“Good money after bad? Risks and opportunities for the Green Climate Fund in the Congo Basin Rainforests”, is the title of a new report by the Rainforest Foundation UK. The report focusses on the GCF and REDD, followed by a critical overview of the GCF’s planned projects in the forests of the Congo Basin.
By Chris Lang (REDD-Monitor) and Simon Counsell (Rainforest Foundation UK)
Unlike carbon capture and storage systems, trees do actually take carbon out of the atmosphere and store it – temporarily, at least. In theory, planting enough new trees, and allowing existing forests to grow and regenerate, could mop up some of the excess CO2 now in the atmosphere. The idea has been around since the mid-1970s, when theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson came up with the idea of planting vast areas with trees (“in countries where labor is cheap”) to soak up the CO2 that burning fossil fuels is putting in the atmosphere.
Recently, ProPublica published a well researched article on the pitfalls of generating carbon credits from forest conservation: “An (Even More) Inconvenient Truth: Why Carbon Credits For Forest Preservation May Be Worse Than Nothing”. The article caused quite a stir and generated a series of responses from REDD proponents.
“The era of carbon offsets is drawing to a close. Buying carbon credits in exchange for a clean conscience while you carry on flying, buying diesel cars and powering your home with fossil fuels is no longer acceptable or widely accepted.”
Recently, British journalist George Monbiot launched a Natural Climate Solutions campaign. In the spirit of encouraging debate about the dangers of offsetting emissions from fossil fuels against the carbon temporarily stored in ecosystems, I wrote a post asking the question, “Is the new Natural Climate Solutions campaign a distraction from the need to leave fossil fuels in the ground?”
Oil giants Eni and Shell have both recently announced plans to use trees to offset some of their ever increasing carbon emissions. Yesterday, NGOs put out a statement opposing the oil industry’s attempts to avoid its responsibility for climate breakdown. The statement is signed by six organisations (Friends of the Earth Mozambique and South Africa; Centre for Natural Resource Governance, Zimbabwe; No REDD in Africa Network; Re:Common, Italy; and Friends of the Earth International). The statement is endorsed by a further 109 organisations.
California’s cap-and-trade scheme has resulted in payments of hundreds of millions of dollars to forest owners. But a recent policy brief by Barbara Haya at the University of California, Berkeley argues that California may have exaggerated the emissions reductions of these forestry projects by as much as 80 million tons of carbon dioxide.
Last week, the Climate Change Round-Table in El Salvador, a group of civil society organisations, handed over an open letter to the country’s president-elect Nayib Bukele. The letter is critical of the environmental and climate policies of the previous government, which focussed heavily on REDD.
“There is no single solution to tackling climate change. A transformation of the global energy system is needed, from electricity generation to industry and transport. Shell will play its part. Our focus on natural ecosystems is one step we are taking today to support the transition towards a low-carbon future.”
Earlier this week, an international group of more than 20 campaigners wrote a letter to The Guardian in support of natural climate solutions. “The world faces two existential crises, developing with terrifying speed: climate breakdown and ecological breakdown,” they write. “Neither is being addressed with the urgency needed to prevent our life-support systems from spiralling into collapse.”
“Carbon markets have spectacularly failed to curb greenhouse gas emissions for over a decade, and it has been demonstrated that they suffer from unresolvable conceptual issues, such as the inexistence of a reliable price signal. As a result, they will never work and should be abandoned.”
From the beginning, REDD proponents described saving rainforests as the “low-hanging fruit”. When he launched Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) in December 2007, Norway’s then-prime minister Jens Stoltenberg told us that, “Through effective measures against deforestation we can achieve large cuts in greenhouse gas emissions – quickly and at low cost.”
As climate breakdown gets worse, the corporations most responsible are looking for ways to continue profiting from ever increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Norway’s oil company Equinor is a classic example of this. The company plans to continue drilling oil – including in the Arctic – while investing in “natural climate solutions” to offset its emissions.