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.
Bloomberg reports that Exxon Mobil internal documents reveal that the company is planning to invest US$210 billion resulting in the company’s yearly emissions increasing 17% by 2025.
The internal planning documents seen by Bloomberg reveal that Exxon Mobil has calculated that that its seven-year investment plan will result in an addition 21 million metric tons of CO2 per year. The growth in emission dwarfs the company’s initiatives to cut emissions.
It gets worse. The emissions that Exxon Mobil is looking at are from direct emissions – not the emissions that come from burning the fossil fuels that Exxon Mobil is determined to keep extracting. Bloomberg estimates that the climate impact on Exxon Mobil’s plans would result in 100 million tons of CO2 per year.
Exxon Mobil has, of course, been fully aware for decades of the fact that continued burning of fossil fuels will result a climate crisis.
The Guardian reports on a study published in the journal Nature Communications that shows that the Amazon could be on the verge of a tipping point from rainforest to savannah:
Parts of the Amazon are receiving much less rain than they used to because of the changing climate. Rainfall in about 40% of the forest is now at a level where the rainforest could be expected to exist as savannah instead, according to the study, led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, based on computer models and data analysis.
Arie Staal of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University told the Guardian that, “Drier conditions make it harder for the forest to recover and increase the flammability of the ecosystem.” He added that, “It is harder to return from the ‘trap’ caused by the feedback mechanism in which the open, grassy ecosystem is more flammable, and the fires, in turn, keep the ecosystem open.”
A gigafire is a fire that burns a million acres of land or more. California reached gigafire status for the first time on 5 October 2020. The August Complex fire in the north of California is the largest fire ever in California.
In total, more than four million acres (1.6 million hectares) have burned this year, more than double the previous record set in 2018.
Scott Stephens, professor of fire science at UC Berkeley, told the Los Angeles Times that, Climate change is predisposing the fuels into drier conditions. We know the fire season length is also increasing … so it’s absolutely right that climate change is making this more challenging.”
Reuters points out that, “California’s record wildfires pose a problem for the state’s plan to use its forests to help offset climate-warming emissions.” Edie Change, a deputy executive director at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), told Reuters that because of the wildfires, forest are “part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
Emily McGlynn, an environmental economist at the University of California, Davis, notes that the four million acres on fire in California have released more than 200 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. That’s equivalent to nearly half of California’s annual human-caused emissions.
Reuters quotes Noah Deich, executive director of Carbon 180, as saying that, “The goal of that carbon-offsets program was never primarily to incentivize large-scale forest preservation and or restoration,” but rather to make it cheaper for emitters to meet their cap and trade obligations.
In 2009, a director of the forest ministry in the Democratic Republic of Congo wrote to the president and prime minister. He told tham that the ministry’s secretary general had diverted about US$38 million of funding from the country’s REDD programme. As a result of the letter, the director was arrested.
His family contacted Licoco (Transparency International in DRC) who asked the prosecutor’s office and the finance inspectorate to launch an audit. The director was released and the secretary general lost his job. But 11 years on, the legal case is still ongoing.
Transparency International has published a “Governance Assessment: Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) & DRC’s National REDD+ Fund (FONAREDD)”. The report finds that CAFI “lacks a transparency and anti-corruption policy, relying instead on participating organisations to use their own systems”.
Transparency International’s report also finds that, “A major flaw in CAFI’s decision-making chain allows implementing agencies to sit on decision-making bodies, causing significant conflicts of interest.”
Blue carbon credits are (yet another) dangerous distraction from the need to dramatically reduce emission from burning fossil fuels. Of course we need to protect oceans, just like we need to protect forests. But the idea of selling carbon credits based on fish stocks in marine protected areas is crazy.
Welcome to the insanity that is blue carbon. MPA News has published a useful series of interviews with some of the organisations promoting blue carbon trading under the headline: “Selling carbon credits to fund MPAs, Part 2: Could MPAs sell credits based on their fish stocks?”
The organisations hoping to set up vast areas of marine protected areas seem to be relying on funding coming from polluters that are greenwashing their operations by buying carbon credits.
We have Norway’s GRID-Arendal pushing “oceanic blue carbon”. We have Plan Vivo offering to verify fish carbon credits. We have the International Monetary Fund pushing blue carbon and whale carbon, and IUCN arguing that the UNFCCC should incorporate fish carbon into its negotiations. Then, of course there are the companies, like Blue Finance, looking to cash in on fishy credits.
It’s almost as if the past 15 years of REDD never happened.
Qantas, the Australian airline company, is still offering carbon credits from the April Salumei REDD project in Papua New Guinea. That’s despite the fact that in August 2019, the PNG government announced that the project was halted because of landowner disputes. (Not to mention the fact that the project developers have been involved in a multi-million dollar investment scam.)
Qantas has now displayed its utter contempt for addressing the climate crisis. The company recently ran a “flight to nowhere”. A Qantas 787 Dreamlimer flew from Sydney to Sydney taking 150 people on what Qantas describes as “a once-in-a-lifetime aerial tourism flight over some of Australia’s most iconic destinations.”
As Ketan Joshi points out, each person on the flight was responsible for about 1.2 tons of CO2 emissions. Joshi lists 15 countries “filled with people who on average emit less in one year than those passengers did in just under nine hours.”
Joshi writes that,
Offsets are problematic enough. Burning fossil fuels and then planting trees to re-suck the carbon released into the Earth is badly insufficient, because those trees tend to burn down in the climate-intensified bushfires tearing across the world.