By Chris Lang
This week’s REDD notes. Follow @reddmonitor on Twitter for more links to news about forests, the climate crisis, natural climate solutions, the oil industry, greenwash, carbon offsetting, etc.
Two articles in The Economist this week look at deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and the links to the beef and soya industries. Deforestation is accelerating in the Brazilian Amazon, with 1,202 square kilometres cleared in the first four months of 2020. The fires in August this year could be even worse than last year.
Cattle ranching accounts for about 80% of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Nearly all of the deforestation is illegal. Last week, a report from Greenpeace revealed that JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva indirectly sourced cattle from farms that deforested a protected Amazon reserve.
A new report by Trase, Imaflora and Instituto Centro de Vida focusses on soya from Mato Grosso. 95% of deforestation on soya farms between 2012 and 2017 was illegal.
Bunge and Cargill promised that by 2020 they would source beef only from land that has not been deforested. Both firms missed the deadline. Bunge is now aiming for 2025 and Cargill 2030.
An article on the Tropical Forest Alliance’s website argues “We can’t save forests without the private sector”. Written by Roy Parizat of the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes, it is full of the sort of dangerous distractions from addressing the drivers of deforestation and the climate crisis that we would expect from the World Bank.
The article starts with a flat out lie: “There is wide-ranging consensus that nature-based solutions, including sustainable forestry and agriculture, can help us achieve 37% of emission reductions targets in the Paris agreement.” The reality is that the figure of 37% comes from one single paper published in 2017 titled “Natural Climate Solutions”. It is based on a series of extremely questionable assumptions, such as reforesting an area almost the size of Australia, including “all grazing land in forested ecoregions”. A detailed rebuttal of the paper is available here:
Parizat argues that, “Using public money to support sustainable land use initiatives can unlock new investment opportunities, innovation, and new flows of finance from the private sector.” He gives examples of zero-deforestation cocoa and coffee initiatives in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Colombia, and Ethiopia.
But he makes no mention of the ongoing destruction of tropical forests driven by the private sector through cattle ranching, dam building, logging, mining, oil extraction, industrial tree plantations, oil palm plantations and so on.
And of course, Parizat doesn’t mention the 2020 “zero net deforestation” target that Tropical Forest Alliance companies failed to meet. Instead the only business-as-usual practice he mentions is “slash and burn”. Stopping this would mean “we will be in a better position to achieve the emission reductions we need to meet international climate targets”.
Obviously Parizat doesn’t say who “we” are, or whether “we” should be looking at “our” high emission lifestyles rather than expecting some of the poorest people on the planet to reduce their already tiny emissions so that “we” don’t have to.
The Council of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is currently meeting in Montreal. One of the items on the agenda is changing the baseline for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) to 2019, instead of the average of 2019 and 2020. The proposed change is because the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in very low aviation emissions for 2020.
A post on EDF’s website by Annie Petsonk argues that ICAO’s council has no legal authority to change the baseline. It can only recommend that the ICAO Assembly change the baseline. EDF is keen for the aviation industry to buy large amounts of carbon offsets, and shows little interest in addressing climate change. At no point does EDF argue that the aviation industry has to reduce its emissions from burning fossil fuels.
But Petsonk includes a timeline of the aviation industry’s avoidance of action on climate. In 1997, the UNFCCC asked ICAO to address emissions from aviation. ICAO did nothing, other than produce studies, for well over a decade. In 2013, ICAO decided to develop a market-based measure, instead of taking meaningful action.
Three years later, ICAO’s Assembly decided to set up CORSIA. But it only starts in 2021. Even then, it’s voluntary. So 24 years after the UNFCCC’s request for ICAO to address its greenhouse gas emissions this is where we are. CORSIA will rely overwhelmingly on offsets to give the impression of taking action on the climate crisis, while allowing aviation emissions to continue increasing.
Here we go again. “The private sector presents a largely untapped opportunity for the implementation of NbS that benefits business, society, and the planet. Policymakers must provide strong signals, consistent guidance and outline the business case for companies to increasingly incorporate NbS in their responses to environmental and development challenges, with targets set using the best available science and appropriate safeguards.” That’s from a recent report by CDP, a UK-registered organisation, titled “Unlocking Nature’s Potential”.
In a commentary for IISD, CDP’s Helen Finlay and Hugo Rosa da Conceicao point out that “Detailed information on how companies are carrying out NbS within their operations … is still lagging.” CDP analysed data on 543 companies that responded to CDP’s 2019 forests questionnaires and found that only 15% of companies reported “having implemented any form of NbS” and there was a lack of consistency amongst those that did. “There is no consensually agreed upon typology of NbS”, the report states.
The companies involved include pulp and paper companies such as Sappi in South Africa and North America, Mondi in South Africa Russia, Empresas in Chile, Klabin in Brazil, and Asia Pulp and Paper in Indonesia. Pure greenwash, in other words.
In May 2020, Ngoy Fidel, a 16-year-old boy was shot dead in Upemba National Park, in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Five eco-guards allegedly mistook the boy for a poacher and shot him at point-blank range. He was fixing his canoe at the time.
On 9 June 2020, the Provincial Directorate of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) put out a press release confirming that the boy had been killed, and offered its condolences to his family:
We are very concerned and are cooperating fully with provincial authorities and the military justice system to ensure that the truth is established and those responsible for his death are brought to justice. So far no charges have been brought against anyone, but investigations by the competent authorities are continuing. The park management does not accept any deviation from the code of conduct and principles of the eco-guards’ profession and will act accordingly according to the results of the investigation if eco-guards were involved.
Which sounds suspiciously like a cover-up, particularly as the eco-guards are on the run and have still not been found.
Agribusiness Feronia Inc has returned parts of its oil palm plantation operations covering several hundred hectares in the Democratic Republic of Congo to local communities. The company has illegally occupied the lands for more than 100 years. Communities installed artisanal oil-making machines. Working conditions immediately improved, and the money earned from the plantations now stays within the communities.
“We are happy to finally have access to lands that we have be kept out of for so long,” says Mr. Ebamola, crisis plant manager. “With access to these lands, we are able to resume our palm oil production, which was violently interrupted with colonisation. Since the beginning of the week, I alone have sold 15 drums of oil, which gives me 300 thousand Congolese Francs (US$150) in profit. That’s seven times what you could earn working extremely hard for the company for a whole month.”