This week’s “Earth Watch” segment on KPFK features Dr. Rachel Smolker, Co-director of Biofuelwatch, who weighs in on President Obama’s proposals on climate change in his State of the Union Address.
Tag Archives: biomass
Note: Global Justice Ecology Project coordinates the STOP Genetically Engineered Trees Campaign. Join us in telling the USDA to ban genetically engineered trees by signing the petition here.
-The GJEP Team
February 12, 2013. Source: Global Justice Ecology Project
In response to industry plans to develop eucalyptus plantations across the US South, environmental groups are raising serious concerns about the impacts of eucalyptus plantations on forests, rural communities, wildlife and the climate, especially if those trees are genetically engineered.
EcoGen, LLC recently announced plans to develop eucalyptus plantations in southern Florida to feed biomass facilities. Additionally, South Carolina-based ArborGen has requested USDA permission to sell billions of genetically engineered cold tolerant eucalyptus trees for plantations in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The USDA is expected to respond to this request in the coming months.
Eucalyptus trees are documented as an invasive pest in California and Florida. But because they cannot grow in sub-freezing temperatures, they have been engineered to be cold-tolerant, enabling them to survive temperatures down to 20°f – vastly expanding their range.
Besides being highly invasive–the Charlotte Observer called them “the kudzu of the 2010s”–eucalyptus plantations deplete ground water and can even worsen droughts. The US Forest Service opposes GE eucalyptus plantations due to their impact on ground water and streams. [3,4]
“GE eucalyptus trees are a disaster waiting to happen–it is critical the USDA reject them,” said Global Justice Ecology Project Executive Director Anne Petermann. “In addition to being invasive, eucalyptus trees are explosively flammable. In a region that has been plagued by droughts in recent years, developing plantations of an invasive, water-greedy and fire-prone tree is foolhardy and dangerous.”
Petermann coordinates the international STOP GE Trees Campaign , which has collected thousands of signatures supporting a ban on GE trees due to their potentially catastrophic impacts on communities and forests.
“The forests of the Southeast are some of the most biodiverse in the world,” said Scot Quaranda, Campaign Director of Asheville, NC-based Dogwood Alliance. “They contain species found nowhere else. Species like the Louisiana Black Bear, the golden-cheeked warbler and the red-cockaded woodpecker are already endangered. Eucalyptus plantations could push these and other species over the edge,” he added.
The Georgia Department of Wildlife opposes GE eucalyptus trees due to these impacts. 
The STOP GE Trees Campaign is planning events around the Tree Biotechnology 2013 Conference this May in Asheville, NC, where GE tree industry representatives and researchers will gather to discuss the use of GE trees and their deployment across the US South.
From Global Forest Coalition, Biofuelwatch and Global Justice Ecology Project
For immediate release – 6 December 2012
UK alleges it will address drivers of climate change – but aims to subsidise a massive expansion of wood-based biomass industry
Doha, Qatar - As negotiations failed to finalise an agreement on a controversial forest policy called REDD+  during the ongoing UN Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Doha, Qatar , forest groups published a letter challenging claims that the drivers of forest change are being addressed by countries within the REDD+ negotiations.
Negotiations on REDD+ turned sour in Doha as developing countries realised they can expect very little funding for this highly controversial forest scheme over the coming years. “The REDD honeymoon is obviously over” states Simone Lovera, executive director of the Global Forest Coalition, who followed the talks.
Furthermore, at the same time that REDD+ is being promoted within the UNFCCC to supposedly protect forest carbon, there is a massive expansion of the biomass industry underway, which will generate increased international trade in wood. This is being actively supported by governments such as that of the UK, and will dwarf any attempts made to protect forests within the UNFCCC.
Rio+20 Alternative Peoples’ Summit opens today: People of the world vs. the “green economy” and global economic foreclosure
By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project
It was pulled together by Brazilian groups and is being attended by social movements, Indigenous Peoples, activists and organizations from all over the world who are coming together to identify real solutions to the multiple and rising crises we face as humans on planet Earth. The summit was organized in direct opposition to the official UN circus known as the Rio+20 Conference for Sustainable Development. More aptly it would be called the Rio+20 Conference for the greenwashing of Business as Usual.
As I flew to Rio on 12 June, I read an article in the Financial Times titled “Showdown Looms at OPEC After Saudi Arabia Urges Higher Output.” The article explained how Saudi Arabia is urging OPEC to increase their output of oil in order to ensure that the global price of oil does not exceed US$100/barrel in order to “mitigate the risks that high oil prices pose to the global economy.”
The insane logic of expanding oil production in the face of mounting climate chaos in order to help rescue the global economy accurately reflects the mindset behind the negotiations around the UN’s Rio+20 Earth Summit, set to start next week here in Rio.
Text from this week’s Earth Minute:
On May second, scientists published a new study confirming that the biggest, oldest trees in the forest are crucial for mitigating climate change.
The study took place in Yosemite National Park where researchers found that while trees larger than 3-feet in diameter made up only 1% of the trees in the forest, they stored nearly half of the forest’s carbon.
This has significant implications for efforts to curb deforestation-related carbon emissions.
Industry would like us to believe that where climate change is concerned, a tree is a tree is a tree, and there is no difference between an industrial tree plantation and a native forest. We can cut the forests, they argue, as long as we replant.
But as this study points out, you cannot merely “replace” trees that have 200 or more years of carbon stored in them. You have to stop cutting them down.
The world’s remaining native forests need to be taken out of the hands of corporations and returned to the communities that depend on them–for this is one of the best ways to protect them.
For the Earth Minute and the Sojourner Truth show, this is Anne Petermann from Global Justice Ecology Project.
This Week’s Earth Minute: EU’s Renewable Energy Target is Destroying Forests & Worsening Climate Change
Global Justice Ecology Project partners with Margaret Prescod’s Sojourner Truth show on KPFK–Pacifica Los Angeles radio show for a weekly Earth Minute on Tuesdays and a weekly 12 minute Environment Segment every Thursday.
Go to the link below and scroll to minute 44:12 to listen to this week’s Earth Minute:
Text from this week’s Earth Minute:
The European Union’s goal of providing 20% of their energy from renewable sources is coming under attack from environmentalists because of the heavy reliance on energy from burning trees.
On 29 March, a call challenging this goal was launched at the European Parliament. It stated, “We’re paying people to cut their forests down in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, yet we are actually increasing them.”
Because it is mistakenly considered ‘carbon neutral’, wood-based electricity is given numerous government subsidies in the EU, the US and elsewhere.
There is a significant gap in time, however, from when carbon is released from cutting, transporting and burning a tree–to when the carbon is re-stored by a new tree that has grown to the same size. This carbon gap lasts for decades.
The “carbon neutral” label of wood-based energy is ironically creating intense pressure to cut and burn forests in the US and globally for energy production, threatening massive deforestation at the same time that scientists are emphasizing the crucial role forests play in stabilizing the climate.
For the Earth Minute and the Sojourner Truth show, this is Anne Petermann from Global Justice Ecology Project.
La Via Campesina, the largest federation of peasant farmers in the world, has brought a delegation of hundreds from across Africa to gatherings in and around the UNCOP 17 Climate Summit. As a federation of smallholder farmers and fisher groups, La Via Campesina opposes the kinds of top-down, market-driven policies promoted by the World Bank and the UN Climate Regime.
Yesterday we were invited, along with several of our friends and colleagues, to participate in a working session with La Via Campesina at their encampment near a highway overpass miles from the official summit.
Forthcoming, we hope to report on what La Via itself is doing here in Durban. For now, here are some snapshot portraits of GJEP’s allies and what they had to say yesterday. (Reporting: Jeff Conant. Photos Orin Langelle/GJEP)
“The talk now on the table at the COP is to base the Green Climate Fund on private investment. But if there is an investment, they need a return. What does that mean, a return on investment? It means the corporations, the private sector, and the financial industry want to set up the Green Climate Fund in a way that returns money to them. That’s why we call it the Greedy Corporate Fund.”
Lidy Nacpil, Jubilee South
Lucia Ortiz, Rede, Brazil
“Before you trade anything, you have to determine, whose property is it? Before they can trade seeds, they have to determine, ‘who owns that seed?’. Some corporations own that seed. Well, who owns the carbon dioxide in the air? That’s what they are working out in the carbon markets and at these UN climate conventions. That’s why we call the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change the World Trade Organization of the Sky.”
Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network
“More than half of the gases that cause global warming come from the industrial food system. They say the industrial food system feeds the world. It’s bad food, it’s toxic food, it’s not very nutritious, but they say, ‘we are feeding the world,’ so we have to live with it. Well guess what? They’re lying. The industrial food system produces 30 percent of the food. The other 2/3 is produced by small farmers and fishers. Now they say they will stop using all the oil. Don’t believe them. They will use every drop of oil. But with that excuse, they say now, they will make green fuels. They will make fuels out of biomass. What is biomass? It is forests, it is fields, it is your harvest. They want to use all of this to make their fuels.”
Sylvia Ribeiro, ETC Group
“The FAO and others have reduced agriculture to counting carbon and putting a price on it. The value of the carbon is added to the value of the water and the crops that could be grown on the land, and this makes it appealing to investors, which leads to land grabs. But today, a ton of carbon is worth about 3 euros – less than a pizza. This may explain the somber mood of the talks in Durban.”
Rachel Smolker, BiofuelWatch
Renaldo Chingori Joao, Member of the International Coordinating Committee of la Via Campesina, Mozambique
by Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project Executive Director
What follows is a series of photos along with an Op-Ed that I wrote for the Burlington Free Press–the Gannett-owned statewide newspaper of Vermont. The Op-Ed (which has not yet been published) addresses the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) conference that came to Burlington this week, to much rancor from students at the University of Vermont. The UVM students were mobilized to protest SFI’s bogus forest certification program by Adam Gaya, an organizer with ForestEthics. They were joined by numerous residents of Vermont, as well as participants from Massachusetts and Maine. All of the photos below are taken by Anne Petermann, with the exception of two photos which were taken by GJEP Co-Director/Strategist Orin Langelle.
Op-ED: Vermont is the Green Mountain State, not the Brown Mountain State–let’s keep it that way.
Vermont is a success story of forest regeneration. In the mid-1800s, the state had lost about 80% of its forest. Moose, songbirds and many other wild creatures vanished. Today, much of that forest has regrown. The state is now 80% forested and the moose have returned to Vermont once more.
I find it quite ironic, therefore, that the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) chose to bring its phony, timber industry-controlled forest-destroying “certification” conference to Burlington.
Why is it phony? The SFI was founded by and is funded by the very timber industry it is supposed to watchdog. It is the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse. It’s purpose: make the large-scale deforestation activities of the biggest timber companies on the planet appear “green” by certifying them as “sustainable.”
Since 2004, SFI has conducted 543 audits of its “certified” companies to measure their compliance with SFI standards. Not one audit found any problems with the large-scale timber operations and clearcuts.
In one recent instance, two SFI-accredited auditors spent a mere five days assessing more than 46,875 square miles of public forest — an area larger than the entire state of Pennsylvania. Naturally, they reported no violations of SFI standards and found nothing wrong.
If you aren’t looking for problems, you won’t find them, and SFI are masters at not finding problems. It is for this reason that the SFI certification seal cannot be trusted— whether office paper, envelopes or catalogs—their ‘green’ label is meaningless.
If we want to protect forests, and promote truly sustainable management of forests, then we must view SFI as greenwash, and a threat to forests and the people who depend on them.
SFI certifies hundreds of thousands of acres of forest across our region, and while they would like us to believe that these forests are well cared for, the fact is that they are as vulnerable as ever. Plum Creek, one of the biggest participants in SFI’s certification scheme, owns nearly one million acres of timberland across Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire – and uses large-scale clearcutting and other destructive industrial logging practices. Yet this rampant devastation is certified as ‘green’ by the SFI. And guess what? Plum Creek’s CEO sits on SFI’s board.
SFI’s weak standards also allow other industrial logging practices that have resulted in landslides, widespread toxic chemical use and dangerous impacts to sensitive species. In the future, SFI would even like to certify trees that have been genetically engineered–despite the fact that the public is overwhelming opposed to these dangerous Franken-trees. If genetically engineered tree plantations are developed, the escape of pollen and/or seeds from them into native forests would be inevitable, irreversible and cause tremendous damage to forests. To SFI and their corporate sponsors, however, GE trees mean enhanced profits and should therefore be certified. Fortunately, we do not yet have GE tree plantations, so there is still time to stop this disaster.
For these and many other reasons, twenty environmental groups recently sent a letter to SFI demanding that the organization stop certifying destruction of forests as “sustainable.” There are also several major U.S. companies – including Sprint, Allstate and Office Depot – that are disassociating themselves from the SFI.
Meanwhile, the SFI continues to greenwash the products of forest destruction in order to intentionally confuse people who are truly concerned about the environment and want to make the right choices.
We Vermonters love our Green Mountains and want them to stay green–not blotched with clearcuts certified by SFI–which also is important as forests play a key role in stabilizing the climate. And as we have seen with so much severe weather in Vermont this year, stabilizing the climate is more important than ever.
So, say no to SFI-certified greenwash products. Say yes to truly sustainable, local, small-scale forestry. Our forests are a treasure.
Let’s keep them that way.
Following are some additional photos from the protest: