hearts and minds

April 12, 2010

Forests, Money, and Rights at Copenhagen Climate Talks

Filed under: Economics,Environment,Freedom and free trade — Hearts & Minds @ 12:00 pm

by Claire Vanderslice
President – League of Women Voters of Ozaukee County, Wisconsin

As part of the US League of Women Voters delegation to Copenhagen in December 2009, I investigated REDD; “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation”, a mechanism originally conceived to reward “custodians” to keep the remaining tropical forests intact instead of cutting them down. Carbon dioxide is released when trees are cut and burned and the soil is exposed to oxidation. Living trees, on the other hand, convert CO2 to oxygen and sequestered carbon. So protecting forests reduces atmospheric greenhouse gases.

The UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Peoples played an important role in both presentations and negotiations in Copenhagen. Indigenous delegations from the Amazon Basin, Peru, America, Africa, Indonesia, Pacific Islands, the Philippines, the Arctic, Papua New Guinea, and other regions discussed the effects that climate change, climate change policies, and treaty language will have and is having on them and their homelands. Hundreds of millions of indigenous people maintain an unbroken connection with the languages and cultures of their distant ancestors. They count all of nature as their kin and live in areas of great biodiversity and natural forests. Their lives will be disproportionately affected by negotiations relating to REDD.

Efforts to write a strong and effective draft text for the REDD proposal were unfortunately stalled in Copenhagen and needed safeguards have not been adopted.

The funding mechanism is a very big issue. Different methods have been proposed:
(1) carbon trading; (2) a dedicated fund; or (3) a mixture.
Some assume that funding will come via “free market” processes such as carbon offsets or some emission unit that can be bought and sold. REDD is a component of carbon markets whereby carbon credits are assigned to a forest to quantify the environmental “service” the forest provides to the climate. A big part of a nation’s carbon reduction targets could, therefore, be sourced internationally. If financed through trading of carbon credits, REDD will create the world’s biggest loophole – effectively allowing major polluters to continue and even expand burning of fossil fuels in exchange for buying forests in other parts of the world in order to obtain “carbon offsets”.

The REDD definition of “sustainable forests” thus far fails to differentiate between extensive monoculture plantations and healthy forest diversity with wildlife habitat, clean watersheds, and indigenous human populations. Corporations and investors would, in effect, be subsidized to acquire native forests for carbon credits, and eventually or quickly replace these forests with “more profitable” commodity plantations that depend on fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, genetically modified trees, and eliminating the biological diversity, wildlife, and indigenous inhabitants. The text does not address enforcement to control massive clear cutting, illegal logging, and large scale agribusiness practices. Ironically, the definition of “degradation” could, however, criminalize indigenous forest dwellers for subsistence farming, medicinal plant collection, and traditional cultural practices.

REDD will be part of negotiations over the next months leading up to COP 16 in Mexico City. Missing safeguards must be put in place or REDD will have perverse consequences:

(1) Destruction of the worlds remaining natural forests could actually be accelerated, rather than arrested;
(2) Indigenous Peoples’ rights referenced in the text could be undermined, and Indigenous peoples, local communities, and women are likely to be excluded from decision making;
(3) Hedge-fund investors and derivatives speculators are eagerly anticipating this prospective trillion dollar market which, in the absence of still needed regulations and enforcement, could become the next (and worst ever) financial bubble to burst upon the world economy and also crash efforts to arrest climate change.

Now doesn’t that help connect the dots just a bit for you?

The author, along with three other women who were official observer-delegates at the recent Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (COP-15) are presenting a forum discussion on Saturday April 24 at the Mequon Nature Preserve under the auspices of the non-partisan League of Women Voters of MIlwaukee and the LWV of Ozaukee County. Go to this web site for details and an invitation to this important event to which all are invited. Please RSVP by April 16 if at all possible. But please come.


  1. Martin Luther nailed a thesis on the door of a church because of behaviors like REDD and carbon credits. Only back then, they were called “Indulgences”.
    “We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.”
    —Wendell Berry

    Comment by Dan C — April 12, 2010 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

  2. I can hardly imagine carbon trading and related bureaucracy doing other than leading to prostituted science, financial corruption, and further environmental degradation. Far better to simply tax fossil fuels, and perhaps have an import tax per ton-mile (not a tariff mind you) to make up for untaxed fuels used in moving the product from afar.

    Comment by Neil M — April 12, 2010 @ 7:56 pm | Reply

  3. Neil: even better to just tax ALL consumption because all trade comes from the resources being burned up. If someone comes up with a clean energy source, what will be done to moderate the consumption of water, copper and iron, etc.? Let’s get right to the point that “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to sell fish and the oceans boil from propellers.” It is profit and trade themselves that are causing our overuse of resources. This doesn’t mean we have to stop them, but that we have to balance them with some kind of moderating force. Sales tax on everything, all the time. No exemptions, no paperwork. The only argument should be “How much?”

    Here’s another think:

    I had an epiphany yesterday. It started with the concept of today’s insurance companies and then I realized that it applies to all of our System of systems, including a lot of peoplecorps. Think about why and how distributed risk ideas start out: to provide benefits to those in need during unintended catastrophes.
    An insurance company used to be a conduit for money to flow in from premiums and out to claimants, while skimming a little off the top. Now, they just burn the money and the executives get the energy from the burning money (landscaping, elaborate buildings, lobbyists, computers, advertising), while some soot might fall on the dying beneficiaries and be called “benefits”.
    Government has followed the same model. So have many rich people and it seems, all of the merged corporations (much of this I think is due to the income tax code).
    Where is the clean, simple usefulness of the original labors of people’s hands and minds? Buried in the ashes.
    “Unintentional catastophes” is a key term here, because I would say that our poor health, climate instabilities, and political indulgences in uselessness are actually semi-intentional catastrophic results that increase the flow of money to the fires of ‘economics’. Whether you burn the money or not, it adds to the GDP.

    Comment by Dan C — April 12, 2010 @ 8:48 pm | Reply

  4. Endgame, the free movie on youtube explains it all. It was made several years ago and lays out everything that would happen with the fake global warming outside threat, the housing bubble, the controlled engineered economic crisis, etc. The answers are already out there, you just have to turn off the tv and read the right stuff, which isn’t fckng newsweek. Try looking outside controlled establishment media and wake up. America has been hi-jacked. Stop being suckers. Climategate wasn’t taken out of context, I have the damn emails myself. They prove further that global warming *now called climate change* is a hoax and tax fraud leading to the collapse of the dollar and a new world order/one world gov. Buy guns lol.

    Comment by Ryan B — April 13, 2010 @ 8:34 pm | Reply

  5. Personally, I look at the yearly UN Climate Change conference as a method to judge how seriously different governments take the threat of Global Warming. Obviously, not too seriously: No emission limits, no consensus on how emissions are to be distributed among countries, and a vague pledge to the “immediate establishment of a mechanism…to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries” to support mitigation ($30 billion for the period 2010-2012, and the commitment to fund $100 billion/year by 2020)… with a mix of public and private resources.

    I share Claire and Neil’s skepticism with the carbon credit market. It’s mostly a method for bankers and speculators to skim fast profits off the climate crisis.

    Comment by MarkS — April 15, 2010 @ 1:53 pm | Reply

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