The Promotion of REDD: The Tentacles Spread

UN Climate Convention to Combine Forces with Biodiversity Convention on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (REDD) Schemes

By Anne Petermann

As the promotion of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) intensifies here at the intercessional UN Climate talks in Bonn, Germany, it is both growing in scope (to incorporate more and more uses of land—including agriculture) and expanding to include the other two conventions that arose out of the 1992 Rio Convention—that is the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

This merging became clear at the Oslo conference on REDD hosted by the Norwegian government.  Ahmed Djoghlaf, the Executive Secretary of the CBD sent a statement there about the importance of biodiversity in mitigating climate change. And the second meeting of the Oslo body (called the REDD+ Partnership) will be held in Nagoya, Japan this October immediately prior to the UN CBD COP (Conference of the Parties), which itself takes place only a little over one month before the UN Climate COP in Cancun.

The key role of the CBD COP is spelled out quite clearly in the REDD+ Partnership paper promoting the Nagoya “Ministerial Meeting on Forest Conservation Cooperation and Climate Change.”  The paper states, “Partners recognize that forest conservation provides co-benefits of biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation, and provides strong political momentum for the success of the CBD COP-10.”

As well, our allies who attended the Subsidiary Body (more UN-speak, sorry) meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which took place in Nairobi immediately before the Subsidiary Body meeting of the UN Climate Convention here in Bonn, alerted us to some disturbing developments at the CBD.

Two Biodiversity COPs ago, in Curitiba, Brazil in 2006, the CBD COP agreed to start a “Business and Biodiversity” initiative, which was officially launched at the CBD COP in Bonn in 2008.

The CBD has embraced this initiative and is going hog wild with the notion of embracing business and the markets in their policies and initiatives.  In so doing, they are now emulating several of the programs and mechanisms of the UN Climate Conference—especially “offsets” and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Offsets and the CDM are two components of the Climate Negotiations and the Kyoto Protocol climate agreement that are the bane of the climate justice movement.  Both are designed to give polluting countries and companies in the Industrialized North the excuse to go on polluting while claiming to mitigate their emissions.  They do this by funding projects in developing countries that supposedly compensate in some way for the pollution they are releasing.

Ironically, most of the time these projects are usually extremely destructive and very dirty.  They can include, for example, large-scale hydro-electric projects that drown forests and displace thousands, and they can even include new dirty industries like cement plants, as long as those plants are just a little bit cleaner than they would have been if they did not receive funding from the CDM.

Then there are also offset projects that include so-called “green carbon” (good grief) projects like monoculture timber plantations that supposedly store carbon to “offset” that emitted by industry.  The fact that this offset model has no scientific basis in actually addressing climate change is irrelevant.  It sounds nice and makes a lot of money, and that’s all that matters.

Ah, capitalism…

So the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has looked at these bizarre, profit-oriented and ecologically destructive models and said, “yeah baby! Gimme some of that!”

And thus was born the “Green Development Mechanism” or GDM—the UN CBD equivalent of the CDM (yes, I’m afraid its true).  But that’s only the beginning of their complete loss of sanity.

The CBD has also come up with something they like to call (I’m totally serious) BBOP.  Yes, BBOP—as in Elvis Presley.  As in BBOP a-loo-bop.  But what makes this one such a delight is what it stands for—the Business and Biodiversity Offset Program.  ‘Wait,’ you’re thinking.  ‘Biodiversity offsets?  This can’t possibly be for real!’  Ah, but it is.  The CBD seriously intends to start a biodiversity offset program to allow business to continue to destroy biodiversity as long as they offset it with another project somewhere else.

For activists in the U.S. this is not completely new.  There is a similar program there that has been in use for some time.  And isn’t the U.S. just the ideal role model for biodiversity protection?  You betcha!

By way of an example of how this has worked in the U.S., Walmart might be given a permit to build a new store in the middle of a supposedly protected wetland.  But in order to do this, they would have to pay to construct a new wetland somewhere else.  No really, that’s how it works.

So basically the UN has looked at some of the stupidest and worst models in the Capitalist world and incorporated them into their conventions.  REDD, for example: paying some of the world’s biggest destroyers of forests to stop destroying some of them.  Not only is this model completely fucking stupid, it is a clear reflection of the free trade model that took off in the 1990s and sought to force national governments to pay corporations their lost profits if they were prevented from profiting from “trade barriers” such as laws against pollution or violating the rights of workers.  Except this time the forest-destroyers are holding the world hostage by saying, ‘pay us or fry.’

So what this means is that the activists following biodiversity loss and those following Climate will need to come together to create collaborative strategies and plans to both oppose these crazy market-based death schemes and organize alternatives—real alternatives—peoples’ alternatives—non-market alternatives.

That is our challenge.

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