Cancún, where money talks

It's fitting that Cancún is the setting, it's unnatural, plastic, over-priced, corrupt, garish and absolutely un-Mexican, for the latest climate debate-debacle. The Americans are spearheading the charge to commodify everything and thereby give their corporations even more private, for profit, access to the globe's common wealth. Not just the Yanks, many Euro folks, the Canucks, the Aussies, the Japanese, lately the Chinese...all the haves, can be heard in the background singing 'yup-yup-yup'.

REDD is this iteration's [COP16] hottest acronym. REDD, or reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, is one of the most controversial new issues in the climate change debate. The basic concept is simple: governments, companies or forest owners in the South should be rewarded for keeping their forests instead of cutting them down. The devil, as always, is in the details.

REDD will destroy indigenous forest cultures."Everyone who cares about our future, forests, Indigenous Peoples and human rights should reject REDD because it is irremediably flawed, cannot be fixed and because, despite efforts to develop safeguards for its implementation, REDD will always be potentially genocidal." - Tom Goldtooth, indigenous environmental leader and contributer to Red Cancun: A Daily Guide to the COP16 Summit from the Indigenous Environmental Network.

There are several concerns about the way REDD is currently developing:

  • Failure to recognise Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the UNFCCC.
  • Failure to consult with Indigenous Peoples and local communities (for example in the FCPF).
  • The UN definition of forests fails to differentiate between plantations and forests, meaning that companies could replace forests with monoculture tree plantations and still qualify for subsidies under REDD.
  • “Technical” issues: Baselines, measurements, additionally, leakage, permanence.
  • There is a serious risk of increasing corruption: in the South, where large sums of money could pour into some of the most corrupt regimes on the planet as well as in the North, where a new sub-prime market in forest carbon could be created.
  • There is a risk of increased deforestation in the build-up to Copenhagen. For example, earlier this year, Indonesia allowed pulp companies to log native forests and allowed oil palm plantations to be established in peat swamps. Guyana is threatening that it could increase the rate of deforestation unless it is compensated for not doing so through REDD.
  • Trading carbon stored in forests would create an enormous loophole allowing greenhouse gas emissions to continue. There is also a high likelihood that allowing forest carbon to be traded would lead to a crash in the price of carbon.
  • Trading forest carbon would also fail to address climate change – we need to find ways to stop burning fossil fuels, not create massive new loopholes to allow the pollution to continue.

REDD is an idea dreamt up by economists. Accountants and economists count the board feet of timber but miss the greater forest. The forest is a living community, its life can be extinguished or cherished but never bought and sold.

"The interests of the corporation state are to convert all the riches of the earth into dollars."
-William O. Douglas, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1969