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.
This week, the Financial Times runs an editorial promoting a global carbon offset market. It starts with some of the problems with carbon offsets: “Environmentalists have often scoffed at carbon offset schemes.” And then it dismisses all the problems by telling us that Mark Carney, the UN special envoy for climate and former governor of the Bank of England, says that “a voluntary carbon offset market was ‘an imperative’ if the world is to achieve net zero carbon emissions”.
Instead, the Financial Times tells us we need “stringent common standards and governance mechanisms, as well as more sophisticated market infrastructure”. Carney’s Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets sets out “minimum quality standards for the offset product”, and states that emission reductions will be real, additional, based on realistic and credible baselines, permanent, and free of leakage.
But as Mark Trexler (one of the first people to jump on the carbon offsetting bandwagon in the late 1980s) notes, “There is no discussion at all in the document, however, of how to make this happen given all of the complexities and tradeoffs involved.”
Of course, the Financial Times doesn’t explain that the reason carbon markets exist is to allow the fossil fuel industry to continue polluting for as long as possible. It’s time to scrap carbon markets.
“Let’s face facts. The state of our planet is broken. Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back and is doing so with gathering force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing, deserts are spreading, oceans are choking with plastic waste. In 30 years there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
“The central objective of the United Nations for 2021 is to build a truly global coalition for carbon neutrality. Every country, city, financial institution, and company should adopt plans for transitions to net zero emissions by 2050 and take decisive action now to put themselves on the right path, which means cutting global emissions by 45% by 2030 compared with 2010 levels.
The Guardian reports that Guterres “put inequality firmly at the heart of the problem, warning that the poorest and most vulnerable – even in rich countries – were facing the brunt of the attack.”
But “humanity” is not waging war on nature. The world’s richest are waging a war on nature. The richest 10% produce half of global carbon emissions. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. And targets of “net zero” by 2050 are meaningless in the face of the climate crisis.
Reuters reports that official government data shows that deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon reached a 12-year high in 2020. The figures come from PRODES (Projeto de Monitoramento do Desmatamento na Amazônia Legal por Satélite).
Deforestation increased by 9.5% compared to 2019, reaching an area of 11,088 square kilometres. In 2018, the year before Bolsonaro became President, 7,536 square kilometres of forest was destroyed in Brazil’s Amazon.
The Brazilian non-governmental organization Climate Observatory says in a statement,
“The PRODES figures show that Bolsonaro’s plan worked. They reflect the result of a successful initiative to annihilate the capacity of the Brazilian State and the inspection bodies to take care of our forests and fight crime in the Amazon.”
Meanwhile Al Jazeera reports that Brazil’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles is pitching the rainforest as an opportunity for investment in meetings with international fund managers.
“We have to attract private capital to the Amazon,” Salles told Al Jazeera in an interview last month in his office in Brasilia. “This is my approach in all of the meetings that I have in Europe and the U.S.”
Al Jazeera writes,
Now Salles says the doors are open for outside investment that is “sustainable,” though he hasn’t set any green standards for companies. “I don’t want charity,” he said. “I want you to come to invest in the Amazon, to have laboratories, research and production lines and effectively do business.”
Salles advocates turning the Amazon into a mosaic of plots of land, with some for companies and others conserved under his flagship “Adopt1Park” programme, where for €10 per hectare anyone can “sponsor” a chunk of rainforest.
Vast areas of the Brazilian Amazon are cleared every year for beef production. A new investigation by Global Witness reveals a chain of actors involved in deforestation: from cattle ranchers to multinational beef traders, to international financiers, to supermarkets and fast-food chains, to governments that regulate them:
Fresh evidence shows that major Brazilian meat traders JBS, Marfrig and Minerva are failing to remove vast swathes of deforested Amazon land from their supply chains, which flawed audits by DNV-GL and Grant Thornton did not identify. All while big banks like Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Santander continue backing these meat traders, despite many warnings of their failures. Well-known high street stores and brands, like Burger King, Sainsbury’s, Subway, McDonalds, Walmart, Carrefour, and Nestlé are also recent customers of theirs.
Global Witness points out that, “Our exposé clearly shows how relying on an unregulated private sector with voluntary no-deforestation policies has failed to tackle forest destruction, and could contribute to the permanent loss of the Amazon ecosystem.”
A new study by the Rights and Resources Initiative and the Campaign for Nature states that “conservation’s colonial history has contributed to a growing list of human rights abuses, displacements, and increasingly militarized forms of violence in the pursuit of protecting biodiversity”.
The current draft of the Convention on Biological Diversity post-2020 Global Biodiversity framework includes a target of protecting 30% of the planet. But so far it fails to guarantee that the rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities and Afro-descendants will be fully respected and promoted.
In a statement, Thomas Worsdell, co-author and RRI researcher says,
“This report reinforces peer reviewed findings that already show how Indigenous Peoples, local communities and Afro-descendants are far more effective than governments at protecting ecosystems and protecting forests, especially when given formal rights that allow them to continue protecting their territories. Supporting their agency and self-determination is the most cost-effective path to achieving global biodiversity goals.”
“To follow a 1.5°C-consistent pathway, the world will need to decrease fossil fuel production by roughly 6% per year between 2020 and 2030. Countries are instead planning and projecting an average annual increase of 2%, which by 2030 would result in more than double the production consistent with the 1.5°C limit.”
That’s the finding of a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and Third Generation Environmentalism (E3G).
The Guardian reports Ivetta Gerasimchuk, a co-author at the IISD, as saying,
“The pandemic-driven plunge in oil prices this year has once again demonstrated the vulnerability of many fossil-fuel-dependent regions and communities. Alas, in 2020 we saw many governments doubling down on fossil fuels. Instead of governments letting these fossil fuel projects die, they resurrect them from death – it’s kind of zombie energy.”