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How Land and Environmental Defenders Protect the Planet, and How We Can Protect Them

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If we want to avert a climate disaster and deliver real climate justice, governments and businesses must protect Land and Environmental Defenders and ensure their voices are heard.

Who can be a Defender?

Land and Environmental Defenders (or Defenders for short) are ordinary people trying to peacefully protect their homes, livelihoods and the health of our planet. They take a stand against the unjust, discriminatory, corrupt or damaging exploitation of natural resources or the natural environment. Anyone, in any part of the world – from an individual protesting for climate justice,  to a community taking local action to stop a polluting mining operation in their area, or state employees tracking illegal logging – can be a Defender.

The term is an overarching one that covers a disparate group of people whose individual actions serve to benefit the environment, even if that may not be their primary focus. Defenders often live in communities whose land, health and livelihoods are threatened by the operations of mining, logging or agribusiness companies. Others will be defending our biodiverse environment, whilst some will be supporting these community efforts through their work – as human rights or environmental lawyers, politicians, park rangers, journalists, or members of campaigns or civil society organisations.

What do Defenders do?

The tactics and strategies used by Defenders vary from group to group and person to person. However, a common thread that unites them all: they all speak out against the harm done to people or the planet through the exploitation of land and natural resources by businesses and governments for profit. This could be through awareness-raising and protest, peaceful direct action, filing legal complaints, or other ways of speaking out.

Some examples include:

  • Berta Cáceres, who through protest, community organising, and filing complaints with government authorities drew attention to the ways a planned hydropower project in Honduras would damage a local river and violate the rights and threaten the livelihoods of Indigenous people who lived nearby.
  • Ouch Leng, who along with other members of the Prey Lang Community Network monitors the protected Prey Lang Forest wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia, reporting instances of illegal logging and forest clearance.
  • The Waorani indigenous community in Ecuador, who won a landmark legal ruling in 2019 to prevent the Ecuadorian government selling off their land for oil and gas exploration.

You can find many other examples of the incredible work Defenders do in our Defenders annual reports.

How effective are Defenders in fighting climate change?

The role of Defenders, and specially those part of Indigenous communities, is often overlooked when governments and international organisations discuss potential solutions to the climate crisis. However, all the evidence suggests that they are incredibly effective at what they do.

In 2019, the United Nations formally recognised the role of Defenders in environmental protection, and a recent global study showed that in 11% of environmental conflicts, Defenders contributed to halting environmentally destructive projects.

A significant number of Defenders are Indigenous People, who play an outsized role in protecting the environment. While they occupy around a quarter of the Earth’s land, they are responsible for 35% of terrestrial areas with very low human impacts, helping maintain 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Indigenous lands also store hundreds of gigatons of carbon.

Defenders often rely on their local environment for their livelihoods, so they manage it in a sustainable way for future generations. Unfortunately, this frequently brings them into conflict with global supply chains which aren’t interested in environmental preservation.

Defenders explainer video still 1

Why is it so dangerous to be a Defender?

The extractive business models of destructive industries like mining, logging and large-scale agriculture come into direct conflict with the ways in which Defenders live their lives. In too many countries, rich in natural resources and biodiversity, corporations are operating with almost complete impunity – safe in the knowledge that the state will look the other way and prioritise short-term profits rather than protect the rights of local communities.

In their pursuit of profit, these industries may begin by intimidating communities to give up their land, or collaborating with state officials to take it from them. Where people object, companies often back up their demands with threats, intimidation, legal crackdowns or outright violence – using  company security guards, state security forces, or hired assassins.

On average, four Defenders have been killed every week since December 2015 – the month the Paris Climate Agreement was signed – with countless more targeted with non-lethal violence or criminalised as a result of their peaceful activities. All too often, there is no accountability for the people who attack them, further reinforcing the culture of impunity and paving the way for future violence.

Defenders explainer video still 3

What can we do to stop attacks against Defenders?

There are ways to reduce the fear and violence faced by Defenders in carrying out their work:

We must support Defenders by raising awareness of the threats they face and making the case for specific laws and policies to protect them.

We must tackle the root causes of these attacks. Violence often occurs when people’s rights to their land and natural resources are weak, undocumented or poorly enforced, while laws empower companies to exploit them with impunity.

To combat this, policymakers must strengthen land rights and environmental safeguards, and protect defenders by enforcing them. They must pass regulations that impose accountability on global supply chain companies dominating the international trade and investments, forcing them to respect the right of communities to give or withhold their free, prior and informed consent regarding the use of their land and natural resources.

And we need to ensure accountability by bringing those responsible for attacks on Defenders to justice, and enabling those who suffer as a result of a company’s actions to seek remedy and reparations for the damage caused.

Ending the culture of impunity is vital to deterring future attacks.

Original Source: Globalwitness.org

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Environment

Offsets don’t stop climate change.

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Shortly before COP26, Amazon Watch and more than 170 organisations signed on to a statement under the headline “Offsets don’t stop climate change”.

The headline is borrowed from a December 2020 letter to the Financial Times in response to an editorial about Mark Carney’s Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets.

Offsets don’t stop climate change

The letter, from Doreen Stabinsky (College of the Atlantic, USA), Wim Carton (Lund University, Sweden), Kate Dooley (University of Melbourne, Australia), Jens Friis Lund (University of Copenhagen, Denmark), and Kathy McAfee (San Francisco State University, USA), states that, “Offsets don’t stop climate change because they don’t stop emissions.”

They write that,

In an ideal world, some types of offsets might theoretically balance out emissions with removals. But the whole point of an offset is that one entity gets to keep emitting.

And they explain that the problem is that with continued emissions, CO2 continues “to accumulate in the atmosphere where it resides for hundreds to thousands of years, and the temperature of the planet continues to increase”.

They point out that the oil industry is a primary beneficiary of offsetting and Carney’s taskforce was stacked with respresentatives of Big Polluters:

All the major oil companies are planning to continue with exploration and new extraction projects. None of them have plans for a managed decline of production that is anywhere near in line with the Paris goal aiming to limit warming to 1.5C. Indeed some fossil fuel majors have even stated their intent to increase exploration and production for at least the next five years. These are hardly decarbonisation goals. All of them intend to rely heavily on carbon offsetting to keep drilling and emitting-as-usual.

They conclude that if Carney were serious about addressing the climate crisis, he would “convene a taskforce on the managed decline of fossil fuels and bring the fossil fuel industry to the table”.

It’s not controversial to point out that offsetting does not reduce emissions (and therefore does not help address the climate crisis). Even proponents of offsetting will, if pushed, admit this fact:

Offsets don’t stop climate change

In a press release about the statement signed by more than 170 organisations, Jim Walsh of Food & Water Watch says,

“Offsets are nothing short of a scam that corporate interests push, allowing them to continue polluting our climate and frontline communities with impunity. The harm does not end there, as these offset schemes displace indigenous communities and prop-up corporate agriculture and factory farming. Addressing the climate crisis means keeping fossil fuels in the ground, rather than pursuing these scams that harm our communities and climate for nothing other than corporate profits.”

Here is the statement, “Offsets don’t stop climate climate change”. The list of signatories is available here:

Offsets don’t stop climate changeClimate-driven wildfires, flooding, droughts and other extreme weather events daily impact every corner of the globe.Yet the fossil fuel industry, big utilities, big agriculture, big finance — and their political allies — are pushing carbon offset schemes to allow them to continue releasing the greenhouse gases driving the climate crisis, harming Indigenous, Black, and other already-marginalized communities, and undermining sustainable farming and forestry practices.The science is clear: we need to rapidly phase out fossil fuels and emissions-intensive agricultural practices like factory farming, while protecting forests, wetlands, and other natural carbon sinks. Every delay means greater impacts on our climate and more pollution in historically overburdened communities.[1]We call on leaders around the world to join us in rejecting offset schemes because these pay-to-pollute practices are nothing more than false and harmful solutions to the climate crisis.

  • Nature-based offsets cannot “offset” fossil fuel combustion. While fossil fuel companies and other polluters would like fossil carbon and biological carbon to be fully interchangeable, this has no scientific basis.[2] Fossil carbon emissions are effectively permanent, coming from reservoirs deep in the earth where they have been stored for millions of years. When burned, the carbon pollution remains in the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years. In contrast, crops, soils, oceans, and forests are “fast-exchange” carbon reservoirs that have limited carbon storage capacity and can re-release carbon back into the atmosphere over the course of a few decades, or sometimes even over a few days.[3] Offsets confuse this basic science by wrongly treating the Earth’s biosphere as an endless source of potential storage for fossil carbon emissions.
  • Offsets of any kind perpetuate environmental injustice. Greenhouse gas emitting industries are disproportionately sited in poor communities and communities of color, causing them to bear the brunt of pollution. Offset schemes increase pollution in these communities, worsening environmental injustice.[4] Furthermore, by allowing pollution to continue in exchange for land grabs elsewhere, offsets often shift the burden of reducing emissions from the Global North to the Global South.[5]
  • The use of offsets is likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions. Polluters frequently purchase offsets for emissions-reducing practices by one entity, so that their own emissions can continue. In this case, emissions are still added to the atmosphere, so global warming continues. Polluters also purchase offsets for practices that could pull carbon out of the atmosphere, such as by planting forests or protecting existing forests. However, carbon storage in natural ecosystems is inherently temporary and highly reversible, as has been seen so clearly in the tragic forest fires in the U.S. west in the past few years.[6] All that carbon can be released very quickly back into the atmosphere, again increasing emissions.
  • Offsets can result in violations of the rights of Indigenous and tribal peoples. Satisfying market demands for offsets will require access to huge expanses of land and forest, lands already occupied by Indigenous Peoples, peasants, and local communities. As such, Indigenous lands are increasingly targeted by forest offset project developers, creating pressure and division in Indigenous communities.[7]
  • Offsets undermine sustainable farming and increase consolidation in agriculture. Carbon offset programs give additional leverage to already powerful corporations, including agribusinesses and factory farms, that have long squeezed farm income and drained rural economies, while increasing environmental pollution.[8] Corporations and large landowners are best-positioned to develop offset projects, which further entrenches the factory farm and corn/soybean monocultural model at the expense of small farmers, including Black and Indigenous farmers and Tribal Nations. Instead of allowing the industrial, extractive model of agriculture to further prosper by selling offsets to industrial polluters, policy makers should support traditional and ecologically regenerative agricultural practices.
  • Offsets markets create more conditions for fraud and gambling than for climate action. Existing offset schemes have already proven to be easily open to fraud.[9] Yet the speculative trading of offsets derivatives and other financial products has already begun, prioritizing profit-seeking traders and speculators over economic and climate justice.[10]

We call on global policy makers to reject offset schemes and embrace real climate solutions that will keep fossil fuels in the ground, support sustainable food systems, and end deforestation, while eliminating pollution in frontline communities.


[1] IPCC, Global Warming of 1.5°C. International Energy Agency, Net Zero by 2050. IPCC, AR6 Climate Change 2021.

[2] Carton et al. “Undoing Equivalence: Rethinking Carbon Accounting for Just Carbon Removal,” Frontiers in Climate, 16 April 2021.

[3] Anderegg, W. et al., Climate-driven risks to the climate mitigation potential of forests, Science 368 (6947) 2020. Mackey, B. et al. 2013., “Untangling the confusion around land carbon science and climate change mitigation policy,” Nature Climate Change, 3(6),pp.552-557, 2013.

[4] Food & Water Watch, “Cap and trade: More pollution for the poor and people of color,” November 2019 at 1 to 2.

[5] Gilbertson, Tamara, Carbon Pricing: A Critical Perspective for Community Resistance, Indigenous Environment Network and Climate Justice Alliance, 2017.[6] Anderegg, W., “Gambling with the climate: how risky of a bet are natural climate solutions?,” AGU Advances, 2021. Coffield, S.R. et al., “Climate-driven limits to future carbon storage in California’s wildland ecosystems,” AGU Advances, 2021.

[7] Ahmend, N., “World Bank and UN carbon offset scheme ‘complicit in genocidal land grabs – NGOs,” The Guardian, 3 July 2014. Forest Peoples Programme, The Reality of REDD in Peru: Between Theory and Practice, November 2011.

[8] Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, “Why carbon markets won’t work for agriculture,” January 2020 at 2.

[9] Elgin, B., “A Top U.S. Seller of Carbon Offsets Starts Investigating Its Own Projects,” Bloomberg. 5 April 2021.

[10] Hache, F., Shades of Green: The Rise of Natural Capital Markets and Sustainable Finance, Green Finance Observatory, March 2019.

Original Source: Redd-monitor.

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Environment

NO more GE trees! Open Letter Denouncing Suzano Papel e Celulose’s glyphosate-resistant Genetically Engineered (GE) Eucalyptus

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More than 50 organizations, networks and movements from Brazil and around the world denounce the release into the environment and the commercial use of a new transgenic eucalyptus from the Brazilian company Suzano Papel e Celulose!

The approval by the National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) of the GE eucalyptus resistant to glyphosate, identified as 751K032, is a serious threat to life, to society and to nature. It was approved without any democratic consultation with Brazilian civil society in general and the neighboring communities of the areas where the plantations will be located in particular. The only concern was granting the license in the benefit of the commercial interests of Suzano Papel e Celulose, instead of the detrimental effect on life.

Organizations denounce the CTNBio decision from November 16, 2021 to approve the release into the environment, commercial use and any other related activities of the new GE eucalyptus developed by FuturaGene, owned by Suzano Papel e Celulose.

The letter ends by demanding the immediate revocation of the license granted for the use of Suzano GE eucalyptus 751KO32, as well as the action and intervention of the Federal Public Prosecution Service to revoke the decision made by the CTNBio, a decision made without a full public debate, especially in regions of Brazil that have been exposed for many years to eucalyptus monoculture.

Read the complete letter here.

Original Source:  Alert Against Green Desert

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Environment

UN seeks increased public finance to protect forests.

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UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres

Antonio Gutteres, the Secretary-General of the UN, made this call on Monday, May 2, 2022, at the opening of the 15th World Forestry Congress (WFC) in Seoul, South Korea.

The increase in the finance, he said, should include source-based payments and a dearth of environmental swaps to achieve a deforestation-free world.

Gutteres, who spoke through his Deputy, Amina Mohammed, also called for a budget and policy for forestry commitment among global communities.

He said it was unfortunate that about 4.7 billion hectares of forest were being lost annually to deforestation and environmental degradation in the last decade.

The UN chief called for concerted efforts toward achieving deforestation-free supply chains.

“Since the last congress in 2015, recognition of the critical role of forests of all types play in meeting the sustainable development goals and achieving the past agreements has gained much attention.

“The recent classical degradation on forest and land use has further underlined key transform to actions needed to save all forest and advance the 2030 agenda.

“This congress takes place right over the latest report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change.

“The panel warns that the world is dangerously close to irreversible topping point for forestry section, for the health of people, and for the planet,” he said.

According to him, this supports resilient livelihood, biodiversity consideration, sustainable economy and climate mitigation and adaptation.

“Forest remained under threat and in the last decade alone, the world has lost 4.7 billion hectares a year.

“We must specially recognise and act on the value of the forest hence the theme of the congress, ‘Building a Green, Healthy and Resilient Future with Forest.

“We need all stakeholders to come up with ideas and commitment that can be put into action,” he said.

Gutteres explained that forests could also be protected by expanding indigenous governance for forests in the perspectives of youth and women and using the latest scientific evidence and catchy head technology.

“I look forward to the outcome of this congress feeding into climate change and biodiversity negotiation and other policies.

“Together, I believe we can build a green, healthy and resilient future by realising the true value of the forest,” the UN scribe said.

In her remark, Princess Sasma Ali, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, canvassed a diversified approach to achieving success in building a green, healthy and resilient future with forest.

Ali is also Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Ali said that 30 per cent of the world’s forest had been cleared with another 20 per cent degraded.

She said it would require dedicated political will and the development of policy measures to reverse the tide.

The FAO ambassador also called for the mobilisation of funds in addition to engaging all stakeholders to achieve the target.

“Accordingly, there is no to engage all stakeholders more importantly indigenous people, and local communities’ members.

“They possess the knowledge, and the custody of this ecosystem coupled with scientific experts who can monitor the system,” she said.

Qu Dongyu, Director-General, FAO, acknowledged some progress in reforestation, particularly in Asia including countries like South Korea, Japan and India.

Dongyu said the congress was an opportunity to make further commitment toward achieving the 2030 deforestation-free world in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By Usman Aliyu

Source: Enviro News Nigeria

 

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