in Bar Works. In doing so, he gave misleading and false information, including helping to hide the fact that Haddow was involved.
Haddow pleaded guilty in May 2019.
The Arctic is burning. Those four words should terrify anyone who reads them. From Russia, to Greenland, to Canada, to Alaska more than 100 wildfires are burning. So far this year, Arctic fires have release 121 million tons of CO2. That’s more than the annual emissions of Belgium.
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Trees, plants and peatlands are drying out, providing fuel for huge fires. Most of the fires are caused by lightning.
7. Planting trees and restoring forests is not going to stop climate breakdown. “We need a rapid end to fossil energy use precisely because we want to preserve the world’s existing forests”8 August 2019
By now you will have seen the headlines. The image above is just a small selection. They are based on a paper published in Science titled, “The global tree restoration potential”. While the paper generated wildly optimistic headlines, it also generated a fair bit of criticism.
The paper was written by Jean-Francois Bastin (Crowther Lab, ETH-Zürich), Yelena Finegold (FAO), Claude Garcia (ETH-Zürich, CIRAD) , Danilo Mollicone (FAO), Marcelo Rezende (FAO), Devin Routh (Crowther Lab, ETH-Zürich), Constantin M. Zohner (Crowther Lab, ETH-Zürich), and Thomas W. Crowther (Crowther Lab, ETH-Zürich).
8. Offsetting fossil fuel emissions with tree planting and ‘natural climate solutions’: science, magical thinking, or pure PR?4 July 2019
Unlike carbon capture and storage systems, trees do actually take carbon out of the atmosphere and store it – temporarily, at least. In theory, planting enough new trees, and allowing existing forests to grow and regenerate, could mop up some of the excess CO2 now in the atmosphere. The idea has been around since the mid-1970s, when theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson came up with the idea of planting vast areas with trees (“in countries where labor is cheap”) to soak up the CO2 that burning fossil fuels is putting in the atmosphere.28 August 2019
As the Amazon rainforest burns, and reaches what some scientists have called a “tipping point,” beyond which it might never recover, it is time to unequivocally call an end to the experiment that is REDD+, the development mechanism designed to offset carbon dioxide pollution via investment in tropical forest conservation. The attempt to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation has failed.
The fires in the Brazilian Amazon are, in part, typical forest ecosystem processes, as some forest experts have shared. But they are also the product of complex political economic forces, led by a money- and power-hungry, anti-Indigenous political regime. We must not overlook the political rhetoric that has provoked violence on this invaluable ecosystem, and the people who depend on it for survival.
Italian oil and gas company Eni has announced plans to establish plantations over an area of 8.1 million hectares in Africa. The proposal is part of the company’s plans for greenhouse gas emissions from its exploration and production operations to be “net zero” by 2030.
Here’s how Eni’s chief executive Claudio Descalzi described his company’s plans at Eni’s annual strategy presentation on 15 March 2019:
“Today, we announce a new target, of our decarbonisation process, to achieve net zero emissions in our upstream business by 2030. We will do this by increasing efficiency to minimise direct upstream CO2 emissions and by 2025, we will eliminate gas processed flairing and reduce methane emisions by 80%, and offsetting residual upstream emissions through large forestry projects.”