Rio+ 20: Greed Economy alive and well in the hotels of Rio de Janeiro

Global Justice Ecology Project Press Release, 22 June, 2012

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil–Alongside the multilateral government negotiations happening at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development are business negotiations and so-called “public-private partnerships” being driven by corporate networks such as the Consumer Goods Forum–a global industry group of 650 corporations that have combined sales of over US$3 trillion. [1]

Sir Richard Branson waves from his cockpit of his Virgin train. Nothing phallic here… Source: PacificCoastNews.com

One such industry-led event in Rio this week, hosted by the Avoided Deforestation Partners, featured executives of Coca Cola and Unilever [2], alongside celebrities such as the Prince of Wales (via video), Dr. Jane Goodall, US Climate Change Envoy Jonathan Pershing, rainforest advocate Bianca Jagger and Sir Richard Branson.

In response to the dominance of the private sector in discussions such as this that affect everyone, members of Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP) and Biofuelwatch attended and disrupted the event with placards and chants denouncing the green economy as the new face of corporate capital.

“We took action at this event to underscore the fact that civil society efforts cannot focus solely on the official UN negotiations. While the ‘green economy’ has been heavily contested inside the Rio+20 UN conference and outright rejected at the Peoples’ Summit [3], private corporate-organized conferences and meetings are imposing their new economic model in a totally undemocratic and non-transparent way”, stated Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project.

Such events make it clear that the public-private partnership model is at the heart of the green economy. During the Avoided Deforestation event, Ambassador Donald Steinberg of USAID emphasized the importance of the industry meetings at Rio. “These events are not side events, these are the main events,” Steinberg said.

Business is leveraging the global environmental and social crisis to retrofit the economy, moving speculative “green” trading schemes like carbon funds and biodiversity offsets to the center of the financial services industry. Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Groups, was quoted in Der Speigel stating, “One way to look at climate protection is to regard it as a business model, because our only option to stop climate change is for industry to make money from it”. [4]

The keystone policy of the so-called ‘green economy’ is the program to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). REDD, initially developed at the UN and pushed by the World Bank, has met with serious challenges inside the UN process, due to the social and ecological impacts it will have, and the absence of a clear funding source beyond the failing carbon markets. At the same time, sub-national REDD agreements, such as one between the states of California (US), Chiapas (Mexico) and Acre (Brazil) [5] are moving forward outside of the multilateral process.

A day-long conference sponsored by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Governor’s Climate Change Task Force (GCF) focused on promoting sub-national REDD projects and catalyzing private sector investments, with participation of government leaders from the states of Acre, Matto Grosso, and Amapa in the Brazilian Amazon, Cross-River state in Nigeria, Chiapas, Mexico, and Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, as well as private companies like Google, and Wildlife Works. Yet, the event had no participation by the citizens of those states or the indigenous communities who are directly affected by such policies.

Far from the scene of such meetings, communities in Chiapas, Acre, and Kalimantan that would be impacted have lodged vocal protests of the REDD project. [6 ]

“Industry has been tremendously effective at co-opting the concerns raised by civil society to create plans to advance business as usual”, stated Keith Brunner of Gears of Change and Global Justice Ecology Project. “For example, the huge corporations that make up the Consumer Goods Forum have pledged to create a ‘deforestation free supply chain’ by 2020. Unfortunately, what they mean by ‘zero net deforestation’ is continuing to cut down the world’s forests and displace Indigenous Peoples and forest dependent communities, while developing highly profitable but devastating industrial tree plantations”.

Large NGOs are enabling this corporate takeover. Julia Martin-LeFevre, Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), explained that the way to protect nature was to “harness the capacity of the markets through [strategies like] payment for biodiversity and ecosystem services”. She added that big NGOs like IUCN play a role in this process: “we conservation organizations sit very well together with corporations”.

“In addition, renewable energy initiatives such as Sustainable Energy for All, a joint UN-private sector initiative, are a cynical bid to capitalize on the demand for truly sustainable energy sources, but include devastating projects such as biofuels made from large scale, toxic GMO soy monocultures as well as massive hydro-electric projects that displace entire villages and drown thousands of hectares of land”, stated Jeff Conant of Global Justice Ecology Project.

After Global Justice Ecology Project and Biofuelwatch disrupted the speech of Sir Richard Branson, Bianca Jagger, who also spoke at the event, came out to express her support for the action, and helped escort the activists safely off of the premises. Bianca Jagger is a longtime advocate of rainforest protection and her group just released a report on the Belo Monte dam project–a hydro-electric dam to be built in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, that is being sold as a “renewable energy” project. [7]

Notes:

[1] http://consumergoodsforum.com

[2] Coca-cola and Unilever both sit on the Board of the Consumer Goods Forum: http://www.theconsumergoodsforum.com/1-wweare/1.2-member/index.asp

[3] The Peoples’ Summit for Social and Environmental Justice: http://rio20.net/en/events/peoples-summit-for-social-and-environmental-justice/

[4] http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/richard-branson-discusses-climate-change-business-opportunities-a-839985.html

[5] http://www.gcftaskforce.org/newsletter/index_en.php?issue=201105

[6] http://www.zcommunications.org/turning-the-lacandon-jungle-over-to-the-carbon-market-by-jeff-conant

[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bianca-jagger/the-belo-monte

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