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.
24 February 2020
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
By Stephen Corry (Survival International), Counter Punch, 24 February 2020
The latest idea to be heavily promoted by big conservation NGOs is doubling the world’s so-called “Protected Areas” (PAs) so that they cover thirty percent of the globe’s lands and oceans. This is now their main rallying cry and response to two of the world’s biggest problems – climate chaos and loss of biodiversity. It sounds good: It’s easy to grasp and has numbers that are supposed to be measurable, and advertisers do love numbers.
Global rescue plan to stop extinction “hopelessly weak and inadequate”
Friends of the Earth International, 24 February 2020
A draft global plan to halt the collapse of nature will not protect vulnerable communities or stop the Earth’s sixth mass extinction, claims Friends of the Earth International. The call comes as governments meet in Rome for the first time today to work on a “Paris-style” United Nations agreement that will eventually be agreed in October.
Natural Climate Solutions: How 4 global companies leverage nature to tackle the climate crisis
By Michèle Zollinger (Quantis), GreenBiz, 24 February 2020
This article is sponsored by Quantis.
It’s 2020. We’ve officially entered the defining decade to tackle the climate crisis. As businesses ramp up climate action commitments through science-based targets and net-zero or carbon neutral goals, they are realizing there are untapped opportunities to work with nature instead of against it. Nature-based climate solutions will provide the lever of change to make faster progress toward those goals, and it just might help them go above and beyond.
Greenpeace asks Norway’s supreme court to rule on Arctic oil
By Nerijus Adomaitis, Reuters, 24 February 2020
Greenpeace and its partners on Monday asked Norway’s supreme court to rule on the legality of the country’s Arctic oil and gas exploration licenses, in a case that could block the petroleum industry’s expansion plans.
If the supreme court takes up the case, the decision is likely to determine whether oil firms can search for hydrocarbons off northern Norway, where authorities believe billions of barrels of oil could be found.
[South Korea] KFS Looks to Spearhead REDD+ Initiative
NewsWorld, 24 February 2020
Korea Forest Service (KFS) is striving to spearhead reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+). KFS wants to expand and evolve it into a model of collaboration designed to respond to climate change.
KFS has been implementing REDD+ pilot projects to secure certified emission reduction through REDD+ activities in four Asian countries – Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos – to meet its national greenhouse gas reduction targets since 2012.
[Thailand] Crushing plants that cause forest fires will lose licences
By Apinya Wipatayotin, Bangkok Post, 24 February 2020
The Royal Forest Department plans to revoke the land use licences of stone-crushing plants that have caused forest fires.
Cheewapap Cheewatham, director of the Forest Protection and Fire Control Bureau, said on Monday the move followed a fire at a crushing plant that spread and destroyed 109 rai of forest in Lampang province.
[UK] BP and British media must stop green-washing
By Kapil Subramanian, Down To Earth, 24 February 2020
BP Plc’s recent statement on attaining net-zero emissions by 2050 drew predictable criticism for being yet another example of corporate green-washing and for trying to achieve too little, too late. Although the company’s decision to stop “corporate reputation advertising” — a measure perceived as being key to green-washing — is noteworthy.
Such advertising played a key role in manufacturing and sustaining doubt against scientific consensus on issues such as tobacco, as well as on human-induced climate change. Outside powerful quarters including the White House, outright climate change denial may be dying.
[USA] California lawmakers introduce legislation to fight tropical deforestation
By Ashoka Mukpo, Mongabay, 24 February 2020
Lawmakers in California have introduced an ambitious bill that would force all contractors supplying products to the state to comply with strict rules against tropical deforestation. Sponsored by assembly member Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), the California Deforestation-Free Procurement Act would require those contractors to commit to ending deforestation, peatland conversion, and community and worker exploitation in their supply chains.
[USA] Why Silicon Valley is taking a big interest in trees
By Ben Soltoff, GreenBiz, 24 February 2020
From the set of investors in Pachama’s $4.1 million seed round, which closed earlier this year, you wouldn’t think it’s a company that specializes in analyzing forests.
The lead backer is Ryan Graves, a member of Uber’s founding team, and other funders include a who’s who of accomplished entrepreneurs and investors from across Silicon Valley. To list just a few: there’s the founder of the famed Y Combinator accelerator; a co-founder of livestreaming platform Twitch; the head of an autonomous vehicle startup; and an early investor in tech giants such as Twitter, Instagram and Stripe.
[USA] Are Carbon Credits Vanishing Into Thin Air?
By Derek Sylvan and Christopher Allen, Politico, 24 February 2020
hanks to one of the rare instances of bipartisan cooperation on climate policy, the federal government is compensating companies that “capture” carbon dioxide from smokestacks or the ambient air, and then bury it underground. A provision originally passed in 2008 and vastly expanded in 2018 offers a significant tax credit for companies that keep this carbon out of the atmosphere.
The policy has been a success, by some measures: Even before the expansion, companies have claimed hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits—possibly as much as $1.3 billion—and reported 63 million tons of carbon dioxide kept out of the air.
There’s one big problem, though. All of that carbon is supposed to be stored securely underground and monitored by an Environmental Protection Agency program, to be sure it doesn’t leak out or create other complications. But so far, only 17 million of those 63 million tons have been registered with the EPA as legally required — about one-quarter of the carbon that companies have taken credit for.
25 February 2020
Great Australian Bight: Equinor abandons plans to drill for oil
By Adam Morton, The Guardian, 25 February 2020
Norwegian oil giant Equinor has abandoned plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, declaring the controversial project did not make commercial sense.
The company said on Tuesday it had told federal, South Australian and local authorities it had decided to scrap the $200m project to deepwater drill in the Great Australian Bight Marine Park.
It is the third major oil company to abandon plans to drill in the bight, following BP and Chevron.
26 February 2020
A trillion trees not enough to fix climate crisis, critics say
By Elvina Nawaguna, Roll Call, 26 February 2020
A trillion trees is a lot, but would be woefully inadequate to address the global warming crisis, according to Democrats and climate scientists who said Republican backers of a tree-planting plan are using it to distract attention from the need to phase out fossil fuel use.
The tree-planting bill — which calls for the U.S. to support a global effort to plant 1 trillion trees — got a hearing at the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, where sponsor Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., said it offers the most “pragmatic, proactive and logical” approach to reducing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.
Beware of net zero pledges – they could fuel more carbon fraud
By Robin Pagnamenta, The Telegraph, 26 February 2020
Murky deals, offshore bank accounts and money laundering – it had all the trappings of a best-selling crime novel.
When dozens of people accused of involvement in a multi-billion pound carbon-trading swindle went on trial in Paris in 2018, French authorities described it as the “crime of the century”.
An evangelical missionary has access to the locations of Brazil’s uncontacted tribes
By Fiona Watson, Survival International, 26 February 2020
The government of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far right, authoritarian president, recently confirmed the appointment of an evangelical missionary to head the unit charged with protecting uncontacted tribes within FUNAI, the federal Indigenous Affairs Department.
Ricardo Lopes Dias is linked to the New Tribes Mission (NTM), one of the largest and most extreme missionary organizations, whose objective is to contact and evangelize uncontacted tribes around the world at whatever cost, whether they like it or not.
Barrage of mining requests targets Brazil’s isolated indigenous peoples
By Maurício Angelo, Mongabay, 26 February 2020
Nearly 4,000 requests have been submitted for mining-related activities on 31 indigenous reserves and 17 protected areas in Brazil, according to recently obtained data.
The figures from the nongovernmental Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) and the National Mining Agency reveal, for the first time, the extent of the mining industry’s plans that could affect up to 71 known isolated indigenous communities. Of the 3,773 requests, the vast majority, or 3,053, are for research purposes.
Brazil Is Cracking Down on Climate Migrants While Worsening the Climate Crisis
By Niko Vorobyov, Gizmodo, 26 February 2020
The dark, rocky face of the Dois Irmãos Mountain rises over the rainforest and through the clouds, overlooking the largest slum in Latin America. A young man emerges from around the corner of an alleyway to meet me with a handgun tucked under his arm; the local gang’s “manager.” Weaving our way down the hill through the narrow, crudely-paved cement alleys, graffiti strewn everywhere spells the letters CV—Comando Vermelho or Red Command—the drug cartel lording over this area.
[Democratic Republic of Congo] Are forests the answer to an uncertain future for coffee?
By Ahtziri Gonzalez, CIFOR Forests News, 26 February 2020
Our morning cup of coffee is under threat from climate change, scientists have warned. Although projections vary on the crop’s capacity to adapt to rising global temperatures, it is certain that the areas with a suitable climate for coffee cultivation will significantly shrink in the upcoming decades, challenging global production capacity. Moreover, heatwaves and unreliable rainfall generate conditions in which pests and diseases that can devastate coffee plantations thrive, such as the coffee leaf rust.
EU Countries Coordinate Position for UN Aviation-Climate Meeting
Environmental Defense Fund, 26 February 2020
Today, EU high-level government representatives will be aligning their negotiating position on the single most important program to tackle aviation’s climate impact. The governing Council of the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization, in a meeting that starts next week, is slated to adopt key decisions on its flagship Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, known as CORSIA. Environmental Defense Fund urges EU leaders to keep a united stance to make the carbon offsetting and emission reduction program work.
Sweden’s forest crimes
By Julian Klein (Protect the Forest Sweden), Isadora Wronski (Greenpeace Sweden), Kelsey Perlman (Fern), Almuth Ernsting (Biofuelwatch), and Jana Ballenthien (Robin Wood), EURACTIV, 26 February 2020
Sweden is consistently ranked near or at the top of the world’s most environmentally-friendly industrial nations. The International Energy Agency (IEA) calls the country a “global leader in building a low-carbon economy”.
However, when it comes to Swedish forests – which cover almost 70% of the country – it is a very different story.
Sweden is the world’s third largest exporter of paper, pulp and sawn wood products. The country promotes itself as a paragon of sustainable forestry practices. But this is an illusion on a grand scale.
Fir’s fair: UK must embrace conifers in climate fight, says forestry chief
By Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, 26 February 2020
Non-native conifer plantations have long been a scourge of conservationists – blamed for wiping out woodland species and disfiguring landscapes. But exotic conifers will be better at tackling the climate emergency than much-cherished broadleaved woodlands, according to the outgoing chairman of the Forestry Commission.
[UK] Oil regulator to revise remit to address climate crisis
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian, 26 February 2020
Britain’s oil industry watchdog plans to overhaul its mission to wring as much value from the North Sea’s oil reserves as possible before the UN climate talks this year.
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) was due to meet a government minister on Wednesday afternoon to discuss how the regulator, which was set up to extend the life of the North Sea, could play a part in tackling the climate crisis.
[USA] California-Quebec carbon auction kicks off 2020 with record allowance price
By Katelyn Roedner Sutter, Environmental Defense Fund, 26 February 2020
The results of February’s joint California-Quebec auction are in, and 2020 is off to a strong start in the Western Climate Initiative. Fewer allowances were available in this auction than in the past, which could help explain the record high settlement price.
Highs and lows of the February 2020 auction:
All 57,090,077 current allowances sold. Notably, this amount is over 10 million fewer allowances than what was offered at the last auction in November 2019. It is also the lowest volume of offered allowances since the very first joint auction in November 2014.
27 February 2020
How to save the planet and make climate change “just go away” using blockchain and cryptocurrency
By Paul Gambill, Nori, 27 February 2020
My name is Paul Gambill, and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Nori. This article is an overview piece describing Nori’s plan for how to reverse climate change. We’re not interested in making the effects of climate change less bad — we want to make the whole problem go away so that we never face this threat again.
Can you really negate your carbon emissions? Carbon offsets, explained.
By Umair Irfan, Vox, 27 February 2020
Amazon. JetBlue. Delta Airlines. Elton John. Dave Matthews Band. Justin Trudeau. Austin, Texas. Norway. Nestlé. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics. NASCAR.
This odd mélange of companies, celebrities, cities, countries, and organizations have all made commitments to curb their contributions to climate change, if not eliminate them entirely. And they have one tactic in common: buying carbon offsets.
New resource hub will offer evidence-based solutions for land restoration
By Julie Mollins, CIFOR Forests News, 27 February 2020
Analyzing the range of variables involved in land management and land restoration management is a daunting task for even the most experienced of scientists, particularly in dryland areas.
More than 2 billion people live in these complex ecosystems, which cover 40 percent of the world’s surface. Scientists with World Agroforestry (ICRAF) are working together with the Makueni County government in Kenya to determine how best to mitigate the impact of unpredictable rainfall patterns and severe land degradation – exacerbated by climate change – on human livelihoods, plants and animals.
Can aviation ever be truly green?
By Tom Parsons (Air BP), Arabian Aerospace, 27 February 2020
There’s no denying that air travel has changed the way the world works, but our ability to fly pretty much wherever and whenever we like comes at an environmental cost, with aviation accounting for around 2 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions today. The sector is taking action though; in the UK, for example, the aviation industry has pledged to cut its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. But, how might such goals be met?
‘Out of control’: Unprecedented fires ravage Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands
By Ana Ionova, Mongabay, 27 February 2020
Only fragile wisps of freshly-sprouted grass dotted the charred plot of farmland in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands. Standing amid the ash and burnt vegetation, Eledilson Nunes de Souza lifted his hand, marking a line halfway up his chest.
“Usually, at this time of year, it’s all flooded here – the water is up to here,” the towering 43-year-old said. “But this year, the rains didn’t come.”
Indonesian timber auditors to probe allegations of faked permits for $6bn of wood
Illegal Deforestation Monitor, 27 February 2020
In a major test for Indonesia’s flagship EU-backed timber legality scheme, its auditors are investigating allegations that a vast logging and timber operation in virgin forest in Papua is underpinned by fake oil palm permits.
Following inquiries by Earthsight, two auditing firms, which previously certified the companies concerned against the mandatory System Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu (SVLK) scheme, said they would review the certifications. But their responses leave open the possibility that timber from the controversial project could be allowed to retain its green stamp of approval while the fake permit fiasco continues unresolved.
[Kenya] Sengwer in 7-year court battle to have forest degazetted
By Stephen Rutto, Standard Digital, 27 February 2020
The Sengwer have a right to live in Embobut Forest, lawyers representing the minority community told court in a case that has been going on since 2013.
The lawyers petitioned the Environment and Lands Court in Eldoret, seeking orders to stop the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the State from interfering with the community’s rights to own and settle in Embobut Forest, which they say is ancestral land.
[UK] Heathrow third runway ruled illegal over climate change
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian, 27 February 2020
Plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport have been ruled illegal by the court of appeal because ministers did not adequately take into account the government’s climate change commitments.
The ruling is a major blow to the project at a time when public concern about the climate emergency is rising fast and the government has set a target in law of net zero emissions by 2050. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, could use the ruling to abandon the project, or the government could draw up a new policy document to approve the runway. The judge said ministers had not sought permission to appeal.
US opens the door to deforestation risk from Brazilian beef
By Erasmus zu Ermgassen, Trase, 27 February 2020
The US announced that from last Friday, February 21st, 2020, it will lift restrictions on the import of fresh beef from Brazil. Given the link between last summer’s Amazon fires and Brazil’s beef sector, many are now asking whether this shift in trade will expose US companies and consumers to buying deforestation-linked products.
28 February 2020
Global aviation dogfight in Montreal
By Ryan Heath, Politico, 28 February 2020
Are we about to fundamentally change the way we travel?
Airlines are regularly accused of greenwashing but between the flight-shaming movement, millennium bank employees demanding to know why their institutions own so many airports and planes (about half the world’s airline stock), and coronavirus forcing millions to live without their expected flights, an aviation inflection point is on the horizon. Before jumping to green conclusions, there’s an aerial dogfight in Montreal you need to know about.
[Indonesia] Activists skeptical of win as court orders Papua plantation maps published
By Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 28 February 2020
A court in Indonesia has ordered the government to publish detailed maps of oil palm plantations in the country’s easternmost Papua region, an area increasingly targeted by the plantation and logging companies that have depleted much of the tropical rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo.
But indigenous and land rights activists say they’re skeptical about forcing greater transparency from the government, given its record of flouting similar court orders in the past.
Religious and Indigenous leaders in Indonesia unite to protect forests
By Julie Mollins, CIFOR Forests News, 28 February 2020
More than 250 religious leaders descended upon Jakarta in January pledging to prioritize protection of the world’s third largest tropical rainforest area and launching the Indonesian chapter of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI).
The two-day IRI event united religious leaders and Indigenous representatives from major forest areas throughout Indonesia. Scientists, government leaders and representatives from non-governmental organizations and the United Nations were also on hand.
[Philippines] Forest fires razed nearly 900 hectares of land in Benguet
Rappler, 28 February 2020
Twelve fires razed nearly 900 hectares of land in Benguet, including forests and reforested areas in 8 areas in the province, an environment official reported to the Cordillera Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council on Thursday, February 27.
Benguet Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Edgardo Flor reported to the council that there were 12 “significant” fire incidents recorded in 8 of the 13 municipalities in Benguet, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in Benguet said.
[Republic of Congo] Plan to drain Congo peat bog for oil could release vast amount of carbon
By Phoebe Weston, The Guardian, 28 February 2020
The world’s largest tropical peatlands could be destroyed if plans go ahead to drill for oil under the Congo basin, according to an investigation that suggests draining the area would release the same amount of carbon dioxide as Japan emits annually.
Preserving the Congo’s Cuvette Centrale peatlands, which are the size of England and store 30bn tonnes of carbon, is “absolutely essential” if there is any hope of meeting Paris climate agreement goals, scientists warn.
29 February 2020
[Ireland] Welsh woman declares vindication after ‘guerrilla rewilding’ court case
By Rory Carroll, The Guardian, 29 February 2020
Sioned Jones used to adore the landscape and wildlife of her adopted home in Bantry, a bucolic region in west Cork on Ireland’s Atlantic coast. She planted vegetables and herbs, foraged for nuts and berries and observed birds, insects, frogs and lizards.
Then, on land above her house, the state-owned forestry company Coillte planted a forest of Sitka spruce, a non-native species that Jones considered a dark, dank threat to biodiversity.
[Ireland] Ryanair’s carbon cop-out: Passengers paid to ‘offset’ emissions and fill this field with trees – but the airline pulled the plug on the scheme after critics branded it a ‘green gimmick’
By Tom Payne and Jim Norton, Daily Mail, 29 February 2020
Ryanair has dropped two ‘carbon offset’ projects funded by passengers after claims they do little or nothing to reduce total emissions.
The budget airline has dumped one tree-planting scheme before a single sapling was planted and pulled funding from a whale-watching project.
Critics said the schemes were ‘woefully inadequate’ at cancelling out the massive amount of greenhouse gas the airline produces each year.
Ryanair has said it will instead invest in ‘certified’ carbon offsetting projects which offer a ‘verification’ stamp allowing companies to claim their carbon is being offset.
Singapore’s 2050 target: Halve emissions from 2030 peak
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 29 February 2020
By 2050, Singapore wants to halve the amount of emissions it produces from its 2030 peak, with the aim of achieving net-zero emissions “as soon as viable in the second half of the century”, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.
This aim of emitting just 33 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2050 will be challenging for Singapore, which has limited access to renewable energy options, he said.
[Thailand] Chiang Mai blanketed by haze from forest fires
Pattaya Mail, 29 February 2020
Chiang Mai’s 20 districts have been shrouded by smog from forest fires as the level of ultra-fine particulate matter has risen sharply.
Air CMI application showed the level of tiny dust in Chiang Mai’s 25 districts surpassed 100 microgrammes per cubic metres as of 9 am. on Friday. The worst air pollution was recorded at 278 mcg in Mae Taeng district, followed by 248 mcg in Om Koi district and 240 mcg in Mae Chaem district. The Chiang Mai city was measured at 191 mcg. The safe threshold is 50 mcg.
[USA] California’s super-dry February raises specter of early fires and drawn-down reservoirs
By Joseph Serna and Paul Duginski, Los Angeles Times, 29 February 2020
California is set to conclude one of its driest Februaries in recorded history, elevating fears the state’s always-unpredictable fire season could arrive early this year — if March doesn’t provide some wet relief.
February is typically a prime month for Pacific storms to produce much of the Sierra Nevada snowpack — moisture that sustains wildlife, delays wildfire season and serves as a water bank for thirsty cities and farms. But those storms didn’t arrive in February, with a state survey Thursday showing the snowpack was 46% of average.
1 March 2020
[Australia] HSBC and Qantas join Queensland’s Blue Carbon wave
Blue Carbon Lab, 1 March 2020
Qantas Future Planet and HSBC Australia have committed additional funds to extend research exploring the Blue Carbon opportunities in Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, as part of their corporate efforts to build a sustainable future and support natural climate solutions.
Research funds from Qantas Future Planet and HSBC Australia will be injected to the program ‘Queensland Blue‘ sponsored by the Land Restoration Fund, and be used to explore study cases for local changes in management strategies along the Great Barrier Reef catchment and understand how future environmental conditions are likely to influence blue carbon stocks in the region. Such information is crucial to guide future policy and investments in blue carbon.
[Brazil] Misinformation about Amazon fires could mean more blazes in 2020
By Taylor Mooney, CBS News, 1 March 2020
On a gray afternoon in early October 2019, weeks after reports about fires raging through the Amazon rainforest dominated global headlines, Sidnei Menezes stood by one of the fields that comprise his nearly 2,700 acre farm. Menezez explained that in an effort to keep his land productive, he had legally set a portion of it ablaze the day before. “This area is being recuperated, it was degraded pasture. So we have authorization for a machine cleaning and a controlled burn,” he said. “It’s a controlled burn, with documents.”
Forest fires seen burning in Riau province as dry season begins in Indonesia
Newsflare, 1 March 2020
Forest fires were seen burning in Pekanbaru, Riau province on Sunday (March 1) as the dry season begins in Indonesia.
Indonesian farmers often use fire to clear land during the dry season, but they can rage out of control.
Last year the fires burnt nearly 16,000 square kilometers (6,200 square miles).