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.
2 March 2020
Vital Cop26 climate talks could be derailed by coronavirus
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, 2 March 2020
Concern is growing among campaigners that vital UN climate talks will be derailed by the coronavirus outbreak, while government officials are working to find ways round the problem.
This year’s UN talks on the climate are the most important since the Paris agreement in 2015, as the world is now far adrift of the Paris goals and the Cop26 summit – scheduled for Glasgow this November – is seen as one of the last chances to put nations back on track to avoid climate breakdown.
Why billionaire climate philanthropists will always be part of the problem
By Heather Alberro, The Conversation, 2 March 2020
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and the richest man alive, recently made headlines after pledging to donate $10 billion to a new “Bezos Earth Fund” to help combat climate change. It’s one of the largest charitable gifts in history. Though details regarding the exact kind of work that will be funded are scarce, Bezos noted in his announcement on Instagram that the new global initiative will “fund scientists, activists, NGOs – any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world”.
Rich countries could be asked to pay billions to protect biodiversity
By Patrick Greenfield, The Guardian, 2 March 2020
Wealthy nations could be asked to make significant financial contributions to biodiverse countries such as Brazil under proposals put forward during talks on a global agreement to halt and reverse biodiversity decline.
Paying countries with life-sustaining ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest billions of pounds a year for the services those ecosystems provide for the world was proposed during negotiations on a Paris-style UN agreement on nature in Rome last week.
What is ‘financialisation’?
Morning Star, 2 March 2020
Financialisation is the process whereby global financial institutions increasingly dominate our planet — the economy, society, the environment and our daily lives.
Financialisation is a shift in the composition of capital and in the way that capitalists accumulate wealth.
Four years since Berta Cáceres’ assassination, Honduran defenders face greater danger than ever
By Chris Madden, Global Witness, 2 March 2020
In many parts of the world, standing up for the environment is a deadly undertaking. Few places are more dangerous than Honduras. It was four years ago today that Honduran activist Berta Cáceres was assassinated for protecting her ancestral land from the construction of a hydroelectric dam. Despite the international outcry that followed Berta’s murder, the Honduran government is consistently failing in its duty to protect its own citizens. In fact, land and environmental defenders in the Central American state face more lethal and non-lethal threats today than they did in 2016.
[USA] Some parts of California had no rain in February — and are already seeing wildfires
By Denise Chow, NBC News, 2 March 2020
Huge swaths of California experienced its driest February on record, with some northern areas of the state recording zero precipitation for the entire month, according to the National Weather Service.
The unusually dry conditions in what is normally one of California’s rainiest months of the year could significantly increase the risk of wildfires across the state.
3 March 2020
2020 UNPFII session to be postponed
UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Indigenous Peoples, 3 March 2020
The Members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues have decided to postpone its forthcoming 19th session, originally scheduled to take place on 13-24 April 2020, until a later date to be determined.
The Members of the Permanent Forum noted that they did not take this decision lightly but believe that this is the only responsible action to take in light of the extraordinary situation related to the COVID-19 outbreak and considering the high level of participation at the annual sessions of the Permanent Forum.
An additional factor is the already precarious health situation that many indigenous peoples live in, and the imperative to avoid adverse impacts.
Richer countries must do more to help those already experiencing the climate crisis
By Keith Hyams and Morten Fibieger Byskov, The Conversation, 3 March 2020
The climate crisis is not just about the future. It is a reality that many people, especially those living in low-income countries, already have to live with. As is well documented, global heating increases the risks of extreme weather events that threaten human lives and livelihoods. Some of these effects are already being seen.
New Report Lays Out 76 Solutions We Already Have to Fight the Climate Crisis
By Yessenia Funes, Gizmodod, 3 March 2020
As hopeless as solving the climate crisis can feel, solutions exist today. Realistic ones that wouldn’t be costly. In fact, they’d make us richer than if we continue to ignore the risks of the crisis.
A group of researchers compiled the 76 best ones on a list. The Drawdown Review, published Tuesday, offers details on how we can limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures as well as 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Celsius), both thresholds put forth in the Paris Agreement. The report is an update to the group’s inaugural publication in 2017. As the market and science changes, so do the solutions the world needs to be considering to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
Nature Needs Investment Bankers
By Mark Tercek, Medium, 3 March 2020
Nature-based investment opportunities are finally getting the attention they deserve-but we have a long way to go to fully realize these opportunities, and time is not on our side.
There is simply not enough philanthropy and government grant funding for environmental organizations to protect nature at scale. As a former investment banker and previous leader of an environmental organization, I have been routinely impressed with what NGOs can accomplish with generous gifts. But what we need to do now, in Wall Street parlance, is lever up precious donor capital with investor-provided funding: we need investment bankers for nature.
BlackRock Faces Criticism for Role in Climate Crisis, Amazon Deforestation
By Jordan Davidson, EcoWatch, 3 March 2020
A month and a half ago, BlackRock, the world’s largest investment firm, made waves for choosing to divest from some coal investments, setting up funds that avoided fossil fuels, and saying it would only support corporate board members who factored the climate crisis into its decisions. While the initial announcement was met with some criticism by environmental activists, BlackRock’s recent decisions have cast doubt on the seriousness of its commitments to help fight the global climate crisis.
World’s biggest meat company linked to ‘brutal massacre’ in Amazon
By Dom Phillips, The Guardian, 3 March 2020
A new investigation has linked the world’s biggest meat company JBS, and its rival Marfrig, to a farm whose owner is implicated in one of the most brutal Amazonian massacres in recent memory.
The report by Repórter Brasil comes as JBS faces growing pressure over transparency failings in its Amazon cattle supply chain.
Local communities move to the frontline of forest protection in Cambodia
By Jeffrey Williamson, Tol Sokchea, and Julian Atkinson, RECOFTC, 3 March 2020
When Cambodia established the Ministry of Environment in 1993 its forests were disappearing rapidly. To stop the decline, the new ministry issued a Royal Decree establishing 23 conservation areas under state control. Cambodia’s system of protected areas was born, covering 18 percent of the country and 31 percent of its forests.
Indonesia’s forests battered to a pulp
By Frederick Kuo, Asia Times, 3 March 2020
As Indonesia’s fire season is set to start in April, President Joko Widodo has gone on the offensive, lambasting senior officials and demanding accountability for the 2019 land and forest fires that ravaged his country.
More than 16,000 square kilometers burned down last year in Indonesia, costing the nation US$5.2 billion in economic damage and in effect shaving 0.5% from its GDP growth. In addition, the fires caused respiratory problems for more than 900,000 people, wreaked immense damage to the flora and fauna of affected areas, and released more than 708 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Bringing back mangroves: Scientists in Mexico restore degraded ecosystems
By Yoly Gutierrez, CIFOR Forests News, 3 March 2020
“What was this area like three years ago?” I asked researcher Jorge Herrera as we dipped our feet into the warm waters swirling around the trunks of a stand of mangrove saplings in Ciénaga del Progreso, a 40 minute drive from the hot and humid city of Mérida in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.
“Nothing; it was all dry land,” responded Herrera, who leads a team of Mexican researchers working on a major mangrove restoration project implemented by the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (CINVESTAV-IPN).
[UK] Shell faces ASA investigation over ‘carbon neutral’ claims
By Sara Spary, Campaign, 3 March 2020
The Advertising Standards Authority has launched an investigation into claims made by Shell that customers can “drive carbon neutral” because it has invested in carbon-offsetting schemes.
The ad watchdog confirmed that it has received 17 complaints from the public about a radio ad that made the claim and said it had launched a probe.
4 March 2020
Tropical forests losing their ability to absorb carbon, study finds
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, 4 March 2020
Tropical forests are taking up less carbon dioxide from the air, reducing their ability to act as “carbon sinks” and bringing closer the prospect of accelerating climate breakdown.
The Amazon could turn into a source of carbon in the atmosphere, instead of one of the biggest absorbers of the gas, as soon as the next decade, owing to the damage caused by loggers and farming interests and the impacts of the climate crisis, new research has found.
Global oil demand set to shrink first time in decade as coronavirus spreads
By Eric Yep, SP Global, 4 March 2020
Oil demand is set to contract in 2020 as the coronavirus outbreak widened to 72 countries outside China as of Wednesday, threatening to put more pressure on the global economy and fuel demand, according to two revised outlooks this week.
This is notable because oil demand has consistently increased every year for several decades, with a few exceptions like the early 1990s recession and the financial crisis of 2008-2009.
Cement and the Coronavirus
By David Perilli, Global Cement, 4 March 2020
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) took on direct implications for the international cement industry this week when an Italian vendor infected with the virus visited Lafarge Africa in Ogun state, Nigeria. The cement producer said that it had ‘immediately’ started contact tracing and started isolation, quarantine and disinfection protocols. This included initiating medical protocols at its Ewekoro integrated plant, although local press reported the unit’s production lines were still open. Around 100 people were thought to have had contact with the man.
Exclusive: U.N. aviation agency weighs restrictions on carbon credits under fire by climate activists
By Allison Lampert and Tracy Rucinski, Reuters, 4 March 2020
The United Nations is weighing restrictions for a scheme designed to help airlines offset their carbon emissions, curbing industry funding for older projects whose environmental benefits have been disputed by climate activists.
The move, if approved, would be a blow to operators of older projects in countries including Brazil and India who had hoped a global push by airlines to offset emissions would mop up a glut of carbon credits awarded under earlier climate initiatives.
How the rise of passive investment funds is deepening the climate crisis
By Adrienne Buller, NewStatesman, 4 March 2020
A recent leaked report from US bank JP Morgan included the acknowledgement that, in a future of accelerating temperatures, “we cannot rule out catastrophic outcomes where human life as we know it is threatened”. The warning is stark, but not out of place in an industry increasingly mindful of the threat posed by climate change. Finance is not alone – across the world, unprecedented public concern and outcry over the climate emergency is beginning to be matched by ambitious policy ideas, foremost among them the Green New Deal.
On the road to COP26, the finance sector steps forward
By Margaret Kuhlow, WWF, 4 March 2020
While the UK’s preparations for COP26 have, so far, underwhelmed, one area where the UK can bring weight to bear on the crucial negotiations is in finance; London is working to green its financial capital, and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has been a powerful voice warning the finance sector — and the wider economy — of the risks posed by climate change.
Australia’s carbon accounting plan for Paris goals criticised as ‘legally baseless’
By Chloé Farand, Climate Home News, 4 March 2020
Australia’s plan to use Kyoto-era carbon credits to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement is inconsistent with international law, legal experts have warned.
In a letter to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, nine international and climate law professors said Australia’s method would set “a dangerous precedent” for other countries to “exploit loopholes or reserve their right not to comply with the Paris Agreement”.
Exclusive: Brazil exported thousands of shipments of unauthorized wood from Amazon port
By Jake Spring, Reuters, 4 March 2020
Over the past year Brazil exported thousands of cargoes of wood from an Amazonian port without authorization from the federal environment agency, increasing the risk they originated from illegally deforested land, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
After customs officials in Europe and the United States alerted Brazil of the issue, the president of the Brazilian environment agency known as Ibama changed regulations to do away with previously required export authorizations, according to an internal document seen by Reuters.
EU is ‘pretending’ to tackle climate crisis, Thunberg says
By Kate Abnett, Reuters, 4 March 2020
Climate activist Greta Thunberg accused European Union governments and institutions on Wednesday of only “pretending” to urgently tackle the climate crisis.
EU leaders say they are spearheading some of the most ambitious climate change policies in the world, and on Wednesday the bloc’s executive unveiled a planned climate law to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
[EU] “Not enough data” for MSR review in 2021 – analyst
By Alessandro Vitelli, Montel, 4 March 2020
The EU ETS has not had enough experience of the market stability reserve (MSR) to make any changes to the mechanism at its scheduled review in 2021, according to an analyst.
“I don’t think we have enough data to do this review,” Trevor Sikorski of Energy Aspects told the Argus Emissions conference on Tuesday.
Nestle vows to plant 3 million trees in Mexico, Brazil to help set off emissions
By Daina Beth Solomon, Reuters, 4 March 2020
Nestle SA is launching a reforestation project to plant at least 3 million trees in Mexico and Brazil in the next year and a half as the Swiss food group strives for carbon neutrality by 2050, executives told Reuters.
Nestle is one of a number of major corporations including Microsoft and Amazon that have taken on ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions, often in response to growing demands from customers and investors to step up efforts to combat climate change.
5 March 2020
Why don’t we treat the climate crisis with the same urgency as coronavirus?
By Owen Jones, The Guardian, 5 March 2020
It is a global emergency that has already killed on a mass scale and threatens to send millions more to early graves. As its effects spread, it could destabilise entire economies and overwhelm poorer countries lacking resources and infrastructure. But this is the climate crisis, not the coronavirus. Governments are not assembling emergency national plans and you’re not getting push notifications transmitted to your phone breathlessly alerting you to dramatic twists and developments from South Korea to Italy.
How the UN’s Shady Aviation Organization Could Upend a Key Effort to Combat Climate Change
By Jocelyn Timperley, Gizmodo 5 March 2020
The United Nations’ official aviation body begins three weeks of talks this week. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) council meeting will discuss all manner of aviation-related topics, from coronavirus to unannounced missile launches. But it is also set to make a decision on which carbon offsets it will permit in its scheme to combat the climate crisis, due to begin in a voluntary phase in 2021.
Can tropical forests protect us against climate change?
By Ahtziri Gonzalez, CIFOR Forests News, 5 March 2020
While tropical forests remain one of the world’s most important weapons in the fight against climate change, their ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere is decreasing, shows a new study published today in the journal Nature.
Researchers from almost 100 academic institutions studied the Amazon and the Congo Basin forests for three decades, observing a sharp decline in their carbon sink that started around 20 years ago. While intact tropical forests removed 17 percent of human-made carbon dioxide emissions in the 1990s, this figure was reduced to 9 percent in the 2000s, and just 6 percent in the 2010s.
Analysis shows climate finance not reaching most vulnerable
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, 5 March 2020
People in some of the world’s poorest countries are receiving as little as $1 each a year to help them cope with the impacts of the climate crisis, despite rich countries’ promises to provide assistance.
Climate finance is intended to help developing countries cut greenhouse gases and protect their people from the consequences of climate breakdown, and forms a core part of the Paris agreement. Rich countries pledged more than 10 years ago to provide $100bn (£77m) a year to the poor by 2020, but it is not certain that these commitments are being met.
Thomas Siebel: AI to transform oil and gas
By Alastair O’Dell, Petroleum Economist, 5 March 2020
Thomas Siebel is the leading force behind C3.ai, the Silicon Valley firm that has formed an exclusive partnership with Baker Hughes to bring its artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to the oil and gas industry. While the agreement was forged just nine months ago—with Microsoft Azure added to the mix in November—it has already launched six products and has its eyes on every part of the energy value chain.
‘Individual actions do add up’: Christiana Figueres on the climate crisis
By Emily Holden, The Guardian, 5 March 2020
Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who was an architect of the worldwide Paris climate agreement, is enraged. She thinks you should be too.
She was traveling in 2017 when Donald Trump made plans to announce the US withdrawal from the pact. Perched at the end of her hotel bed with pen and paper, she decided to write down each correct statement she heard.
“The speech finished and my piece of paper was completely blank,” Figueres told the Guardian in an interview. “There was not a sentence uttered in that whole speech that was correct, true or even informed.”
There’s a new label to vet brands’ climate change pledges
By Justine Calma, The Verge, 5 March 2020
A nonprofit organization is trying to give consumers an easy way to make sense of the flood of environmental pledges that companies are suddenly making, with a new product label. Kickstarter and Klean Kanteen are two of the 135 brands that have been “Climate Neutral Certified” by the nonprofit, Climate Neutral.
To be carbon neutral, a company needs to essentially cancel out all its heat-trapping pollution. It might do this by investing in tree-planting efforts or emerging technologies that capture carbon dioxide. Purchasing those carbon offsets or credits, however, is no replacement for actually cutting down greenhouse gas emissions. And as bigger and bigger polluters, including Delta and BP, make their own pledges to become carbon neutral, there’s growing uncertainty over what it will take for a company to actually achieve those aims. Who will hold them accountable?
Shades of REDD+ Cambodia: Building a Nested System to Protect Remaining Forests
By Quentin Renard, Sovanna Nhem, Chivin Leng, Jeff Silverman, and Donna Lee, Ecosystem Marketplace, 5 March 2020
We didn’t expect a junkyard in the jungle, but that’s what we found: chainsaws – hundreds of them – piled high, along with old trucks, dozens of battered cars, countless motorbikes and scores of giant, illegally-harvested timbers. It had all been confiscated by rangers working to protect the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, which is one piece of a massive effort to build a sustainable rural economy while saving and restoring forests in Cambodia.
This winter in Europe was hottest on record by far, say scientists
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian, 5 March 2020
The winter just experienced by Europe was by far the hottest on record, scientists have announced, with the climate crisis likely to have supercharged the heat.
The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) data dates back to 1855. It said the average temperature for December, January and February was 1.4C above the previous winter record, which was set in 2015-16. New regional climate records are usually passed by only a fraction of a degree. Europe’s winter was 3.4C hotter than the average from 1981-2010.
[Singapore] Parliament: Aviation development fund extended for 5 more years to meet growing air travel demand
By Wong Kai Yi, Singapore Times, 5 March 2020
A $280 million fund to help aviation firms boost their productivity will be extended for another five years till 2025, to meet the growing demand for air travel in the coming years.
In announcing that the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) will extend the Aviation Development Fund, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min noted that air passenger numbers are expected to double from four billion to eight billion globally in the next 20 years.
6 March 2020
U.N. cancels some meetings ahead of climate summit due to coronavirus
By Valerie Volcovici, Reuters, 6 March 2020
The United Nations has canceled some meetings in Bonn, Germany, and elsewhere planned in the run-up to a crucial U.N. climate summit to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November due to the coronavirus outbreak, an official said on Friday.
“This exceptional measure aims to contain the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard the health and safety of participants attending UNFCCC meetings in Bonn and elsewhere,” Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said in a statement.
The UNFCCC secretariat will not hold any physical meetings in Bonn or elsewhere between March 6 and the end of April, she said in a statement.
Airlines Are Flying Empty ‘Ghost Flights’ Amid Coronavirus Fears
By Laura Bliss, CityLab, 6 March 2020
As coronavirus infections rise around the globe, demand for air travel is projected to hits its lowest point since the last financial crisis. Airlines around the world could lose up to $113 billion in revenue this year if COVID-19 continues to spread, the International Air Transport Association forecast on Thursday.
With travelers scarce, some carriers are turning to a troubling practice, the Times of London reports: flying planes with no passengers, in order to hang on to take-off and landing slots. On Thursday, the U.K.’s Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, posted a letter he sent to air travel regulators after learning of airlines operating “ghost flights” during the global outbreak. “Bad news for the environment, airlines & passengers,” he tweeted.
Has the FLEGT Action plan contributed to better forest governance?
By Paulo Cerutti, CIFOR Forests News, 6 March 2020
I still remember the day, years ago, when the director general of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) “invited” all staff to take part in a compulsory workshop about how theories of change work.
Squares, bubbles, arrows and other markings were drawn on pieces of paper and dotted throughout the room to juxtapose the familiar in a new context. Dull statements were marked on shiny stickers and placed on a cloth to demonstrate concepts related to inputs and impacts, as the workshop moderator fought against the waning concentration of skeptical scientists. Movement from left to right was the rhythmic focus of activities, while inputs to impacts served as a barometer of measurable change.
The good doctor living in Papua New Guinea
By Richard Andrews, Business Advantage PNG, 6 March 2020
Meet the indefatigable Dr William Thomas, 65, who’s taken on bureaucracies, tribal rivalries, mining companies and even giant spiders to preserve an area more than four times bigger than Singapore in Papua New Guinea’s ‘largest, least explored and most diverse wilderness’.
Endorsed by UNESCO, the New Jersey anthropologist has set up the Papua Forest Stewards Initiative, using traditional knowledge to conserve 3,200 square kilometres of natural habitat in two areas of the Central Range.
Under the program, the landowners agree to keep their forest and culture intact, in exchange for payments to be funded by the sale of carbon credits.
7 March 2020
Climate crisis and Covid-19 conspire to crush oil firms like Tullow
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian, 7 March 2020
Tullow Oil may emerge as the latest casualty of the coronavirus this week as it prepares to lay bare the toll of a difficult year, amid growing investor concern for the oil industry in the months and years ahead.
The troubled exploration company has already lost more than half its market value since the start of 2019 as the Covid-19 outbreak punctured rising oil markets and cast doubt on the size of world energy demand in the year ahead.
“Things Are Finally Changing”: Naomi Klein On Being At The Forefront Of The Climate Movement
By Emily Chan, Vogue, 7 March 2020
Naomi Klein has been part of the environmental movement for more than a decade. But it’s only during the past two years that she’s seen a clear shift in conversations taking place around the world, thanks to the likes of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion. “Things are changing,” the Canadian author and activist tells Vogue. “I wish they had started to change sooner, but they’re finally changing.”
8 March 2020
Recipe for slowing species loss and cutting extinction risk in half
By Julie Mollins, CIFOR Forests News, 8 March 2020
Limiting climate change to 2 degrees Celsius and conserving 30 percent of terrestrial area could halve the risk of plant, bird and mammal extinctions compared to the consequences of uncontrolled climate change and no increase in conserved areas, research suggests.
More than 20 global biodiversity and climate change scientists created conservation spatial plans to shape projections on how to minimize extinction risk in the tropics. Their findings were recently published in Ecography journal.
The scientists, led by Conservation International, used data on almost 290,000 species, creating models based on two potential future greenhouse gas concentration pathways while varying the extent of terrestrial protected land and conserved areas from less than 17 percent to 50 percent.
Climate crisis on back-burner as pandemic threat looms
AFP, 8 March 2020
Economic shock waves from the coronavirus outbreak have curbed carbon pollution from China and beyond, but hopes for climate benefits from the slowdown are likely to be dashed quickly, experts say.
As governments prepare to spend their way out of the crisis, including with large infrastructure projects, global warming concerns will be little more than an afterthought, dwarfed by a drive to prop up a stuttering world economy, they say.
We should beware the rise of stakeholderism
By Jonathan Ford, Financial Times, 8 March 2020
Every now and then, an idea comes along about how businesses should be run. And right now, the idea in vogue is “stakeholderism”.
Basically, it’s a response to the bashing business leaders have taken for the downsides of modern shareholder capitalism: whether the excessive pay of chief executives and fund managers, or the spillover effects from heedless shareholder-focused entities that can hurt communities by squeezing wages, closing factories or polluting the environment.