REDD: Seeing the forest for the trees

Published on Pambazuka News, by Khadija Sharife, 2010-04-29.

There’s a difference between carbon emissions in developed and developing countries – that of ‘extravagant’ carbon versus ‘survival carbon’, for the provision of basic services such as electricity. But it is a distinction that market-based responses like carbon trading, driven more by financial interests than a desire for sustainable development, fail to consider. Khadija Sharife takes a closer look at UN carbon trading scheme REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). 

All carbon is not created equal: One ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) generated in New York from several McDonalds burgers, for instance, clocking in at 16kg per 1kg of meat, is not the equivalent of one ton of CO2 emitted in a country like South Africa, where energy generated from coal provides basic services such as electricity. The difference – though blurred by mainstream media, which reduces the discourse to the democratisation of pollution impacts, strictly observed between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries – is that of extravagant carbon versus survival carbon. Thankfully, the developed nations that engage in the process of carbon-intensive industrialisation declare that they have found an equitable solution so rational it has never been put to a vote: Carbon trading.

Although anti-democratic ‘strong-men’ at the helm of ‘developing nations’ are deplored globally, there appears to be no problem in a global economic architecture controlled via a handful of ‘strong-states,’ such as the G7. This strange reality is evidenced in the fossil fuel consumption by the US (where 25 per cent of global oil reserves are devoured by 5 per cent of the world’s population, emitting 19 tons of CO2 per capita), which is packaged by the media in vocabulary equating the former with the world’s new largest polluter, China, despite the latter emitting just 4.4 tons per capita.

At a January 2010 conference titled, ‘Investor Summit on Climate Risk’ held in New York, more than 450 investors controlling over US$13 trillion, declared that action must be taken to pre-empt international climate change treaties in order to develop sustainable economies, chiefly through the carbon market. ‘Copenhagen was a missed opportunity to create one fully functional international carbon market,’ revealed Peter Dunsombe, head of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IGCC), comprised of European financiers.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 85 per cent of the finance required to make the shift will be derived from private investors. And, as outlined by the Carbon Trading Summit, also hosted in Wall Street’s hometown in January, and attended by systemically important financial firms ranging from Barclays Capital to Goldman Sachs, one primary item on the agenda is creating the world’s largest commodity market in carbon-backed securities … //

… The potential trade in carbon rights and carbon farming is already bringing out the big guns around the globe. More than US$100 million in bogus credits had been extended to indigenous tribes in South and Central America. Meanwhile, near Australia, Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea’s Special Environmental Envoy and Ambassador for Climate Change, revealed: ‘We found that because Papua New Guinea was advocating a regime shift in forests, we had every carbon cowboy in the world descend upon Papua New Guinea and try to get a deal with some landowners …that [would] somehow gave them some credibility.’ World News Australia reported, for instance, that Papua New Guinea leader, Abilie Wape was kidnapped at gunpoint by the police to ‘legally’ surrender the carbon rights of the Kamula Doso peoples forest. ‘Police came with a gun. They threatened me. They told me, ‘You sign. Otherwise, if you don’t sign, I’ll … lock you up,’ Wape is reported as saying.

he potential trade in carbon rights and carbon farming is already bringing out the big guns around the globe. More than US$100 million in bogus credits had been extended to indigenous tribes in South and Central America. Meanwhile, near Australia, Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea’s Special Environmental Envoy and Ambassador for Climate Change, revealed: ‘We found that because Papua New Guinea was advocating a regime shift in forests, we had every carbon cowboy in the world descend upon Papua New Guinea and try to get a deal with some landowners …that [would] somehow gave them some credibility.’ World News Australia reported, for instance, that Papua New Guinea leader, Abilie Wape was kidnapped at gunpoint by the police to ‘legally’ surrender the carbon rights of the Kamula Doso peoples forest. ‘Police came with a gun. They threatened me. They told me, ‘You sign. Otherwise, if you don’t sign, I’ll … lock you up,’ Wape is reported as saying.

This warning was similar to that of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga in 2009, when he suggested that every single Ogiek would face arrest if they did not voluntarily move as part of the government’s plan to ‘reclaim’ the Mau Forest Complex. This move had been promoted as part of the agenda to secure the Mau’s crucial forested land, which also generates East Africa’s primary water catchment area that supplies major rivers and lake systems, including the Nile and Lake Victoria, and feeds into Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan.

This was, of course, never directly connected to the REDD process that is still in the planning stage. According to a source, a special consultation process is still being planned for indigenous peoples living in forests in the coming weeks, including issues related to compensation.

If any forest peoples remain, that is. (full long text).

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