Climate 411

As 2020 approaches, the climate action spotlight is on forests

Amazon Canopy. Warwick Lister-Kaye / istockphoto.com.

With 2020 fast approaching, countries, companies, and other stakeholders are taking stock of their climate commitments. As they consider ways to meet and enhance climate goals, interest in net zero emissions commitments and carbon removal technologies has grown. But what these discussions reveal is that forests are crucial. Capable of significantly reducing net emissions at a low marginal cost, and in the short-term, forests are an important piece of the climate change mitigation puzzle.

This year, tropical forests have dominated the spotlight. The forest fires raging throughout Brazil, Bolivia, and Indonesia are part of a disturbing trend: despite commitments from governments and companies, deforestation is still on the rise globally. Key forest ecosystems such as the Amazon continue to face the pressures of crop expansion for agricultural production, illegal extractive activities like timber harvesting and mining, relaxed legal enforcement and weakened environmental policies.

As deforestation persists, the planet’s capacity to absorb carbon pollution diminishes and more carbon is being released; tree cover loss in tropical forests accounts for about 16 to 33 percent of global emissions. We should be alarmed. But we should also be hopeful. Here are a few reasons why:

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How Brazil can develop its rural economy, increase agricultural production and protect forests

Day one panel “How should the rural economy be in the future?” featuring, from left, Carlos Nobre (IEA-USP), André Guimarães (IPAM), Regina Sambuichi (Ipea), and Juliano Assunção (PUC-RIO). Photo by IPC-IG on Flickr .

The recent fires in the Amazon rainforest have raised the question: is it possible to have a new model of development in the region that reconciles forest protection with economic growth?

The pressing threats of climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation along with a growing global demand for agricultural commodities, pose major challenges and opportunities for rural economies.

A group of Brazilian and international scientists, economists, and government officials joined private sector, civil society and multilateral organization representatives in Brasília to discuss how these challenges could be turned into economic and environmental opportunities for the Brazilian rural sector.

The two day workshop, “Business Opportunities for a Sustainable Rural Economy: The Contribution from Forests and Agriculture,” examined different facets of Brazil’s potential in a low-carbon rural economy. Organized by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in partnership with the Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea) of the Brazilian Ministry of Economy, and the United Nations Development Program – International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG), participants concluded that Brazil has an unparalleled comparative advantage to foster a buoyant sustainable rural economy that couples economic and agricultural development with environmental protection.

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Also posted in Agriculture, Brazil, Carbon Markets / Read 1 Response

California releases updated Tropical Forest Standard: Here are the highlights and why CARB should endorse it

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) this week released an updated version of the proposed Tropical Forest Standard (TFS) for consideration at its September 19 Board meeting. CARB made some important changes to the TFS in response to feedback from members of the California Assembly, indigenous leaders, environmental groups, environmental justice advocates, and subject-matter experts.

Endorsement of the TFS would value tropical forests for the extensive climate benefits they provide. It would also be a major step forward for tropical forests and the communities who live in and defend them. And these proposed changes would make the TFS even stronger in the fight against tropical deforestation.

In general, the changes CARB has made – responding to public and policymaker feedback – add detail and clarity that strengthen the accountability built into the TFS. The more specificity, the easier it is to ensure the standard is upheld and ultimately helps deliver the emission reductions from stopping tropical deforestation that the climate so desperately needs.

Here are the key changes to the proposal. (A Tropical Forest Standard refresher may be helpful before diving in.)

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When it comes to avoiding deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, new study reveals that federal and state agencies have had different outcomes

Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, near Manaus. Photo by Neal Palmer via Flickr.

(This post was co-written by study co-author Alex Pfaff)

Protecting the Amazon rainforest is critical for mitigating climate change and meeting other global environmental goals. This vast but threatened ecosystem provides essential services like carbon storage, watershed protection and species habitat. Protecting these global services using a range of environmental strategies could justify significant climate finance, green supply chain investments, and other economic opportunities for Brazil.

Brazil made significant strides in reducing deforestation between 2004 and 2012, all while increasing agricultural production. Many heralded Brazil as a world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, deforestation did not drop evenly across the Amazon. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we seek to understand why forest protection efforts in the Brazilian Amazon differed in their impacts, across the region, with a focus on the government agency in charge.

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Also posted in Brazil, Indigenous People / Comments are closed

What ProPublica’s forest carbon credits story still gets wrong – and right (with update)

By Steve Schwartzman, Senior Director, Tropical Forest Policy, and Christina McCain, Director, Latin America

Amazon Canopy. Warwick Lister-Kaye / istockphoto.com.

***Please read on for our response to ProPublica’s follow-up article***

ProPublica’s recent piece An (Even More) Inconvenient Truth is a deeply reported story on very real problems – and even bigger potential problems – with offset projects in existing and emerging carbon markets. But the evidence the article lays out does not support its conclusion about forest carbon crediting. And readers might come away without understanding that protecting forests, including through forest carbon credits, is one of the most important solutions to climate change out there, and the planet can’t afford to dismiss this opportunity to solve the climate crisis.

Missing: The critical distinction between individual “projects” and large-scale, state-level programs to reduce deforestation

It’s not news that bad carbon credits won’t solve climate change. Lots of studies have shown that there are all kinds of bad offset projects, and definitely not just forest projects. But today’s jurisdictional forest credits aren’t your parents’ forest project offsets: they’re real emissions reductions. Though you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the ProPublica story.

The ProPublica piece fails to distinguish large-scale national or provincial programs to reduce emissions from deforestation – known as “jurisdictional” programs – from one-off, small “projects” to reduce deforestation. ProPublica’s implication that old projects had failings and therefore now so must contemporary jurisdictional programs, is like saying flip phones had all sorts of problems, so all cell phones must be unreliable and we should shun smartphones.  Read More »

Also posted in Brazil, California, Carbon Markets, Indigenous People, Paris Agreement, REDD+, United Nations / Read 5 Responses

Indigenous mobilization wins battle in President Bolsonaro’s war on indigenous peoples

https://www.flickr.com/photos/agenciasenado/47651605312/

Indigenous people mobilizing for land rights during the Free Land Encampment (Acampamento Terra Livre) in Brasilia, Brazil on April 25, 2019. Photo: Leopoldo Silva/Agência Senado via Flickr

Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s personal crusade to extinguish indigenous rights and devastate indigenous territories just hit a wall. Two, actually. Both Brazil’s Supreme Court and Brazil’s top congressional leaders handed Bolsonaro setbacks over his executive decision to move control of protecting indigenous lands to the agriculture ministry, which is controlled by members of the agribusiness lobby known for its opposition to indigenous land rights.

Taken together, this means that Bolsonaro’s signature action to start the rollback of indigenous territories and declare open season on Amazon deforestation – which needs both congressional and judicial approval to fly – looks to be crashing on takeoff. It’s also a glimmer of hope for indigenous and environmental protections in a country now led by a president openly hostile to Brazil’s indigenous peoples and Amazon rainforest – repositories of its vast social and biological diversity, and key to stabilizing the global climate.

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Also posted in Brazil, Indigenous People / Comments are closed