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Alternatives to failed forest carbon offset schemes promoted at climate talks

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project is the North American focal point for Global Forest Coalition.

-The GJEP Team

June 3, 2013. Source: Global Forest Coalition

As another round of climate talks opens today in Bonn, Germany, a coalition of human rights and forest groups have launched a manual for communities on alternatives to REDD+ and other forms of ‘green land grabbing’.

The manual, which has been produced by the Global Forest Coalition, Critical Information Collective, Biofuelwatch, the ICCA Consortium and EcoNexus highlights the risks of REDD+ projects and large-scale bioenergy production schemes for communities.  Many of these schemes have been associated with involuntary displacements of communities and other forms of so-called ‘green land grabbing’.

“REDD+ was promoted with the fairy tale that it would generate up to 30 billion USD per year in payments to countries and communities who conserve forests, but the voluntary forest carbon offset market has provided less than 1 percent of that amount  and public funding is declining” cautions Simone Lovera, executive director of the Global Forest Coalition, who will attend the upcoming talks.  “So Indigenous Peoples and local communities risk being cheated into contracts that take away their rights to control their own lands and territories in exchange for very uncertain financial rewards.” Negotiations about REDD+ funding stalled at the climate talks in December 2012.

Demand for biomass (for biofuels and for manufacturing in proposed new ‘bioeconomies’) is already increasing rapidly, and is likely to lead to yet more landgrabbing and industrial logging in forests.
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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Indigenous Peoples, REDD, UNFCCC

Civil Society Organizations to IPCC: Take Geoengineering off the Table!

Today, 125 international and national organizations, representing at least 40 countries from all continents, sent an open letter to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), demanding a clear statement of its commitment to precaution and to the existing international moratorium on geoengineering. The IPCC will hold an expert meeting on geoengineering 20-22 June in Lima, Peru. (The letter is available and open for signatures here.)
Geoengineering is the deliberate manipulation of Earth systems to alter the climate, including high-risk technologies such as blasting particles into the stratosphere to mimic volcanic eruptions (to block sunlight) and “fertilizing” oceans to grow plankton blooms for carbon sequestration. Formerly in the realm of science fiction, geoengineering has been gaining ground as a possible – even necessary, some argue – response to the climate crisis.
Climate manipulation has been on the radar of powerful Northern governments for decades. Originally conceived as a military strategy, climate manipulation has been rebranded as geoengineering: a weapon in the war on climate change.
The U.S. and UK governments appear especially open to the prospect of geoengineering, which is no surprise, according to Silvia Ribeiro of the ETC Group: “It’s a convenient way for Northern governments to dodge their commitments to emissions reduction.” Ribeiro continues, “But the climate is a complex system; manipulating climate in one place could have grave environmental, social and economic impacts on countries and peoples that had no say on the issue. Scientists estimate that blasting particles into the stratosphere could alter monsoon and wind patterns and put at risk the food and water sources for 2 billion people.”
“As the world watched the Australian airline industry thrown into chaos this week by volcanic ash drifting from Chile, it’s absurd that the IPCC is considering how to do the same thing on purpose. The potential for unilateralism and private profiteering is great; the likelihood that geoengineering will provide a safe, lasting, democratic and peaceful solution to the climate crisis is miniscule,” said Ricardo Navarro, of Cesta and Friends of the Earth International, detained in Buenos Aires due to the volcanic ash.
In October 2010, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity established a moratorium on geoengineering. Nonetheless, Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC told The Guardian last week, “We are putting ourselves in a scenario where we will have to develop more powerful technologies to capture emissions out of the atmosphere,” referring to geoengineering techniques.
Meenakshi Raman from Third World Network – Malaysia, another signatory of the letter to the IPCC, argues, “It is completely misguided for Ms. Figueres to suggest that we work on sucking carbon out of the atmosphere rather than stop putting it in; it is equally misguided for the IPCC to assume that geoengineering has any place at all in what they call the ‘portfolio of response options’ to climate change.”
The open letter criticizes the IPCC for reneging on its pledge to be “policy-neutral.” The Scientific Steering Committee (SSG) that organized the expert meeting includes geoengineering researchers who have advocated increases in research funding and real-world experimentation, as well as scientists with patents pending on geoengineering technologies and/or other financial interests. The SSG did not allow committed civil society organizations to participate, even as observers. Still, the IPCC says it will take up the issue of  “governance” and “social, legal and political factors.”
Raman stresses that the IPCC has no place taking up the issue of geoengineering governance because “this is not a scientific question; it’s a political one.”
La Via Campesina, the world’s largest small-scale farmers network, is concerned that the impacts of climate manipulation on agriculture would be felt particularly by peasants in the South and that tinkering with the oceans could destroy the livelihoods of thousands of small fishermen. Via Campesina argues, “Geoengineering is a false solution to climate change and so dangerous to nature and to the world’s people, it should be banned.”
Alejandro Argumedo from the indigenous organization ANDES (Peru) agrees. Argumedo is one of the organizers of activities for civil society organizations, which will take place in Lima at the same time as the IPCC’s expert meeting: “The IPCC shut out civil society from their meeting, even though the Panel’s experts plan to discuss the ‘social factors’ of geoengineering. 125 international and national organizations from around the world just gave them something to talk about.”
For further information:
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group, silvia@etcgroup.org; Mexico, +52 55 5563 2664
Cellphone: +52 1 55 2653 3330
Pat Mooney, ETC Group, etc@etcgroup.org; Canada, +1 613 241 2267
cellphone +1 613 240 0045
Ricardo Navarro, Cesta – Friends of the Earth, El Salvador cesta@cesta-foe.org.sv
Contacts in Bonn (attending climate negotiations)
Diana Bronson, ETC group, diana@etcgroup.org;
cellphone: +1-514-629-9236
Meenakshi Raman, Third World Network, meenaco@pd.jaring.my;
cellphone +49 15222393647
Contacts in Lima during IPCC workshop, June 19-22:
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group, silvia@etcgroup.org
local cellphone: +51 984 400 073
Alejandro Argumedo, Asociación Andes, alejandro@andes.org.pe, tel 51-84-245021,
cellphone +51- 984706610
Hands Off Mother Earth / HOME campaign in opposition to geoengineering www.handsoffmotherearth.org
ETC Group, Geopiracy: The Case Against Geoengineering: http://www.etcgroup.org/en/node/5217

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Filed under Geoengineering, UNFCCC

Report Reveals World Bank’s Role in Fuelling Climate Chaos

BONN [GERMANY], June 11, 2011 – A new report released today by Friends of
the Earth International during the UN climate talks in Bonn this week
shows that the World Bank Group has been increasing its investments in
fossil fuels and promoting corporate-led false solutions to climate
change, including carbon trading, that serve to deepen rather than
alleviate the current environmental crisis.

The report, ‘Catalysing Catastrophic Climate Change’, follows widespread
concerns voiced by developing countries about the growing role of the
World Bank in delivering climate finance.

The report shows how the Bank’s dirty fossil fuel financing is on the
rise, locking countries such as India and South Africa into an even
greater reliance on coal. Furthermore, the Bank is driving the expansion
of carbon markets, an escape hatch for rich industrialised countries from
cutting their emissions, whilst causing ecological damage and the
displacement of communities in the global South. And despite negative
environmental, social, and climate change impacts, the World Bank is
significantly scaling up support for large hydropower.

Despite the Bank’s lending for highly unsustainable projects around the
world, it is seeking an influential role in the UN’s new Green Climate
Fund and in mechanisms to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest
degradation (REDD).

Friends of the Earth International Economic Justice Program Coordinator
Sebastian Valdomir said:

“The World Bank is part of the climate problem, not the climate solution.
Its conflicts of interest, and appalling social and environmental track
record, should immediately disqualify it from playing any role whatsoever
in designing the Green Climate Fund, and in climate finance more

The World Bank has been accused of having a conflict of interest with
regards to serving as both the interim trustee of the Green Climate Fund
(fiduciary function) and on the Technical Support Unit designing the fund
(consultancy function). In effect, the Bank would be designing a fund that
is meant to oversee its own activities.

The World Bank’s fossil fuel lending practices and propagation of false
solutions to climate change, such as carbon trading and large dams, should
lead to its exclusion from any role in designing the UNFCCC’s Green
Climate Fund.

Friends of the Earth International calls for climate finance that is
derived from assessed budgetary contributions and other non-market-based
innovative sources – like financial transaction taxes – that is
commensurate with rich countries’ disproportionate role in creating the
problem of climate change.

Policy Analyst at Friends of the Earth United States Kate Horner said:

“The World Bank claims to provide leadership on climate change but, as
shown in this report, it is a major funder of dirty fossil fuel projects,
carbon trading and mega dams. These initiatives deepen poverty and push us
closer to the brink of a global environmental disaster.”

[1] The report shows that in 2010 the Bank hit a new record in terms of
its fossil fuel funding, totaling US$6.6 billion, a 116% increase over
2009. US$4.4 billion of this total was invested in coal, also a record
high, and a 356% increase over the previous year.

[2] The World Bank’s private lending arm, the IFC, approved investment of
US$450 million for the Tata Mundra 4,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant
in Gujarat, India, which is expected to emit an estimated 25.7 million
tons of CO2 annually for at least 25 years.

In April 2010, the World Bank also approved a massive US$3.75 billion
loan, the overwhelming majority of which will finance the 4,800 megawatt
Medupi coal-fired power plant being built by Eskom, South Africa’s
state-owned power utility. The loan will lead to 40 new coalmines opening
up to feed the Medupi plant and related projects. South Africa is
currently responsible for 40% of all of Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions,
and this loan will add to these emissions.

[3] The World Bank has been increasing investment in large hydropower
since 2003, following a lull in such investment in the 1990s, despite that
dams have already displaced 40–80 million people.

[4] The World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) include a Pilot
Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), which allows for loans for
adaptation, unlike UNFCCC funds and the Adaptation Fund, which has
recently led to protests in Nepal and Bangladesh.

[5] The English version of the report can be found at:
The Spanish version of the report can be found at:

[6] Key findings from the report will be presented at a side event at the
UNFCCC climate talks in Bonn, Germany on Saturday 11 June: 18:15—19:45,
WIND, Ministry of the Environment building.

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Filed under Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Energy, UNFCCC

REDD and Bioenergy: Impressions from the Bonn Climate Talks

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project is the North American Focal Point for Global Forest Coalition and teams with GFC on programs on GE trees and wood-based bioenergy, and to protect forests and defend the rights of Indigenous and forest dependent communities.
Photo: GFC meeting in Namanga, Kenya, 2006 by Petermann/GJEP-GFC
by Simone Lovera, Executive Director, Global Forest Coalition
A quick first impression from the ongoing climate talks in Bonn as far as bioenergy is concerned: It is too early to say a lot about REDD as they have not started discussing it yet. The Ad Hoc Working Group on LCA will have its first REDD-discussions tomorrow (probably these will be open to observers), and the SBSTA only adopted its agenda this morning, which is typifying for the atmosphere of mistrust and confrontation here in Bonn.
In general, talks are going very slow and are unlikely to lead to any concrete outcomes on anything. As it seems like there will not be any other negotiation rounds before the next conference of the parties in Durban in December (at least, this is what is being said now, it could change), hopes for any agreement on anything are very minimal. In this light it is important to note that the suggestion that REDD+ could be financed through mandatory carbon markets seems more and more a fairy tale as skepticism about existing (CDM) and new carbon markets seems to be growing, especially in the absence of clarity on the future of the Kyoto Protocol or any other binding emission reduction targets. Many countries rightfully reject trade without caps. And a growing number of countries is particularly hesitant about financing REDD+ through markets. But this debate is flowing.
Meanwhile, there have been some fascinating side events related to bioenergy.
Most remarkable was the presentation of the full report on renewable energies of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Well, “presentation”; the actual report is not published yet as it seems the discussions between the different scientists were a bit overheated and they could not easily reach consensus, so the publication of the full report was delayed until the 14th and perhaps later. At a presentation during the climate talks on June 7 it became clear why: There was no consensus about the impact of bioenergy on sustainable development, food security and land use change.
The summary for policy makers that was launched a month ago stated quite bluntly that ” most” biofuel has a positive impact on climate change mitigation, and hardly mentioned impacts on food security or land use. This was considered to be very disappointing in the eyes of many bioenergy campaigners. Meanwhile the IPCC presentation of the full report included a clear admittance that bioenergy has a range of direct and indirect land use change impacts that might nullify any positive impacts bioenergy has on climate change mitigation.
The presentations on basis of the full report mentioned clearly that there were a lot of direct and indirect land-use issues to be addressed, that biomass smoke caused more deaths than malaria or tuberculosis, and that there were serious concerns about potential impacts on food security. On the latter, they openly admitted the different authors had a big dispute over this, but that they sort of agreed that impacts on food security depended on the level of optimism about potential intensification of agricultural production. And even this “consensus” was disputed, one day later, by Frances Seymour, exective director of the Centre for International Forestry Research, who stated during another side event that governance and land use planning have a more important role to play, and that agricultural intensification might also have negative impacts on land use.
When asked why the summary report for policy makers was so much more positive on bioenergy than the full report, and whether this was not a form of misrepresentation, the rather eye-opening response was that the summary for policy makers is ” a negotiated document” (sic).
More critique on bioenergy was exposed at another CIFOR-sponsored side event on Wedneday night, where the Joanneum Institute presented research on the carbon debt of bioenergy and how many years one has to produce bioenergy on the same piece of land to compensate for the carbon emissions caused by converting natural vegetation in feedstock plantations. Figures were astonishing: from some 20 – 30 years for soy to up to 74 years for Jatropha, which scored almost as bad as oilpalm on peatland! Needless to say “permanence” is a major issue in this scenario, it is quite unrealistic to assume farmers will commit themselves to producing the same feedstock for up to 74 years.
Regretfully, the report itself is not yet online, but The upfront carbon debt of bioenergy which was published last year includes quite some useful information on this.
More later, as the talks continue (and/or continue to be stalled…..)

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, REDD, UNFCCC

Adventures in Bonn Or, The Descent into Climate Change Madness at the Maratim Hotel

Blog post 5/31/10

By Anne Petermann

Today is my father’s birthday.  It is the first birthday that he isn’t around to celebrate.  So I will dedicate today’s blog post in his memory.  He would have been 69.

The train ride from Oxford—where Fiu, Camila and I had taken a brief detour from the GE trees and Agroenergy Tour for a meeting to discuss the international campaign against genetically engineered trees—was a long one.  First the Oxford to London train—a slower local train, then the train from London to Brussels, during which—in the middle of the chunnel—the train’s electrical system fried my computer charger, then the leg from Brussels to Cologne (at 300 kilometers per hour), and the final short leg from Cologne (Köln) to Bonn.

We arrived at around 10:30pm finally at the hotel, ravenous—a slightly difficult position on a Sunday night in Germany.  Our hunger had to be put on hold, however, while we had a very frustrating time with the Hotel staff person whose English was about as good as my Spanish.  That is, barely comprehensible.  Of course the hotel used an ancient non-computerized system of reservations that involved giant grids of paper marked with pencil.  AND the reservation was not in our names so our reservations could not be located.  Naturally.  But all was not lost.  I finally located the handwritten name of our colleague in whose name the reservation had been made.  Redemption!

So off Camila and I went (Fiu sensibly retired) to attempt the task of finding an open restaurant.

We indeed found an open restaurant right around the corner—located a table and proceeded to peruse the menu.  When the waitress finally arrived, Camila asked about their delicious-sounding spargel specials—this being prime spargel season.  No, she wagged her head, the kitchen is closed.  After the next similar encounter, we asked if we would be able to find a place that was open.  Yes, was the reply, near the university.  So 10 or 12 blocks later we finally found the elusive hot meal we were so desperately seeking.  We shared a baked gnocchi with mozzarella in red sauce.  Not particulary German, but it worked.

The next day (today) started the descent into hell—that is the Maratim Hotel in Bonn.  We were all too familiar with the particular sulfuric aroma of the Maratim from our previous foray into its bowels in 2008 when we fought the good fight for a global ban on genetically engineered trees at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Conference of the Parties.  But that’s a whole ‘nother story.  This time, the fight is to stop the rampaging corporados and their henchmen from shoving false market-based solutions to climate change down the throats of the rest of the world, while the temperature slowly rises…

I escaped the asylum long enough to find a new computer charger (2 doors down from the hotel!) and a new pair of black dress shoes to replace the ones I forgot in London (my hiking shoes just didn’t quite go with my suit).  I also got the new Earth Minute recorded for KPFK’s Sojourner Truth show, which will be aired tomorrow and subsequently posted on this blog.

I did finally return to the Maratim when I could procrastinate no more, and worked on the press release that will accompany Wednesday’s launch of the report on the social and ecological impacts of wood-based agroenergy that was jointly produced by Global Forest Coalition, Global Justice Ecology Project and BiofuelWatch.

I begged out of the official reception that took place after the finish of the day’s negotiations.  Just couldn’t bear the idea of standing around on my sore feet, eating greasy food, and watching megalomaniacal beaurocrats sip wine while the forests burn.  Been there.  Done that.

Stay tuned to this blog for more adventures from Bonn…

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, GE Trees, Indigenous Peoples, Posts from Anne Petermann