By Chris Lang
This week’s REDD notes. For more links to news about forests, the climate crisis, natural climate solutions, the oil industry, greenwash, carbon offsetting, and so on, please follow @reddmonitor on Twitter.
On 2 June 2020, Global Forest Watch released its data for tree cover loss in 2019. The tropics lost 11.9 million hectares of tree cover in 2019. The area of tree cover lost in tropical primary forests amounted to 3.8 million hectares. Primary forest loss was 2.8% higher in 2019 than in 2018.
Tropical primary forest loss has fallen from the record highs in 2016 and 2017, but the figure for 2019 is still the third highest since the year 2000.
The five countries that lost the most tropical primary forest in 2019 are: Brazil (1,361,000 hectares); Democratic Republic of Congo (574,000 hectares); Indonesia (324,000 hectares); Boliva (290,000 hectares); and Peru (162,000 hectares).
In total in 2019, according to Global Forest Watch, the world lost 24.2 million hectares of tree cover.
In May 2020, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached the highest monthly total every recorded. Scientists from Scripps Institute of Oceanography reported an average level in May of 417.2 parts per million. That’s 2.4 ppm higher than the May 2019 peak.
The reductions in emissions as a result of the coronavirus crisis have failed to make a difference. A post on the Scripps Institute of Oceanography website quotes geochemist Ralph Keeling as saying that,
“fossil fuel use would have to decline by about 10 percent around the world and would need to be sustained for a year to show up clearly in carbon dioxide levels, which are expressed as parts per million (ppm) of air. No events in the 62-year history of the Keeling Curve – including the global economic downturn of 2008 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s – have caused such a drop to date.”
Last week, Volkswagen announced that it was partnering with REDD project developer Permian Global. VW’s press release states that, “Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will initiatlly develop projects on a total area of one million hectares, ten times the size of Berlin, in South America and Asia.”
It’s a marriage made in hell.
Permian Global is an investment firm based in the tax haven of Luxembourg. Its most infamous project is the Katingan REDD project in Indonesia. An investigative report by Daphné Dupont-Nivet in Investico revealed that the project is threatened by land conflicts, fires, and an oil palm plantation.
The Katingan project sells carbon credits to oil giant Shell, and (since September 2019) to Volkswagen.
Volkswagen, of course, is the world’s largest car maker, infamous for “dieselgate”, under which VW sold millions of “clean diesel” cars, that turned out to be emitting up to 150 times as much pollution as a normal car.
Just days before George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, setting off protests internationally in support of Black Lives Matter, VW apologised for and withdrew a racist advert on VW’s Instagram for the new Golf 8.
On 5 June 2020, WWF put out a promotional video featuring David Attenborough. In it, Attenborough tells us that “Suddenly, saving our planet is within reach. We have a plan. We know what to do.”
Obviously, Attenborough doesn’t tell us who “We” are, or on whose authority “We” drew up the “plan”. He continues:
“Stop the damaging stuff, roll out the new green tech, stablise the human population as low as we fairly can, keep hold of the natural wealth we have currently got and we’ll have built a stable, healthy world that we can benefit from forever.”
The words “stablise the human population” were accompanied by footage of brown people:
As Survival International points out, “It’s racism, pure and simple.”
“Corporations, politicians, and environmentalists have all embraced carbon farming as the feel-good climate solution of the moment.” That’s the opening sentence of an article by James Temple on MIT Technology Review. The article takes a detailed look at the soil carbon business and how it allows corporations to claim credit for carbon dioxide supposedly sucked out of the atmosphere – “without cutting emissions from their own operations”, as Temple points out.
The big problem? There is little evidence that carbon farming works as well as promised. Temple writes:
The world’s farmlands do have the capacity to store billions of tons of carbon dioxide in the soil annually, according to a National Academies report last year. But there is still uncertainty concerning which farming techniques work, and to what degree, across different soil types, depths, topographies, crop varieties, climate conditions, and time periods.
Deforestation has accelerated dramatically in Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro. The coronavirus has accelerated the destruction. From January to April 2020, more than 120,000 hectares of Amazon tree cover has been cleared. That’s 55% more than the same period last year. Bulldozer sales more than doubled in the same period compared to last year.
An article in the New York Times looks at the damage the Bolsonaro regime is doing to Brazil’s forests, and how the coronavirus is making matters worse. Brazil has the highest daily number of coronavirus deaths in the world. More than 34,000 people have died so far of coronavirus in Brazil. (The figure stands at 35,930 on 8 June 2020.)
Far from addressing the problem, Bolsonaro is attempting to hide the data. Brazil’s government has now stopped publishing a running total of coronavirus deaths and infections.
And Environment Minister Ricardo Salles has said that he sees the media’s focus on the coronavirus as an opportunity to relax regulations on protecting the forest.
Mongabay recently visited Rondônia state to report on the illegal logging:
Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples fear for their forests as illegal loggers and miners move into their forests. Adriano Karipuna, an Indigenous leader in Rondônia state, told the New York Times that Indigenous communities fear that their health is at risk because of the ease with which illegal loggers and miners are destroying the forest:
““The dynamic can set in motion a genocide by spreading the coronavirus. The Brazilian government will be responsible.”