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.
27 January 2020
Why Planting a Trillion Trees Should Start With Small Farmers
By Akshat Rathi, Bloomberg Green, 27 January 2020
Trees are an important tool to counter climate change: They capture carbon dioxide, improve biodiversity and increase groundwater. Adding a trillion trees could scrub out two-thirds of all emissions, according to scientists, and that’s why everyone from the World Economic Forum to YouTube influencers have launched large planting programs. There’s just one problem: The success rate of typical programs is often dismal. Many end up with no trees surviving to maturity.
NASA forest structure mission releases first data
By Jessica Merzdorf, Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center press release, 27 January 2020
NASA’s Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation mission (GEDI) released its first publicly available data on January 21, 2020, giving researchers access to measurements of forests around the world.
Hundreds of Amazon employees risk firing to protest the company’s climate policies
By Annie Palmer, CNBC, 27 January 2020
More than 340 Amazon employees are protesting the company’s external communications policy.
The employees signed onto a Medium post published Sunday by advocacy group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. It includes signatures and quotes from Amazon employees, all of whom are named, across several divisions of the company.
Indigenous lands, protected areas limit Amazon’s carbon emissions
By Jocelyn Timperley, Climate Home News, 27 January 2020
Indigenous lands and protected areas in the Amazon contribute far less to climate change than the rest of the rainforest since they account for only 10 percent of carbon emissions while covering 52 percent of the region, a study shows.
The territories are still emitting some carbon due to forest degradation, but high forest growth means their net emissions remain low, according to the study, published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Impending Amazon tipping point puts biome and world at risk, scientists warn
By Shanna Hanbury, Mongabay, 27 January 2020
“We’re on the edge of a cliff,” says top climate scientist Carlos Nobre, who published an editorial with renowned conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy last month warning that “The Amazon tipping point is here.”
Many scientists who study the Amazon rainforest are very worried. The tropical biome over recent decades has grown increasingly dryer, making the once nearly fireproof rainforest prone to raging wildfires. Extreme weather events, such as high heat, droughts and floods, are on the rise. The dry season is getting longer and hotter and trees are dying. Computer models show that all this could be a foreshadowing of far worse to come — potentially, a recipe for a tropical rainforest disaster.
Forest fires raze 4,000 hectares of land in Chile
Xinhua, 27 January 2020
Forest fires have razed nearly 4,000 hectares of wildlife in south and central Chile in the past few days, the National Forest Corporation (Conaf) said Sunday.
The regions worst hit over the weekend were Araucania and Biobio, both in central Chile, the agency said, adding that in Biobio, four fires were still raging and two were under control.
28 January 2020
“A Trillion Trees” is a great idea—that could become a dangerous climate distraction
By James Temple, MIT Technology Review, 28 January 2020
Signing on to the Trillion Tree initiative was basically the cost of admission for the global elite at this year’s World Economic Forum (well, that plus tens of thousands of dollars for the badge). In fact, tree planting was the rare issue on which even Jane Goodall and Donald Trump could get on the same page at Davos.
Meanwhile, Axios revealed last week that Congressman Bruce Westerman, an Arkansas Republican, is working on a bill dubbed the Trillion Trees Act that would set a national target for tree planting (although apparently it won’t be—and almost certainly couldn’t be—a literal trillion).
Why we should be wary of blaming ‘overpopulation’ for the climate crisis
By Heather Alberro, The Conversation, 28 January 2020
The annual World Economic Forum in Davos brought together representatives from government and business to deliberate how to solve the worsening climate and ecological crisis. The meeting came just as devastating bush fires were abating in Australia. These fires are thought to have killed up to one billion animals and generated a new wave of climate refugees. Yet, as with the COP25 climate talks in Madrid, a sense of urgency, ambition and consensus on what to do next were largely absent in Davos.
Q+A: Natural climate solutions could reverse emissions in 30 tropical countries, scientists say
By Julie Mollins, CIFOR Forests News, 28 January 2020
Although natural climate solutions offer one of the best climate mitigation opportunities, they are as yet under-represented in national climate action plans in the U.N. Paris Agreement process, according to new research.
Better land management strategies could help more than 30 tropical countries meet their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, said the authors of a paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society – Biological Sciences journal.
Can Non-Timber Strategies Generate Cash for Timberland Investment Management Organizations?
By Jake A. Billhorn, Conservation Finance Network, 28 January 2020
Tim Gray of the New York Times wrote in 2017 that one of the best reasons for investing in timberland that “trees don’t watch the stock market.” These market-agnostic assets increase in size, and presumably value, over time regardless of prevailing macroeconomic factors, all while providing the well-established environmental benefits of a standing forest.
Trust our expertise or face catastrophe, Amazon peoples warn on environment
By Patrick Greenfield, The Guardian, 28 January 2020
Ecosystems will continue to collapse around the world unless humanity listens to the expertise of indigenous communities on how to live alongside nature, a prominent Amazon leader has warned.
Tuntiak Katan of the Ecuadorian Shuar people, who is vice-president of the pan-Amazon organisation representing communities in the river basin, said governments were spending millions of dollars on environmental consultants while largely ignoring the land management skills of the planet’s indigenous people that could help combat the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.
Indigenous, protected lands in Amazon emit far less carbon than areas outside
By John C. Cannon, Mongabay, 28 January 2020
Scientists know from a bevy of studies that the inclusion of indigenous peoples and local communities is critical to holding deforestation at bay across the tropics, even as a tide of forest clearance for agriculture, mining and timber has swept through the regions in which they live.
A new study takes that research a step further, calculating the gains and losses in carbon across the Amazon rainforest from not just wholesale clearance but the human-caused and naturally occurring degradation of the forest as well.
A Battle to Protect Forests Unfolds in Central Africa
By Jack Losh, The New York Times, 28 January 2020
Beneath the forest canopy, Lucien Maka steps out of a clearing and into his element.
He darts over the shaded undergrowth and finds a cluster of mushrooms, deftly wrapping them in a bundle of leaves. His friend hacks apart a thick branch and gulps down the clean water stored within. They pocket several caterpillars — a local delicacy — and point upward to a bees’ nest swollen with honey, before slashing another tree’s bark to release soaplike sap and wash their hands.
Climate crisis: how to make space for 2 billion trees on a crowded island like the UK
By Nick Atkinson, The Conversation, 28 January 2020
The UK’s official climate advisor, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), recently published a report outlining how to reduce the 12% of greenhouse gas emissions that come from land use by two thirds by 2050. Alongside recommending cutting meat and dairy consumption by 20%, the report calls for the annual creation of up to 50,000 hectares of broadleaf and conifer woodland for the next three decades. This would increase forest cover from 13% to at least 17% – a level not seen in Britain since before the Norman invasion.
[UK] Artificial intelligence firms handed cash windfall to tackle climate crisis
By Alistair Grant, The Herald, 28 January 2020
It is the biggest, toughest problem facing mankind, and tackling it requires innovative thinking from our brightest and best.
Now extra cash has been set aside to combat climate change – using the latest, cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI).
Six companies are to share £170,000 of Scottish Government funding to help tackle the climate emergency using AI.
[UK] Sainsbury’s in £1bn investment to become carbon neutral by 2040
By Joanna Partridge, The Guardian, 28 January 2020
Sainsbury’s has pledged to spend £1bn to become a carbon-neutral business by 2040, 10 years ahead of the government’s target for a net-zero economy.
The supermarket chain said the 20-year programme would include cutting its carbon emissions, food waste, plastic packaging and water usage, while increasing recycling, promoting healthy and sustainable eating, and ensuring that its operations are net positive for biodiversity.
29 January 2020
Thunberg, Trump and the future of capitalism
By Yanis Varoufakis, Project Syndicate, 29 January 2020
Responding to Greta Thunberg’s call for an immediate exit from fossil fuel investments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said she should go to college “to study economics”, before “she can come back and explain that to us”. Two days earlier, Donald Trump had referred to climate scientists as “the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers”.
How tree planting became a flashpoint in the climate debate
By Michael Igoe, Devex, 29 January 2020
The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, capped the unlikely rise of a global megastar in the fight against climate change: trees.
Backed by high-profile champions such as Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff, big corporations including AstraZeneca and Nestle, and even U.S. President Donald Trump, tree planting, reforestation, and other “nature-based solutions” have managed to capture global attention and donor checkbooks at a time when other pieces of the climate change puzzle are not falling into place.
Researchers urge multi-level action to tackle climate-to-local pressures on forests
By Julie Mollins, CIFOR Forests News, 29 January 2020
Understanding how tropical forests and coral reefs respond to climate extremes — and how they interact with other stressors — is critical for achieving global conservation targets, according to researchers.
Better predictive models must be developed to learn more about the process through which climate change, extreme weather and pressures from local human activities lead to tropical biodiversity and ecosystem loss, said the researchers from universities and research institutions in Brazil, New Zealand and the United Kingdom in a paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Biological Sciences journal.
Rare trees are disappearing as ‘wood pirates’ log Bolivian national parks
By Eduardo Franco Berton, Mongabay, 29 January 2020
“The day after tomorrow, a cargo of 8,000 board feet of timber must be shipped. As there is little water, they are waiting for the rain. It’s all piled up in the San Salvador area,” says the former logger. He’s referring to a shipment of mara wood (Swietenia macrophylla), extracted by so-called wood pirates who cut down these trees in Amboro National Park in central Bolivia.
Hidden in the thickets of the Amazon rainforest, these gigantic trees, also known as big-leaf mahogany, grow up to 50 meters (165 feet) tall and live more than 100 years. Yet for many, their days are numbered, the roar of chainsaws marking their time of death at the hands of the wood pirates.
Despite foreign aid, Colombia struggles to rein in Amazon deforestation
By Taran Volckhausen, Mongabay, 29 January 2020
Three European countries have put up $366 million in foreign aid to fight deforestation in Colombia’s Amazon. The region’s rate of forest loss remains stubbornly high, up 97% since the 2016 demobilization of the FARC rebels.
The Colombian government signed a landmark peace agreement with the formerly largest rebel group, the FARC, ending a half-century of conflict in 2016, but also creating a power vacuum that allowed small and large-scale landholders to engage in rampant land-grabbing and forest clearing in the Amazon region.
Rewilding the Arctic can slow the climate crisis
By Paul Brown, Climate News Network, 29 January 2020
Releasing herds of large animals onto the tundra − rewilding the Arctic − to create vast grasslands could slow down global heating by storing carbon and preserving the permafrost, UK scientists say.
With no woolly mammoths available nowadays, the scientists, from the University of Oxford, suggest an alternative in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B − importing large herds of bison and horses to provide the mega-fauna that would prevent tree growth and create huge areas of grazing land.
Indonesia’s forestry ministry ends WWF partnership over fire row
By stanley Widianto, Reuters, 29 January 2020
Indonesia’s environment and forestry ministry said on Wednesday it ended a 25-year conservation agreement with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) because the group let a forest where it operated burn.
Bambang Hendroyono, secretary-general at the ministry, accused WWF in a statement to Reuters of allowing some of its concession to burn and also criticized a WWF social media campaign slamming the government over forest fires.
Verra Strengthens Its Presence in Latin America and the Caribbean
Verra press release, 29 January 2020
During the last couple of years, several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have made significant progress in the area of climate action. A number of governments have shown leadership by launching — or planning to launch — national carbon pricing initiatives such as carbon taxes, offsets mechanisms and cap-and-trade approaches. Historically a strong player in the voluntary carbon market, Latin American and the Caribbean have recently grown their market share even more, from 13% in 2016 to 37% in 2018.
[USA] How the environmental lawyer who won a massive judgment against Chevron lost everything
By Sharon Lerner, The Intercept, 29 January 2020
Last August, during the second-hottest year on record, while the fires in the Amazon rainforest were raging, the ice sheet in Greenland was melting, and Greta Thunberg was being greeted by adoring crowds across the U.S., something else happened that was of great relevance to the climate movement: An attorney who has been battling Chevron for more than a decade over environmental devastation in South America was put on house arrest.
30 January 2020
Study shows how land use is disrupting forest carbon sinks
By Julie Mollins, CIFOR Forests News, 30 January 2020
Tropical deforestation is having a greater impact on the global carbon cycle than was previously realized, according to new research.
A study led by researchers at Sweden’s Lund University, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution journal posits that land use intensification in the tropics means that tropical forests are contributing much less to carbon dioxide uptake.
Carbon price faces volatility
By Alessandro Vitelli, Petroleum Economist, 30 January 2020
The outlook for the price of CO2 in the European emission trading scheme (EU ETS) in 2020 could fairly be described as “mixed”. The market faces a variety of both bullish and bearish influences over the next twelve months that could see prices move in a fairly wide range.
Monetizing carbon offsets
By Felix Salmon, Axios, 30 January 2020
You emit carbon. Everybody does. The houses we live in, the food we eat, the goods and services we consume — all of them have a carbon footprint. While it’s possible and desirable to minimize that footprint, it’s impossible to eradicate it altogether. So it’s impossible for a company to really be “carbon-negative.”
Driving the news: Microsoft has pledged to be carbon-negative by 2030, but the promise assumes the invention of carbon-removal technology that doesn’t yet exist. For the time being, every institution claiming to be “carbon-neutral” is doing so by paying money to “offset” their emissions.
Wildfires have spread dramatically—and some forests may not recover
By John Pickrell, National Geographic, 30 January 2020
Pungent and damp, the so-called tall, wet forests of southeastern Australia are home to the tallest flowering plants on Earth. Eucalyptus regnans, the Latin name of the mountain ash, means “ruler of the gum trees”—which is fitting, given these giants can reach more than 300 feet high.
The Quiet Start Of Brazil’s War On The Amazon
By Alexander C. Kaufman, Huffington Post, 30 January 2020
It was like any other day in this remote corner of the Amazon, where macaws squawked and coasted on colorful wings overhead and the hot sun beat down on the gushing Tapajós River. Aboard a dirty, makeshift skiff belching diesel exhaust, gold prospectors sucked up murky sand from the riverbed to pan for the glinting metal. This time, though, they brought up something else: a perfectly intact set of ceramic plates and bowls. It was a bizarre find. But the prospector figured it might ingratiate him and his fellow fortune seekers with the Munduruku, a local Indigenous tribe of roughly 12,000. He chugged the skiff over to a Munduruku village and came ashore.
Indonesia plans to replace old coal power plants with renewable plants: minister
By Wilda Asmarini, Reuters, 30 January 2020
Indonesian government plans to remove old coal-fired power plants with plants using renewable energy, the country’s Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Arifin Tasrif said on Thursday.
He said the country will replace coal power plants aged 20 years and older.
“Perusahaan Listrik Negara is taking inventory of those plants that will be replaced by renewable energy plants,” Tasrif said, referring to state electricity utility company.
Mexico: defender of monarch butterflies found dead two weeks after he vanished
By David Agren, The Guardian, 30 January 2020
A Mexican environmental activist who fought to protect the wintering grounds of the monarch butterfly has been found dead in the western state of Michoacán, two weeks after he disappeared.
Homero Gómez González, a former logger who managed El Rosario butterfly reserve, vanished on 13 January. His body was found floating in a well on Wednesday, reportedly showing signs of torture.
Nicaragua: Six indigenous people reportedly killed in attack
BBC News, 30 January 2020
Armed men have attacked an indigenous community in Nicaragua, killing at least six people and kidnapping another 10, rights groups say.
Police confirmed two deaths and said they were investigating. The reason for the difference in the toll is unclear.
The attack on the Mayagna group took place in a protected nature reserve in the north of the country.
Most of 11m trees planted in Turkish project ‘may be dead’
By Sami Kent, The Guardian, 30 January 2020
Up to 90% of the millions of saplings planted in Turkey as part of a record-breaking mass planting project may have died after just a few months, according to the country’s agriculture and forestry trade union.
On 11 November last year, which the government declared National Forestation Day, 11 million trees were planted by volunteers in more than 2,000 sites across the country, including by the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the parliament Speaker, Mustafa Şentop.
[UK] Marketers must follow The Guardian and stop enabling oil brands’ hypocrisy
By Mark Ritson, MarketingWeek, 30 January 2020
In a brave and important move, The Guardian will no longer accept advertising from oil and gas companies. Announcing the decision on Wednesday, the newspaper’s senior team made it clear the decision was “based on the decades-long efforts by many in that industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments around the world”.
31 January 2020
Trees Aren’t the Simple Climate Solution They Seem to Be
By Akshat Rathi, Bloomberg Green, 31 January 2020
“I haven’t met any anti-tree people yet,” said Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce. He could, however, meet some tree realists.
Benioff spoke at an event announcing the World Economic Forum’s big climate initiative to plant a trillion trees by 2030. The goal is to sequester enough carbon to slow down and perhaps reverse climate change. It’s a reaction to the WEF’s conclusion that the top five long-term risks to the planet are all tied to the inexorable rise of greenhouse gases. Even US President Donald Trump, who has remained opposed to most climate policies, jumped on WEF’s tree wagon.
Trees, big fans, and deep-rooted plants: How to suck 2 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere
By Adele Peters, Fast Company, 31 January 2020
To have a chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, society needs to reach net-zero emissions by 2050—meaning that if we can’t transition to an emissions-free economy by that time, we’ll need to find ways to remove everything we’re still pumping into the atmosphere. In the U.S., even if society massively transforms in line with a “deep decarbonization” pathway, we’ll still have a gap that needs to be closed with so-called negative emissions tech, including trees and direct air capture machines that pull carbon from the air.
Community forests can fight climate change and empower people
By Jenna Jadin and Martin Greijmans, RECOFTC, 31 January 2020
Climate change was a key focus of this year’s World Economic Forum annual meeting, held in Davos, Switzerland from 21—24 January. The 2020 theme, Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World, featured seven main topics. ‘How to Save the Planet’ topped the list.
Financing Deforestation Increasingly Risky Due to Tightening Regulatory Frameworks
Chain Reaction Research, 31 January 2020
The trend to integrate sustainability factors into financial regulatory frameworks is creating compliance, legal and reputational risks for local banks and investors financing forest-risk commodities in tropical countries. International banks and investors exposed to these supply chains may also be affected. Based on public sources and interviews, this report analyses the integration of sustainability in financial regulation on the international level, as well as in the regulatory frameworks of five countries with tropical forests: Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Indonesia and Malaysia.
They are critical for fighting climate change but . . . do you really know the importance of tropical wetlands?
By Yoly Gutierrez, CIFOR Forests News, 31 January 2020
It is time to get your toes wet. Every February 2nd is World Wetlands Day, an international celebration that aims to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and the planet. It also commemorates the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar (known now as The Ramsar convention.)
Wetlands, among other ecological features, are known for their capacity to store vast amounts of carbon, hence the importance of the role of these ecosystems in mitigating climate change.
Ex-general takes over Brazil’s Amazon protection
By Jan Rocha, Climate News Network, 31 January 2020
Alarmed by warnings that his neglect of the need to protect the Amazon could lead to disinvestment and export bans, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has turned to his usual solution to problems: call in the army.
He has chosen his vice-president, retired general Hamilton Mourão, to head a new Amazon Council which will co-ordinate “the activities of all the ministries involved in the protection, defence and development and sustainable development of the Amazon”.
“A genocidal plan for the destruction of Brazil’s indigenous peoples”: Survival responds to Bolsonaro’s proposed new FUNAI chief
Survival International, 31 January 2020
Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s government has proposed an evangelical missionary, Ricardo Lopez Dias, as head of the uncontacted Indians department of the Indigenous Affairs Agency. Mr Dias has worked with the New Tribes Mission (NTM), now known as Ethnos360, for many years.
Sarah Shenker of Survival International said today: “Putting an evangelical missionary in charge of the uncontacted Indians department of FUNAI is like putting a fox in charge of the hen house. It’s an open act of aggression, a declaration that they want to forcibly contact these tribes, which will destroy them. Together with President Bolsonaro’s recent plan to open indigenous reserves up to mining and exploitation, this is a genocidal plan for the total destruction of the most vulnerable peoples on the planet whose survival is now at stake. We will resist it with all our might, together with our indigenous friends in Brazil.”
[Canada] Why $25 million of carbon credits from the Great Bear Rainforest are sitting on the shelf
By Jimmy Thomson, The Narwhal, 31 January 2020
Ernie Tallio has seen a lot on patrol from his community of Bella Coola, B.C. He’s rescued swamped kayakers, recovered bodies and protected sacred sites throughout his community.
As a Nuxalk Guardian, Tallio relies on a boat and a truck owned and maintained by the Nuxalk First Nation, a salary to feed his family and gas to get him out on the land.
Those costs — and those of guardians and staff in 14 communities throughout the Great Bear Rainforest — are partially paid for through an obscure scheme intended to put a price on the protection of land.
JBS’ Market Presence in China Set to Grow After Deal With WH Group, Increasing Deforestation Risks
Chain Reaction Research, 31 January 2020
Brazilian meatpacker JBS has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Chinese company WH Group to boost its sales of fresh meat in China, where consumption is rising at a rapid pace. This deal could bring in 3 billion Brazilian real (USD 717 million) per year for the two companies, and first shipments should begin during the first quarter of 2020. WH Group has 60,000 retail outlets in China, allowing JBS to reach millions of new consumers. China is already a large market for JBS. The Chinese market accounted for approximately 28 percent of the company’s exports in the 3Q19. JBS Brazil saw an annual increase of 73 percent in USD terms in beef exports in 3Q19, with volumes rising 44 percent year-on-year.
American journalist Philip Jacobson freed after prolonged detention in Indonesia
Mongabay, 31 January 2020
Philip Jacobson, an American editor for the non-profit environmental news platform Mongabay, was deported from Indonesia today, January 31, more than six weeks after authorities in the city of Palangkaraya detained him over an alleged visa violation.
Jacobson, who turned 31 on January 26, was first detained on December 17, 2019, after attending a hearing between the Central Kalimantan Provincial Parliament and the local chapter of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), Indonesia’s largest indigenous rights advocacy group.
[USA] Locus Ag Solutions and Nori to offer carbon credits to farmers
RFD TV, 31 January 2020
Two companies are teaming up to pay farmers to lower their carbon emissions.
Locus Ag Solutions and Nori are offering carbon credits, which farmers will be able to sell for every ton of carbon dioxide that is sequestered.
Right now, the carbon credits are selling for $15 but the price will be set by the open market later this year.
In order to get the carbon credits, farmers must use Locus Ag’s microbial solution which puts carbon soil where it belongs.
1 February 2020
[New Zealand] New technology helping shoppers offset carbon emissions
By David Court, Stuff, 1 February 2020
PlaceMakers, New Zealand’s leading and largest supplier of building materials and hardware, has partnered with the Auckland-based startup CarbonClick to help customers offset their carbon emissions.
Now, when shoppers make a purchase from PlaceMakers’ online store, they’ll be given the opportunity – in the shape of a big green button at checkout – to offset their purchases’ carbon emissions.
2 February 2020
GOP bill will seek to commit US to planting 3.3 billion trees annually
By Rachel Frazin and Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill, 2 February 2020
Republicans are putting the finishing touches on a bill that would cement President Trump’s commitment to a global initiative to plant 1 trillion trees, though experts caution that planting trees is not the most effective way to combat climate change.
Legislation being drafted by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) that will be unveiled this week would commit the U.S. to planting some 3.3 billion trees each year over the next 30 years, an increase of about 800 million trees per year.