Yesterday was the 16th International Day of Struggle against Monoculture Tree Plantations. In 2004, rural communities in Brazil declared the day to commemorate the resistance against the expansion of monoculture tree plantations in Brazil. Through solidarity statements and actions around the world the day has evolved to become an International Day of Struggle.
This year, a group of organisations from African countries, together with the World Rainforest Movement, has issued an open letter about investments in monoculture tree plantations in the global South, particularly in Africa.
The letter is a response and critique of a June 2019 report titled, “Towards Large-Scale Commercial Investment in African Forestry”. The report was prepared by an outfit called Acacia Sustainable Business Advisors, which was set up by Martin Poulsen, a development banker. One of his co-authors for the study was Mads Asprem, the ex-CEO of Green Resources, a Norwegian industrial tree plantation and carbon offsets company. Green Resources’ land grabs in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda have resulted in loss of land, evictions, loss of livelihoods and increased hunger for local communities.
The study was produced for the African Development Bank and WWF Kenya, with funding from the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds.
The Open Letter (signed by 117 organisations and people) is posted here in full:
International Day of Struggle against Monoculture Tree Plantations
Open Letter about investments in monoculture tree plantations in the global South, especially in Africa, and in solidarity with communities resisting the occupation of their territories.
September 21st is the International Day of Struggle against Monoculture Tree Plantations. Unlike others, this Day was not created by the United Nations (UN) or by governments. The Day was created in 2004 by rural communities, gathered in the Brazilian hinterland, to denounce and shed light on the impacts of monoculture tree plantations on their territories, and affirm their determination to resist such plantations and take back their territories from the hands of corporations.
16 years later, the Day remains as relevant as ever: there is a real danger of a gigantic, worldwide expansion of monoculture tree plantation. This is promoted as a solution to prevent climate chaos and to the industrialized world’s dependence on oil, gas and coal. A group of governments, corporations, consultants, investors and major conservationist NGOs have come together to put their mega-plans for tree plantation expansions on the table.
Although highly questioned, a forest as defined by the FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization) and several national governments mistakenly includes monoculture tree plantations. In their eyes, plantations are “planted forests”. This definition favours only the plantation corporations, thus guaranteeing their main objective: generating profits.
Africa is the continent with “the most profitable afforestation potential worldwide”, according to a report produced in 2019 by consultants for the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the conservationist NGO WWF-Kenya. “The study has identified around 500,000 ha of viable plantation land in ten countries: Angola, Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mozambique, Malawi, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.” The study proposes the speedy creation of a Fund, headquartered in a tax haven (Mauritius), to finance the planting of the first 100,000 hectares of trees.
In order for these plantations to generate profits for private investors, the study claims that aid will be necessary from European public international cooperation agencies, i.e., taxpayers’ money from Northern European countries, namely, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the United Kingdom and The Netherlands, as well as from the World Bank via the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which makes loans to private companies.
The study and its recommendations leave us perplexed and indignant, given the false assumptions and inconsistencies on which it is based (see Annex I for a more detailed description). Below, we present a summary of our main criticism.
The study repeats the same treacherous and false promises that corporations and their advocates always make. It states that plantations improve communities’ living conditions, create jobs, improve the soil and the quality and quantity of water. The corporations’ ‘social’ projects would be attractive to the communities. However, plantations lead to a large number of violations of rights, create very few poorly-paid and dangerous jobs, destroy forests and savannas, degrade soils, contaminate and dry up water sources and destroy communities’ way of life. With the plantations, guards arrive who will restrict communities’ freedom of movement; cases of abuse, sexual violence against women and HIV/AIDS infections increase in number. The promise of ‘social’ projects, often not fulfilled, is the main bargaining chip for corporations to gain access to communities’ lands.
The study refers to land conflicts only as “challenges” and the proposed solution is to “follow FSC and other best practises”. Firstly, the 500,000 hectares that the study suggests corporations should plant as monoculture tree plantations are not abandoned or degraded lands. Corporations always want fertile lands, usually flat and with availability of water – in other words, lands that tend to be used by communities. By recommending the FSC, the study ignores ample documentation that proves that the FSC does not solve plantations’ structural problems, and land conflicts even less. The FSC deceives consumers by considering the model of large-scale monoculture plantations “sustainable”, for it always leads to large tracts of land being controlled by corporations and to the intensive use of agro-chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. So far, compensation for the populations that have lost their lands and means of subsistence has always been derisory or inexistent. Meanwhile, the social, environmental, economic and cultural damage caused by monoculture tree plantations in rural areas of African countries has never been compensated by corporations. There exists no way to calculate the damage and much of the harm done is irreparable.
The study references a World Bank/IFC project in Mozambique, stressing that “one important element of the IFC approach will be to define and register land rights”. In fact, the World Bank, as well as financing plantations, has a policy of encouraging governments in countries of the South to speed up the granting of individual deeds and, therefore, the privatization of land, in an attempt to prevent its collective recognition as community land. The World Bank has been promoting the handing over of community lands to private capital all over the world. It is important to highlight the fact that in recent years, the government of Mozambique has put in place a number of reforms in the forestry sector. These include a review of the Forestry Policy and its Implementation Strategy and, very recently, a public consultation process with a view to also reviewing the National Land Policy. In all of these processes the World Bank is the common denominator in terms of promotion and financial “support”. This review is taking place under the pretext of improving transparency and efficacy in land management and policies, and will inevitably force an alteration of the Land Law and respective Regulation, thus legitimizing the occupation of community lands which provide living conditions for communities and peoples.
The study states that the tree plantations would be “a stable, long-term carbon sink”, and result in “substantial adaptation benefits” vis-à-vis climate change at the local level. By stating this, the study ignores a growing body of scientific work showing that monoculture tree plantations are a false climate solution. The experiences of communities all over the world with monoculture tree plantations show that they create a local environment even less prepared for responding to the ever more perceptible impacts of climate change.
The study states that “Global oil and industrial companies” want to “become part of the solution rather than a major part of the problem. They are beginning to see the potential of forestry investments.” Oil and gas companies are an integral part of the climate crisis, regardless of such proclamations. They have not shown any interest in solving it; on the contrary, they intend to invest first and foremost in false solutions – after all, profits are above all else.
Other false statements include: “the world will need the type of intensive afforestation (…) that the Brazilian forestry industry is implementing”; and that Brazil’s neighbour, Uruguay, is “the world’s most recently developed forestry country”. The truth is that the Brazilian experience with industrial tree plantations over the course of the last few decades has led to numerous land conflicts and environmental degradation. Municipalities with the highest concentrations of plantations are among the poorest, compared with those with diversified agriculture based on smallholders. In Uruguay, the same negative impacts occur. Rural areas have seen a massive exodus of people, with the rural population reduced by half. Furthermore, citizens of Uruguay have taken on an enormous debt, owing to a recent contract between its government and Finnish multinational UPM. According to this contract, the government agreed to carry out multi-million dollar infrastructure works to service UPM and the export plans of its second pulp factory.
The study also states that “The main barrier to successful investments in African greenfield planting is low historic returns. New planting by private companies has ground to a halt in recent years.” This not only reveals that profits are what really matters to private investors, but also that the authors of the study deliberately ignore the main reason why the expansion of industrial plantations has been impeded in various African countries: the resistance of communities against such monoculture plantations.
The study also seeks to attract investors, suggesting “the possibility of planting [trees] at significantly lower costs (…), more or less half of 10 years ago (…)”. Promising companies that they will have to spend less means that the weight of the industrial plantation projects from the proposed fund will fall even more upon already indebted African countries and, consequently, on their populations, particularly rural communities that run the risk of losing their most fertile lands.
It is important to stress that a “conservationist” NGO is a co-producer of this study that promotes investments that will benefit first and foremost private companies. The study itself reveals how NGOs like WWF should no longer be considered NGOs since they function and act as the ‘right hand of the plantation industry’.
The report refers to a non-public version of the study which has not been disclosed to the public as far as we are aware. The report also notes that “(…) there is a clear coalition of DFIs [development finance institutions] interested in further discussion on this topic [creation of the Fund], including: CDC [United Kingdom], Finnfund [Finland], IFC [World Bank], NDF [Nordic countries: Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland] and FMO [The Netherlands]”. This demonstrates that decisions about investments are being made without the participation of the communities and other civil society organizations and social movements from the regions in question, i.e., the parties most affected. How can it still be acceptable in the 21st century that public international cooperation agencies use money from their taxpayers in this way? Hiding their decisions from their own citizens and from the populations that will be affected? When plantation corporations and their investors, after everything has been decided, state that they are applying the principle of communities’ “free, prior and informed consent”, does this merit any credibility?
We demand that the non-public version of this study be published immediately by the AfdB and WWF-Kenya, so that its content may be known to the communities and organized civil society in the countries where they intend to implement their plans.
We reiterate our indignation with regard to the channelling of public resources towards private investments, through tax havens, to be invested in highly damaging activities, such as large-scale monoculture plantations.
We further demand a wide-ranging review of the process of allocation of land to plantation corporations, ensuring the return of land to the communities that depend on this land, today and in the future. In Mozambique, for example, peasant agriculture constitutes the main guarantee of subsistence for more than 80% of the population, and the land is the only thing to which communities can resort to ensure food safety and sovereignty.
We reiterate our solidarity on this September 21st with the legitimate and just struggles of communities around the world that resist the advance of plantations and strive to take back their lost lands. They must be remembered and made visible every day. And they will certainly resist this new and insane expansion plan proposed in the AfDB and WWF-Kenya study and commented on in this Open Letter.
We appeal to the solidarity and unity, so that together we may demand the immediate abandonment of any and every afforestation programme based on large-scale monoculture plantation.
The Struggle Continues!
Plantations Are Not Forests!
- ADECRU (Mozambique)
- Justiça Ambiental (Mozambique)
- Missão Tabita (Mozambique)
- SUHODE Foundation (Tanzania)
- WRM (International)
East Africa poised to monitor carbon emission
A factory emits smoke.
East Africa will soon be able to monitor how much carbon dioxide or methane is produced by particular activity at any particular point in time thanks to a NASA-aided system that combines observable ground data, real time satellite measurements of carbon dioxide and next-generation microbial soil modelling.
Cornell University researchers will develop the system that combines what they called “bottom-up“ ecological modelling with “top-down“ satellite data, thanks to a three-year, $1 million NASA grant, which began on July 1.
The researchers said last week Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia have experienced deforestation will be covered by the system.
The system estimate will help in monitoring increase in carbon gained from potential afforestation, as well as how long this accumulation could take. These East African countries have ambitious climate mitigation programmes to sequester carbon in soils. Since the countries don’t produce a lot of energy that emits carbon, their mitigation measures rely on putting carbon into ecosystems such as soils.
It is hoped that the rigorous, accurate and low-cost carbon monitoring system will help policymakers verify the effectiveness of their efforts when they seek international climate financing. The data will also inform food-security policies, as more soil carbon provides crop resilience to climate change.
Carbon also helps store more water in soils, making crops more tolerant and resistant to droughts, which increases yields.
Original Source: THE EAST AFRICAN
Climate change will see East Africa get wetter say scientists
Cows in flooded pastures in the Tana delta, Kenya. According to scientists, while temperatures are predicted to rise, the region will likely get wetter mid-century.
East Africa could be the lucky exception to the disastrous effects of climate change as scientists predict increased precipitation as temperatures rise.
Four scientists — working with the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (Asareca) — Kizito Kwena, William Ndegwa, Imad Ali-Babiker and Hezron Mogaka — say the flipside to rising temperatures is that East Africa is likely to get wetter mid-century.
Citing separate studies by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Bank, the researchers say the projected 2°C increase in surface temperatures will result in an 11 per cent increase in rainfall over 80 per cent of the region.
“As unfamiliar as this counter-narrative seems, climate change presents the region an opportunity to think and act differently, to change the way it views growth and interacts with the environment,” says of their paper titled The curse of food insecurity and climate change in Africa.
The scientists say the 2025 zero hunger target set by African leaders is achievable, if governments in the region invest at least 10 per cent of their GDP in agriculture and direct resources into climate-smart agriculture.
According to Dr Kwena, while most climate models remain optimistic about the rainfall situation in East Africa — where vast areas of land are arid or semi-arid — the challenge is that governments may not be prepared to maximise the associated benefits.
“Climate change is not disaster all round. Climate models are predicting drought in one part of the continent and increased rainfall in the other. That is a huge opportunity considering the vast areas in the region that are arid or semi-arid. The challenge is how we harness this opportunity,” said Dr Kwena.
And while there have been attempts, Dr Kwena said most climate-smart interventions have been limited to a farm or plot level, which restricts the impacts that could be achieved if climate smart agriculture technologies were applied on a larger scale.
There will also be a need for some adjustments. For instance, if the arid and semi-arid areas of the region become wetter, communities may be required to adopt new livelihood activities. These views stand in sharp contrast to other scenarios that predict that in many parts of Africa, every 1°C increase in temperature will result in a five per cent decline in food yields.
“Already, there have been several climate-induced grain shocks in the world. In the medium-term, climate change causes production losses and increases cost structures. In the long-term, climate change causes production collapse,” said Asareca’s executive secretary Professor Francis Wachira, adding, “With this kind of forecast, it is important to make our cropping systems better adapted to a warming world.”
Climate-smart agriculture would enhance the resilience of food systems while also contributing to reduction of emissions, Prof Wachira said, adding that every dollar invested in agricultural research and development results in a 68kg reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide while a one per cent increase in agricultural water productivity frees up 24 litres of water per person per day.
Prof Wachira added that despite its potential, Africa remains a net importer of food even as other regions of the world have tripled their output.
In East and Central Africa, crop yields have stagnated over the past half a century, leading to sharp declines in per capita food production and an increase in poverty and hunger.
He pointed to market failures and over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture as the major factors behind the under-performance of African agriculture, a situation he warns will be exacerbated by climate change.
Original Source: THE EAST AFRICAN
Finnish carbon offsetting firm Compensate finds 91% of carbon offset projects fail its evaluation process. Of course the remaining 9% will also not help address the climate crisis
Compensate is a Finland-based carbon offsetting company set up in 2019 by Antero Vartia, an entrepreneur, actor, and former member of parliament. In 2020, Compensate created project criteria to evaluate the projects from which it buys carbon offsets. One year later, Compensate reported on its experience with the project criteria:
90% of evaluated projects fail the criteria. The reasons vary, but are all equally alarming. Some projects can not be considered additional, others have serious permanence risks. Some have unreliable baselines, because assumed deforestation is largely inflated. Worryingly, many projects also cause serious human rights violations.
“International carbon standards are fundamentally flawed”
Compensate’s report exposes some of the structural problems with the voluntary carbon market:
The voluntary carbon market is characterized by a plethora of actors, methodologies, project types, and standards. It’s a tough job for businesses, organizations and individual consumers to try to navigate this complex market. Outright opportunism and greenwashing are not uncommon.
Compensate points out that standards like Verra, Gold Standard, and American Carbon Registry exist to reassure offset buyers about the quality of the carbon offsets they are buying. “Still,” Compensate adds, “these leading standards leave a lot to be desired.”
Compensate writes that,
[N]ot even the most renowned international standards guarantee real climate impact. Compensate has come across projects with unbelievably overestimated impact, or, worse yet, no impact at all. The market is flooded with millions of essentially worthless credits. Still, these credits have the stamp of approval of the leading international standards, and offsetters keep buying them with no knowledge of the fact they’re engaging in a lie.
And Compensate writes that,
International carbon standards are fundamentally flawed, as they develop and accept project methodologies that allow for the issuance of millions of meaningless credits.
Compensate is critical of corporate promises to reach “net zero“:
While companies claim they only purchase carbon credits for offsetting unavoidable emissions, there is little transparency on companies’ efforts to reduce emissions from operations, and how much of net-zero targets are achieved by offsetting. Company emissions cannot simply be balanced out by purchasing carbon credits. It is known that emissions stay in the atmosphere for 300-1000 years, whereas a tree can sequester CO2 for several decades or until its logged and burned, then releasing all the CO2 back into the atmosphere. This is why the best way to mitigate companies’ climate impacts is to reduce emissions.
Which raises the obvious question: Why is Compensate in the carbon offsetting business?
Compensate’s report includes a section titled “Characteristics of a good carbon credit”. According to Compensate, the following characteristics have to be recognised: additionality, reliability (i.e. the climate impact is not overestimated), permanence, avoided double counting, and environmental and social net impact.
The section would have been better titled “Why offsetting cannot work”. Compensate acknowledges that many projects struggle with demonstrating financial additionality, and even fewer can tackle policy level additionality.
Permanence is a problem, Compensate writes, because “the majority of forestation projects have a lifetime of 30 years. If the protected forest is logged immediately after the project is completed, and the trees are used for energy, the CO2 will be released into the atmosphere.”
Compensate argues that “missing links between theory and practice have left room for double counting to happen quite often”:
Commonly, the two claiming parties are an organization offsetting its emission and the host country trying to reach its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement.
Compensate acknowledges that “Project developers can influence the number of credits issued with the selection of the baseline scenario.” And that this baseline “could be artificially inflated”. Buying credits from a project with an artificially inflated baseline “could actually add carbon into the atmosphere”.
But the problem of counterfactual baselines is not something that can be resolved with “robust methodologies” or “stricter additionality criteria” as Compensate’s report suggests. Larry Lohmann of The CornerHouse points out, “the problem is not ‘bad baselines’ but the concept of counterfactual baselines itself. That reality does more than invalidate any particular REDD project. It invalidates REDD (and all other offsets) as a whole.”
91% of carbon offset projects fail
Compensate started using its criteria early in 2020. The company has evaluated more than 100 nature-based projects (mainly forest conservation and tree planting projects). All the projects are certified by international organisations such as Gold Standard, Verra, Plan Vivo, American Carbon Registry and Climate Action Reserve.
Only 9% of the projects passed Compensate’s evaluation process.
- Compensate found that 52% of the projects are not additional. Examples include selling carbon credits by protecting forests that were never in danger. Commercial timber plantations do not pass the financial additionality criteria “as the project could be implemented without the need for revenue from carbon credits”. Compensate argues that when project activities are already included in national laws and policies there is a lack of policy level additionality. Compensate gives the example of Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo: “Examples include protecting a forest in a country where there is a moratorium on converting natural forests to palm oil plantations (Indonesia) or a moratorium on granting new timber concessions (Democratic Republic of Congo).” Leakage occurs when a government grants conservation concession status to the project area, but also grants a logging concession elsewhere.
- Compensate found that 16% of the projects it evaluated had permanence risks due to an unstable political situation and high risk of corruption, natural disasters such as floods or fires, postponing timber harvest until after the project ends, or illegal logging.
- 12% of projects had “unreliable baselines” according to Compensate’s evaluation. Artificially inflating baseline emissions generates more carbon credits for the project.But Compensate does not take into consideration the fact that all baselines are unverifiable because they are based on a counterfactual story about what would have happened in the absence of the project.
- 6% of the projects Compensate evaluated failed because of community conflicts, for example through human rights violations and evictions, or a failure to deliver the promised benefits.
- And 5% of the projects did not meet Compensate’s criteria because they offset emissions that take place today with hoped for removals in the future. Compensate gives the example of tree planting projects that calculate the amount of carbon the trees with sequester over the next 50 years.
Carbon markets need to be eliminated not reformed
Compensate is a non-profit organisation, but as a carbon broker, the company’s continued existence depends on selling carbon offsets. It’s a smart marketing ploy to claim that 91% of carbon offsets are flawed, in that it suggests that Compensate is particularly careful about selecting which projects it buys carbon offsets from.
Indeed, Compensate’s report states that,
Like investment managers manage a fund to deliver the best value, Compensate manages a diverse carbon capture portfolio to deliver the best possible climate impact.
Compensate doesn’t point out the fundamental flaw of carbon offsets. The companies buying carbon offsets are using them in order to continue burning fossil fuels. Offsetting does not reduce emissions, it just shuffles them around the world. Often it is the poorest of the poor who have to adjust their livelihoods in order that the rich can continue flying, for example.
And Compensate’s experts make no mention of the carbon cycle. At the end of 2020, 23 researchers and experts published an article in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter titled, “Misleading and false myths about carbon offsets”. The second myth that the authors highlight is that “We can compensate for fossil fuel emissions using so-called ‘nature-based solutions’ (such as carbon sequestration in vegetation and soils).”
The authors explain the carbon cycle as follows:
The carbon cycle has two parts: one fast cycle whereby carbon circulates between the atmosphere, land and seas, and one slow cycle whereby carbon circulates between the atmosphere and the rocks which make up Earth’s interior.
Fossil fuels are part of the slow carbon cycle. Nature-based solutions are part of the fast carbon cycle. This biological carbon storage is not permanent. Carbon stored in trees can be released by forest fires – something we are seeing more and more often as the climate heats up.
Original Source: redd-monitor.org