By Chris Lang
22 May is the International Day for Biological Diversity. The UN General Assembly launched World Biodiversity Day in 1993. This year’s theme, chosen by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is “Our solutions are in nature”. The CBD tells us that the theme, “emphasises hope, solidarity and the importance of working together at all levels to build a future of life in harmony with nature.” It also reflects the latest conservation fad: “Natural Climate Solutions”, the latest reincarnation of REDD.
As part of a #OurNatureisNotYourSolution campaign the Global Forest Coalition is launching a special edition of its magazine “Forest Cover”. Global Forest Coalition explains that this special edition of Forest Cover,
highlights how hype around NBS [nature-based solutions] is being used as cover for pushing forest offsets, monoculture tree plantations and other false solutions, and also provides examples of the real solutions that our members in Colombia, Ghana, Nepal, Panama, Paraguay and Sri Lanka are engaged in.
The whole issue of Forest Cover is well worth a read. Here are a few highlights.
Old schemes and scams
Coraina de la Plaza’s article “Old schemes and scams are lurking under the shadow of the ‘nature-based solutions’ umbrella,” including REDD:
REDD+ is one of these, and after 15 years and over USD $4 billion in direct finance, it continues to be one of the most hotly contested intergovernmental schemes. As can be inferred from a 10-year review by CIFOR, REDD+ has done very poorly both in terms of achieving its goals and so-called “co-benefits”. Despite these failings, UNDP has hurried to describe REDD+ as a “ready to go nature-based solution”, and the UN’s “Santiago Call for Action on Forests” launched in 2019 calls on stakeholders to increase climate mitigation ambition through forestry-related NBS, including REDD+. Further still, in the Nature-Based Solutions Compendium published at the UN Action Summit in 2019, REDD+ programmes feature as exemplary NBS.
Aviation’s climate cop-out
Souparna Lahiri writes about “Forest offsets for air travel: the new frontier in nature-based solutions”:
Before the pandemic, the global aviation industry was responsible for 12% of carbon emissions from all transport sources and was the sector with the fastest growing emissions. Instead of aligning the industry with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5°C, ICAO chose the perilous path of offsetting its growing emissions. The impact that COVID-19 has had on aviation must be seized as an opportunity to tackle its emissions in a genuine way, through seriously reducing flying and instead investing in affordable and cleaner transport options.
However, the very carriers of COVID-19 are now being offered billions of dollars in bailout packages in the hope that they can return to business as usual after the pandemic. In the United States, the bailout package amounts to US$67 billion and the EU is offering airlines €26 billion. In response, more than 250 organisations from 25 countries have urged governments to resist unfair bailouts for the industry, especially when they do not include strict conditions that force airlines to commit to rapid and real emission reductions. Rolling out carbon offsets for aviation as a nature-based solution would seriously undermine this.
Plantations are not forests
To coincide with the International Day for Biodiversity, the Food and Agriculture Organisation is launching its “State of the World’s Forest 2020 Report: Forests, Biodiversity and People”.
On Global Forest Coalition’s website, Ruth Nyambura writes that,
For a long time, GFC and our allies have strongly criticised FAO as it has allowed for ecologically destructive monoculture tree plantations to be defined as “planted forests”. We consider this a deliberate mislabeling that not only allows the tree plantations industry to tap into badly needed and terribly limited climate funds, but also makes it easier to compensate for deforestation with plantation expansion. In addition to the terrible impacts these “forests” have on biodiversity, the consequences for local communities and Indigenous Peoples who often get evicted from their lands to make way for these plantations need to be constantly highlighted as our own work at GFC is committed to doing. Rather than mitigating against the impacts of climate change, these false solutions continue to be responsible for increased emissions and a myriad of human rights violations across the world.
Before the Coronavirus crisis, 2020 was going to be a conservation “super year”, with several high level meetings planned. These included: the five-year review meetings on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the Convention on Biological Diversity Summit (CBD15) to determine the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework in Kunming, China; and the UNFCCC Summit (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.
These meetings were all expected to push “natural climate solutions”.
UNEP goes as far as claiming that, “Nature-based solutions offer the best way to achieve human well-being, tackle climate change and protect our living planet.” That is simply not true, as REDD-Monitor’s detailed look at the so-called science behind Natural Climate Solutions reveals.
A “New Deal for Nature” was expected to be agreed at CBD15 in October 2020.
Nyambura points out that,
While these plans sounded laudable, the problem is that climate, biodiversity, agriculture and forest-related agreements have long served as vehicles for corporations, private foundations and developed countries to legitimize the commodification of nature. In the last decade or so, we have witnessed an aggressive push for “solutions” like NBS that seem more focused on increasing the financial gains of extractive, agro-industrial and polluting corporations than actually dealing with the structural causes of the environmental and health crises we presently face. Most of these “solutions” squarely overlook the rights, needs and livelihoods of the Indigenous Peoples, local communities and women that are actually on the forefront of forest conservation.