Markets and Forests and Profits, oh my!

One of the many bizarre and telling displays at the UN Climate Talks in Bonn, Germany. Photo: Petermann/ GJEP-GFC

Climate Negotiations Descend into Lunacy

By Anne Petermann

I’m now on the train from Cologne to Brussels after finally leaving that hellhole of a conference center for the last time last night after our official “side event” presentation on the threats of wood-based bioenergy and GE trees to UN delegates, scientists and other participants.  I have to say that stepping out of the building into the fresh cool German air was indeed a relief, and boarding the subway car for the ride back to the hotel felt like a huge weight lifting off.

But before we leave it completely, allow me to entertain you with yet another amazing yet true story of utter lunacy.

The absolutely nonsensical negotiations from Tuesday were—to my amazement—topped on Wednesday evening during our side event by a question from one of the participants following the presentation of Deepak Rughani of BiofuelWatch.

Deepak gave a very compelling powerpoint explaining the impacts that are already being caused to forests and forest peoples globally as a direct and indirect result of the rising demand for wood to fuel bioenergy facilities in the EU.  He showed graphs and charts explaining that the EU directive for 20% of their energy to be “renewable” by 2020 was projected to have grave impacts on the world’s forests and forest dependent peoples because caused the vast majority of the ‘renewable energy’ is to be met through the burning of ever greater numbers of trees—almost all of which will have to be imported.  He demonstrated the scientific projections that predict that this level of demand will, by the year 2065, require all of the lands currently covered in native forests or grasslands to be converted to bioenergy plantations.

He further explained that the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) defines this madness as “carbon neutral” since the trees that will be burned will eventually be replaced by new ones.

The very first question he got after completing his powerpoint was from a member of the IPCC who questioned his citations of IPCC definitions (which Deepak gladly offered to send him, and which are referenced in the report on the topic).

He said (and I am still a bit incredulous about this) that Deepak was wrong in stating that the goal of reducing emissions from deforestation and the goal of increasing demand for wood for biomass are not compatible.  He said that, yes, of course we can increase the demand for wood 5 or 6 fold and still reduce our carbon emissions from logging, all we need are sustainability criteria and certification schemes.

Indeed.  And if everyone on the planet would only lay down their weapons and hold hands, then the world would be an eden-like paradise where everyone gets along and no one or nothing is ever harmed…

But seriously.  Massively increasing the demand for trees means more of them will be cut down.  Period.  And economics dictates that the so-called “low-hanging fruit” will be plucked (that is, logged) first—that means the forests without proper oversight, without clear land title, without people to defend them.

But that’s not the only contradiction of the reducing emissions from deforestation scheme (REDD).  The really twisted thing about REDD is that it has actually been resulting in exactly the opposite of its stated intent.

As Deepak pointed out in his presentation, when the UN and the World Bank started talking about paying countries to stop cutting their forests—with the amount of money paid directly proportional to the amount of logging going on—guess what happened.  Countries that had decreased their logging all on their own saw suddenly that they were going to miss out on this new gold rush, and reversed their anti-logging positions, allowing forest destruction to go ahead.  And those that were already destroying their forests started to destroy them faster.  And because REDD will be based on rates of logging ending in 2012, countries have another year and a half to ramp up those logging rates to be sure they can cash in on the prize.

And while the official UN process has not been able to come to a decisive agreement about REDD, it is moving forward quite nicely outside of the UN process.  And as Camila Moreno, our contact in Brazil, explained, the slogan coming out of the Oslo, Norway conference on REDD (which occurred totally outside of the UN climate process), was, “just do it!”

In other words, take the lesson from the US and just go for it.  Screw the participatory process. Establish bilateral agreements that circumvent the negotiations.  Create WTO (World Trade Organization)-style “green rooms” that are accessible by invitation only to keep out those obnoxious ne’er-do-wells who talk about silly things like rights and justice and biodiversity and such.

It’s time we draw the line in the sand.  And what better place than Cancun.

(Tune in Monday for wild and crazy stories from the European Parliament.)

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