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.
A new study by Forests & Finance finds that since 2016, banks have invested more than US$150 billion in commodities companies whose activities risked forest destruction. Forests & Finance is a coalition of Rainforest Action Network, TuK INDONESIA, Profundo, Amazon Watch, Repórter Brasil, BankTrack and Sahabat Alam Malaysia.
Sue Branford, Thais Borges, and Diego Rebouças report for Mongabay on the study. The study names banks, but not the companies linked to criminal deforestation. Brazil’s state-owned Banco do Brasil provided US$30 billion in credit since 2016 to forest-risk commodity operations. National Social and Economic Development Bank (BNDES) invested US$3.8 billion, more than half of which went to the beef sector, followed closely by the pulp and paper industry.
Another report titled “Complicity in Destruction III” by the Articulation of the Indigenous People of Brazil (APIB) and Amazon Watch shows that six US-based financial institutions provided more than US$18 billion to companies “linked to conflicts on Indigenous lands, illegal deforestation, land grabbing, the weakening of environmental protections, and the production and export of conflict commodities.”
Branford, Borges, and Rebouças point out that,
Banks have no technical excuse for not better scrutinizing supply chain-related deforestation. Due to huge technological advances made in recent years, methods now exist to easily detect illegal forest clearance and identify those carrying it out.
And they go into detail on the methods that exist to detect illegal forest clearance.
On its website, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) explains that it is “the world’s largest knowledge-led platform on integrated land use, dedicated to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement”. Predictably, GLF has jumped aboard the Nature-Based Solutions bandwagon.
For an article last week, Gabrielle Lipton, the editor of GLF’s website, interviews three NBS proponents: Max Scher (Salesforce), Tim Christophersen (UNEP), and Amy Duchelle (CIFOR).
There is no mention that the oil industry is the main financier of nature-based solutions. Neither is there any mention in Lipton’s article of offsets.
Lipton writes that,
According to the UN, nature-based solutions can provide more than a third of the climate change mitigation needed to reach goals to curb global warming by 2030. Restoring 350 million hectares of land by the same time could generate up to USD 9 trillion in net benefits.
Lipton doesn’t question any of the extremely dubious assumptions underlying the ridiculous claim that NBS can provide more than one-third of climate change mitigation. The US$9 trillion figure seems to be based entirely on FAO’s wishful thinking.
In October 2020, the FAO put out a report titled “From reference levels to results reporting: REDD+ under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – 2020 update”. In a Guest Post for IISD, Marieke Sandker, Till Neeff, Julian Fox, and Maryia Kukharava from FAO’s Forestry Division tell us that, “Since the Warsaw Climate Change Conference in 2013, countries have made tremendous progress in preparing for, implementing, and reporting on their REDD+ actions.”
Obviously, they make no mention of the fact that deforestation globally has continued to increase, despite FAO’s claim that countries have made “tremendous progress” on REDD actions. The Guest Post highlights the forest reference (emission) level reports and REDD+ results that have been submitted to the UNFCCC. Over 90% of the REDD emissions reductions reported to the UNFCCC were reported by Brazil. FAO doesn’t mention the fires that raged through Brazil’s forests in 2019 and 2020.
FAO’s report mentions the six REDD proposals approved by the Green Climate Fund in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Paraguay. Obviously, FAO doesn’t mention that deforestation continues to increase in all these countries.
The Independent reports on a new paper looking at the impact of Amazon forest fires on carbon emissions in the years following the fire. The research, published in Environmental Research Letters found that Amazon forest fires continue to cause emissions for up to 25 years after burning.
The damage caused by the fire causes them to die over a period of several years, slowly releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere. Emissions from forest fires peak four years after the fire goes out.
Camila Valeria, a PhD student at Lancaster University, is the lead author of the research. She tells the Independent:
“The effect of fires on the trees takes time. The large trees, which store the most carbon, start to die around two to three years after the fires. Once those trees start to die, there is a real decrease in the carbon stock of the forest.”
Even when forests starts to regrow, the forest only absorbed about one-third of the carbon that was lost during a wildfire. Valeria says,
“In 30 years, these forests are not capable of offsetting all of the carbon that was lost in a wildfire. Instead, they only offset around 35 per cent.”
If the forest burns again, the capacity of the forest to absorb carbon would be reduced even further.
Anthony Langat writing on the BBC’s “Future Planet” looks into the evictions of the Ogiek and Sengwer Indigenous Peoples in Kenya and their plans to restore peace and biodiversity to their territories.
Langat visited Nessuit village in the Mau Forest and sees the charred remains of the Ogiek’s homes and shops. He outlines how the Ogiek and Sengwer have documented their customary laws, “which they vow to abide by if allowed to live in and conserve the forest”.
Langat writes that,
[F]rom the colonial times to the present, authorities have in Kenya viewed forest communities as encroachers. Their approach to forest conservation has been criticised, as it favours “fortress conservation”, which works on the principle of separating humans and nature. While indigenous communities have been evicted, the Kenya Forest Service has attempted to boost forest cover by establishing plantations across the country. Yet plantations globally have been known to cause environmental, economic and social damage to rural landscapes and communities, according to a 2015 study.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, tells Langat that indigenous knowledge is the key to forest protection: “These knowledge and practices have existed for a long time and now the evidence shows that where these are still being practiced and indigenous people’s rights to their lands, territories and resources are respected. The forests are better protected and conserved.”
Jesse Klein has a piece on GreenBiz about carbon offsets at the VERGE 20 online event, organised by GreenBiz. Three breakout sessions covered offsets. Klein’s article looks at six differences between forestry and soil carbon offsets:
1. Forestry credits have a longer history
2. Soil is more challenging
3. Both have additionality issues, but they differ
4. Soil credits have more upfront costs than forestry
5. Forestry’s longer contracts can create permanence horizon concerns
6. Soil carbon sequestration can be lost easier and quicker
In other words, soil offsets are so bad, they almost make forestry offsets look good. But not really. The same old issues of additionality and permanence have not gone away. Here’s how Klein describes the additionality problem in forestry offsets:
Additionality is really hard to prove with any carbon offset project. For the uninitiated, additionality is the concept that the carbon removal is happening because of the investment from a carbon credit market and wouldn’t have happened without that investment. Most of the time you are comparing one outcome to one that never actually happened. So additionality is always just an estimation evaluated against a baseline.
Forestry credits have been having an issue with that baseline calculation.
“The protocols are allowing landowners that are already managing their lands in sustainable ways to claim a baseline with aggressive harvesting, and earn offset credits without necessarily changing their land management practice,” Barbara Haya, research fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, said during the VERGE 20 forestry credit session.