Selected category: Deforestation

Local government must lead zero-deforestation efforts at jurisdictional levels

Véu de Noiva Waterfall in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil | Photo credit:Robert L. Dona via Wikipedia comms

Major consumer goods companies that have pledged to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains need support from their local governments to accelerate and scale up the implementation of their commitments, according to analysis from Environmental Defense Fund published in the latest journal from the European Tropical Forest Research Network (ETFRN).

Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, and hundreds of consumer goods companies that purchase soy, palm oil, timber & pulp, and beef—the big four commodities that contribute significantly to deforestation—committed to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains.

But a vast majority haven’t yet acted on their zero-deforestation commitments or reported their progress—and leadership from local government can help.

Why local government leadership is needed

One way companies are trying to reduce deforestation in their supply chains is by using global certification processes. But because the processes didn’t include local governments when designing their certifications, the certifications have not solved the underlying governance issues at the heart of deforestation. 

Global certification processes have not solved the underlying governance issues at the heart of deforestation

A more inclusive and comprehensive solution to illegal deforestation focuses on resolving deforestation from all activities located in a state, province, or within national boundaries, i.e. a “jurisdiction”, instead of focusing solely on the supply chain of one commodity or company. This means the local government leads a multi-stakeholder process including producers, purchasers, civil society, and other relevant actors.

Leading multinational private sector companies such as Unilever, Marks & Spencer, and Mondelez have adopted the jurisdictional approach to implement their zero-deforestation commitments.

Mato Grosso: an example of local government leadership

Mato Grosso’s jurisdictional approach, known as Produce, Conserve, and Include (PCI), provides a good example of how local governments can take the lead.

Launched in 2016, the initiative encapsulates the state government’s ambition to decrease deforestation while increasing agricultural production. The government is collaborating with local soy and beef producer associations, soy buyer Amaggi, beef packer Marfrig, and civil society organizations to grow the agricultural economy, improve incomes and services for the state’s small farmer families and maintain the 60% of the state under native vegetation cover.

While economic and political turmoil have slowed progress on implementing the ambitious strategy, it may nonetheless already be making a contribution to reducing deforestation: in 2016, deforestation decreased by 6% in Mato Grosso, while Brazil’s national deforestation increased by 29%.

How a jurisdictional approach should be implemented

In the analysis, EDF proposes a blueprint of how a jurisdictional approach should be implemented. Specifically, it provides guidance on:

  1. Which actors need to be involved and their roles
  2. Important definitions to be decided upon such as what is deforestation in the local context
  3. Process infrastructure needed such as a robust multi-stakeholder platform
  4. Where to find the funding for implementation

To move forward with zero-deforestation efforts, companies must build on the existing platform of global certification processes and speed up local governance solutions. Local governments must be involved and lead the process to tackle deforestation.

The new ETFRN journal serves as a timely guidebook for companies to work together with local governments and other stakeholders to accelerate and scale up the implementation of zero deforestation commitments. EDF will continue to work with our corporate and government partners to implement these lessons.

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Is Brazil stepping back from environmental leadership, just when it’s needed the most?

Michel Temer in April 2016. Credit: Fabio Rodrigues-Pozzebom/ Agencia Brasil via Wikimedia Commons.

Every conversation I have with my Brazilian friends and colleagues these days starts off with a discussion of whose political crisis is worse. It’s a hard question. But Brazil’s President Temer has the chance to show a little real leadership June 19th if he decides to veto a blatant giveaway of a large swath of protected Amazon forest to land grabbers and environmental lawbreakers.

U.S. and Brazilian presidents: The 19th-century take on development and the environment

Wildly unpopular U.S. President Trump was elected by maybe a third of eligible voters, with a substantial minority of votes cast. He is doing everything he and his staff can think of to roll back environmental protections in the United States and stymie progress on climate change globally. His ill-conceived scheme to pull the United States out the Paris Agreement would have us abdicate international leadership and surrender the enormous economic opportunity of the new, renewable, energy economy to China and other competitors.

Wildly unpopular Brazilian President Temer was put in power by an even more wildly unpopular Congress in an ultimately failed bid to shut down judicial investigations that are sending herds of them, and their business associates, to jail for massive graft and corruption. He (and his predecessor, who mismanaged the economy into the worst recession in Brazil’s modern history) has totally dropped the ball on controlling Amazon deforestation, which, in the absence of budget for enforcement has increased for two years running for the first time since 2004.

Brazil’s Amazon at risk

Since the weight of corruption scandals Temer is personally implicated in has him clinging to power by his fingernails, the yahoos in the “rural caucus” of the Congress (the voting bloc of big ranchers’ and agribusiness’ representatives) are taking the opportunity to run hog-wild with proposals to gut forest protections and roll back indigenous territories – two of the major reasons why Brazil became the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing deforestation by about 80% from 2004–2014.

By June 19th, Temer has to decide whether to veto measures that would deliver 600,000 hectares in an Amazon protected area to land-grabbers – and rampant deforestation. It's not just 600,000 hectares of forest at stake – caving to a flagrant play to carve up a federal conservation area to benefit slash-and-burn land grabbers is a terrible precedent for all of the Amazon protected areas.

All of this is rapidly eroding Brazil’s international climate leadership, and is bad news for the Paris Agreement. Brazil’s demonstration that a major emerging economy could reduce large-scale emissions while growing its economy and bringing millions out of poverty was a beacon of light in the climate negotiations that is dimming by the moment.

Brazil’s President Temer can show a little real leadership if he vetos a blatant giveaway of a large swath of protected Amazon forest to land grabbers and environmental lawbreakers

The abandonment of Brazil’s successful deforestation control program by President Temer and former President Dilma, if continued, will only hinder Brazil’s economic prospects in the 21st century global economy – like President Trump’s radical misreading (or ignorance) of the economic implications of the Paris Agreement for the United States. Increased deforestation will likely cause Brazil to lose market share as major commodity traders and consumer goods companies that have committed to zero-deforestation beef and soy supply chains curtail market access. Rampant violence and human rights abuses against indigenous peoples and grassroots environmental activists will expose public-facing companies to increasing reputational risk – and send them looking for lower-risk places to source.

On the other hand, support for sustainable development first movers such as Acre state and agriculture powerhouse Mato Grosso could make Brazil the go-to supplier for zero-deforestation commodities worldwide. And, as Amazon states, civil society and green business leaders have consistently advocated, if Brazil opened up to carbon market crediting for reduced deforestation in emerging international markets, it could unlock the finance needed to end deforestation in the Amazon and Brazil’s other mega-diverse biomes; make family and industrial agriculture 100% sustainable; and create sustainable prosperity in the 200 million hectares of indigenous territories and protected areas of the Amazon.

It’s hard to say whose loss is worse under U.S. and Brazil’s lamentable current policies, but maybe even harder to say whose gain would be greater if Trump and Temer would wake up and recognize the real opportunities in the 21st century economy.

Also posted in Brazil, Indigenous peoples, News, REDD+| Leave a comment

Here's the proof REDD+ is advancing

REDD+ activity has shifted from securing recognition in the global agreement to focusing on development and implementation at the national and subnational levels. Image source: flickr

The director general of a leading tropical forest research center recently told a Yale conference of international forest experts that Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (known as REDD+) was a “good idea [that] didn’t work,” and has now “disappeared” (video clip at 1hr 9min). But far from having vanished, REDD+ is steadily advancing in countries and states around the world.

Emerging REDD+ programs at national and subnational levels

For much of the past decade, REDD+ was a hot topic of global conferences, and a standout success at the UN climate negotiations, where it received explicit recognition in 2015’s international Paris climate agreement.

Now enshrined at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), REDD+ is experiencing a groundswell of action at the national and subnational levels. Tropical forest countries are designing and implementing their REDD+ programs at home, as well as submitting documentation to the UNFCCC and Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) for review and funding.

Here are some examples of REDD+ programs and activities that are demonstrating progress at the national and subnational levels:

  • Brazil has taken the lead and submitted to the UNFCCC 1) a national REDD+ strategy, 2) a forest reference level (i.e. a baseline for deforestation), 3) information on safeguards to protect the environment and society, and 4) a national forest monitoring system. These four elements are vital to ensuring that emissions reductions for REDD+ are real, measurable and provide benefits to the environment and society. 

    REDD+ is experiencing a groundswell of action at the national and subnational levels.

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo and Ecuador also submitted their national REDD+ strategies to the UNFCCC.
  • 25 countries have submitted their forest reference levels to the UNFCCC, 10 of which were submitted at the end of 2016.
  • Chile, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mexico all had their REDD+ programs approved by the FCPF in 2016; these programs will begin generating emissions reductions this year. The World Bank plans to sign purchase agreements with some of the programs by the end of 2017.
  • The Green Climate Fund approved in 2016 two REDD+ implementation grants worth tens of millions of dollars for Ecuador and Madagascar.
  • Germany, UK, and Norway pledged $5 billion for results-based payments between 2016 and 2020.
  • The Green Climate Fund will define its criteria for REDD+ results-based payments for approval by April 2017, unlocking another pathway for REDD+ financing.

Results-based REDD+ financing still needed

REDD+’s explicit recognition in the Paris Agreement politically secured its future in the post-2020 climate framework. But for REDD+ to be fully implemented, it needs adequate and sustainable financing to support a results-based payment system that includes:

  • The UNFCCC should finish its guidance on International Transfers of Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs), which will facilitate REDD+ market transactions.
  • The Green Climate Fund should complete its REDD+ results-based payments criteria for those countries interested in non-market finance.
  • Other potential compliance markets in California and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) need to give their approval to REDD+ offsets.

In conclusion, I do partially agree that REDD+ has “disappeared” in that certain – the parts facets and activities of REDD+ that needed to disappear are no longer. REDD+ activity has – appropriately – shifted from securing recognition in the global agreement to focusing on development and implementation at the national and subnational levels.

Building on the momentum from the Paris Agreement’s entry into force, countries now need to expedite the process of creating the guidelines and standards for the results-based payments to ensure a reliable and sustainable REDD+ finance system.

Posted in Deforestation| Leave a comment

Three reasons why it’s not too late to save the Amazon

Amazon Forest

Amazon Forest. Photo by Joseph King/Flickr

The latest New York Times Retro Report, “The Fight to Save the Amazon,” shows how Chico Mendes's ideas, his story, and the indigenous and local forest communities’ fight for their land rights that he gave his life for, have changed the Amazon, Brazil and the world – and how very far from over the fight is. My last post discussed what hasn't changed in the Amazon rainforest in the 28 years since Chico Mendes was assassinated. Here, I discuss three major changes to which Chico and indigenous leaders, including the Kayapô leaders Raoni and Megaron, profiled in the story, made major contributions.

What has changed since the fight to save the Amazon began in the 1980s?

1. The whole idea of development has changed.

Part of what gave the ranchers and land-grabbers who killed Chico such confidence that no one would be held to account for the crime was they thought they were on the right side of history. “The gringos cut down all their forests and got rich – why shouldn’t we?” was the received wisdom. When Chico said “We realized that in order to guarantee the future of the Amazon we had to find a way to preserve the forest while developing the region’s economy,” he was way ahead of the curve.

Now no one says that deforestation is the price of progress anymore – and deforestation was down about 80% between 2004 – 2014, while cattle and soy production increased. Brazil’s Agriculture Minister, mega-soybean producer Blairo Maggi, says that nobody is more conscious of the need to stop deforestation than farmers, because they know that standing forest is critical for the rain they need. Maggi – as well as agribusiness, state governments, indigenous groups, grassroots social movements like the rubber tappers’ movement, and many in the federal government – now agree with Chico that the Amazon needs real economic incentives to make forest protection a viable environmental asset.

2. Environmentalists recognize that indigenous and other forest peoples’ land rights are central to forest protection – and Amazon social movements see environmentalists as allies.

When Chico was alive, mostly environmentalists thought that people in the forests were the problem and that real conservation was about finding the highest-biodiversity and most remote, inaccessible pieces of forest possible and setting up parks with guards. While defending remote high-biodiversity forest is a good thing, leaders like Chico, Raoni and Megaron , showed the world that their people were holding the line against the advance of the lawless, entirely unsustainable frontier. Environmentalists – and increasingly, Brazilian public opinion –came to support indigenous and forest peoples’ rights and recognize that protecting the forest is a valuable service. This has greatly helped swing numerous local struggles to the Indians’ and forest peoples’ side.

Today, nearly half of the Amazon (think of half the land in the continental US west of the Mississippi) is officially recognized indigenous territories and environmentally protected areas (almost all of which are occupied by forest communities like Chico’s) and these territories are a big part of the reason Brazil is the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas pollution because of its success in reducing Amazon deforestation.

3. Companies are getting on board with deforestation-free commodity supply chains.

In Chico’s day, a lot of economic activity in the Amazon wasn’t very efficient and was heavily subsidized. Global markets, with the partial exception of timber, didn’t really connect with the Amazon.

Since then Brazil has become an export agriculture powerhouse, and major multinationals like Cargill and Walmart source a lot of soy and beef in the Amazon. But, as Fight for the Forest explains so well, Amazon deforestation became a global issue after Chico’s assassination and the Kayapo convergence against the Belo Monte dam, and it has remained on international public opinion and decision makers’ agendas. Big consumer goods companies like Walmart, Unilever and Marks and Spencer found out that having their brands stained with the ashes of dead forests was bad business, so many of them have committed to zero-deforestation supply chains, and are telling their suppliers they’ll need to comply to do business. That’s a message farmers and ranchers get – even though the last three years’ increases in deforestation show that the gap between taking the pledge and making it happen is large, and governments need to stop backsliding on law enforcement.

The people who killed Chico were fundamentally wrong. Chico died, but he didn't lose.

It’s worth remembering, as we head into what could be a time of great trial and trouble for the environment, that when Chico started out, the odds were seriously stacked against him. Dirt poor, illiterate, and under the thumb of an unenlightened  oligarchy at the end of world isn’t a great resume for most-likely-in-class-to succeed.

Chico started from a position far more disadvantaged, and had to overcome greater challenges than just about anyone who will read this. But he changed the world. Let him be an example to us.

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28 years after Chico Mendes’s death, four environmental challenges still facing the Amazon

caption

Chico Mendes in the window of his home with Sandino, his son, in Xapuri, state of Acre, Brazil. Author: Miranda Smith, Miranda Productions, Inc. November 1988. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I was at home on the evening of December 22nd, 1988 when I got the call from Brazil telling me that Chico Mendes had been murdered a few hours earlier.

Chico Mendes's ideas, his story, and indigenous and forest communities’ fight for land rights that he gave his life for have changed the Amazon, Brazil and the world. But the fight is far from over.

I, and Chico’s other friends, had thought that drawing media attention to his struggle to protect the forest and forest communities against the depredations of land-grabbing cattle ranchers would protect him. We were tragically mistaken.

But the cabal of land grabbers and their hired guns who killed Chico were wrong on a deeper level. They thought that his murder would go unnoticed, and that even if it didn’t everyone would know that cutting down the forest and driving a few poor rubber tappers off the land was the price of progress – inevitable.

The latest New York Times RetroReport, “The Fight to Save the Amazon,” does a very good job of showing both how very much Chico’s ideas, his story, and the indigenous and local forest communities’ fight for their land rights that he gave his life for, have changed the Amazon, Brazil and the world – and how very far from over the fight is. My next post will address what’s changed over the past 28 years, but here I’ll address four things that haven’t.

What hasn’t changed since the fight to save the Amazon began in the 1980s?

1. The frontier is still lawless.

Even though government and state agencies have stepped up enforcement, particularly since the 2004 Plan to Prevent and Control Amazon Deforestation, about 30% of the Amazon is still at risk for illegal logging, deforestation, gold mining and land grabbing.

Deforestation went down from about 27,000 km² in 2004 to a little over 4,000 km² in 2012 – but since then has oscillated around 5,000 km² and now has increased two years in a row, to an alarming near-8,000 km² this year.

It seems that a big part of the residual deforestation is linked to illegal activities, if not organized crime. Environmental/land rights activists like Chico don’t get killed in his home state of Acre, where ten years after he died, his people came to power and have made the state a sustainable development leader. But Brazil is still the world leader in killings of environmental activists, such as Luiz Alberto Araújo, municipal secretary of environment, murdered in Altamira, Pará on October 13th. Dismantling land grabbing and illegal deforestation gangs (as the Federal Police have clearly shown they can do in the last few years) and aggressively prosecuting their leaders need to be high priorities, and gathering the intelligence to do it needs dependable support.

2. The forest is still worth more dead than alive.

Chico’s prescient ideas on the need for forest protection while developing the Amazon economy have won the rhetorical war – but the actual incentives needed to create robust economic alternatives for indigenous peoples and forest communities, compensate good-actor landowners willing to forgo legal rights to clear forest, and fund the shift to high-value, zero-deforestation agriculture for family farmers and agribusiness alike have yet to materialize, and Brazil’s climate negotiators are not helping. Brazil should open up to emerging carbon markets to fund the elimination of deforestation in the Amazon and other biomes, while also pursing public donor funding.

3. Technology and capital to build 21st century supply chains and develop markets for sustainable forest products are still lacking.

After Chico was killed and his story went viral a wave of newly minted MBAs washed over the Amazon, full of passionate conviction that commercially viable sustainable alternatives based on non-timber tropical forest products were there for the taking (Full disclosure: I thought so too, at the time.) Then they figured out that bringing products of highly variable supply and quality to market over continental distances and no infrastructure wasn’t all that good a recipe for business success.

In some places, though, governments and NGOs kept at it, and developed alternatives that yield real benefits for local people. In Acre, for example, the government has invested heavily in things like fish farming on already cleared land, a high-tech condom factory using native rubber latex, and scaled-up Brazil nut processing technology.

In the Xingu indigenous territories and protected areas, NGO Instituto Socioambiental has brought in state-of-the-art technology to add value through local processing of fruits, nuts and oils, while training local people to collect native tree species seeds for sale to famers obliged by law to restore degraded lands. Alternatives like these raise incomes and help the communities get access to the market, and with investment, could help landowners derive sustainable value from the 80% of their holdings they’re required to keep under forest cover. But with over 2 million km² (equal to the size of four Californias) of indigenous territories and protected areas, these innovative pilots will need major investment and a world of new technology to come to scale.

4. The weather in the Amazon is still changing for the worse.

Chico saw before almost anyone else that the weather in the Amazon was changing. The combined effects of climate change and deforestation on regional and global rainfall regimes are provoking more frequent and intense droughts, and causing runaway forest fires in places that were always too moist to burn, even in the dry season. About half the rain that falls in the Amazon is from moisture cycled into the atmosphere by the forest itself – about 20 billion tons of water a day.

If climate change, deforestation and fires continue feeding off of each other, the Amazon ecosystem could unravel, and large parts of the forest could change into savanna. This could affect rainfall patterns as far away as California, and seriously reduce agricultural production in Brazil and other countries.

In one of the last interviews Chico gave before he was killed, he talked about the death threats he was getting and said he wanted to live to save the Amazon. In my next post, I’ll talk about some of the things that have distinctly changed for the better in the last 28 years – in no small measure because of Chico’s life and story – that make saving the Amazon a real possibility.

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What to expect for forests and REDD+ at COP22 in Marrakesh?

Forest

Photo credit: Flickr @CIFOR

With the Paris Agreement entering into force on November 4th, climate negotiators at this years’ climate talks (COP22) in Marrakesh will have to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the rules and guidance that will translate Paris climate commitments into action.

As the only sector with its own article in the Paris Agreement, the land sector will be discussed this year in the context of implementation and progress – especially REDD+. There are no agenda items directly addressing forests at COP22, so REDD+ negotiators will need to focus on how REDD+ fits into other items on mitigation, accounting, transparency, and markets. Forests will also be highlighted during a series of COP events in the Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA).

Forests in the Global Climate Action Agenda

On November 8th—the US election day—the Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA) will showcase important forest initiatives. Held alongside the negotiations, the GCAA is meant to highlight initiatives not only from nation states, but also from a broad set of stakeholders including civil society and the private sector. Partnerships among these stakeholders will be especially emphasized.

The GCAA will also highlight the New York Declaration on Forests annual assessment report, which was released globally on November 3rd. This year’s report focused on private sector’s implementation of their zero-deforestation supply chain commitments. The report also gives a good overview of overall progress against halving deforestation in natural forests by 2020, which should be at the center of the discussions at the GCAA forest showcasing event.

While I find it heartening that many companies based in North America, Europe, and Australia are making deforestation commitments, the world’s forests need countries and companies in emerging markets to start implementing and reporting on their commitments.

Negotiations: Transparency, Accounting, and Markets

At COP22, REDD+ negotiators will most likely be found at the sides of their colleagues that focus on transparency and accounting. REDD+ methodological guidance included in the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ and other previous decisions already ensures a high level of transparency in any REDD+ programming. Experience with effective transparency provisions under REDD+ provides an opportunity to inform the development of the “enhanced transparency framework” that will be critical to the success of the Paris Agreement.

Accounting in the land and forest sector is as important as that in other sectors – if not more important, given the sector’s potential to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is critical to ensure that consistent principles apply throughout all sectors, including effective accounting that avoids double counting of emissions reductions.

To promote environmental integrity between countries’ policies to implement REDD+, a report published today by EDF and four other leading organizations collected recommendations from experts from REDD+ countries and technical assessment teams on forest reference levels. It provided key guidance for tropical countries to receive payments for results from REDD+.

The negotiations on markets will probably be some of the most interesting. Markets could provide a much needed source of funding to support results from REDD+, while REDD+ could provide useful lessons for the development of accounting guidance for Article 6 (related to transfers of mitigation outcomes), as detailed in our joint submission with four other leading observer organizations.

Countries may choose to use REDD+ emission reductions as Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMO) under Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement, consistent with the Warsaw Framework and other REDD+ decisions. The use of ITMOs toward national commitments must also be consistent with the accounting guidance yet to be developed under Article 6.2, including the clear requirement to avoid double counting of emissions reductions.

The country of Brazil offers an example of where the REDD+ and ITMO debate is playing out. Recently, the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture, made up of over 130 leading environmental NGOs and companies has recently, after extensive internal discussion, approved a consensus position on REDD+. Their position – that can be found here – posits that the positions of Brazil’s international climate negotiators dealing with land use – in particular their opposition to market-based REDD+ and failure to recognize subnational REDD+ systems in national carbon accounting – do not reflect the overwhelming majority views on these issues in Brazilian society. It will be interesting to see these differences between Brazilian society and their climate negotiators debated at the COP.

It is not clear how forests or REDD+ will be featured in the new market mechanism to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development (under Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement). I don’t expect negotiators to start discussing a new REDD+ methodology for Article 6.4 in Marrakesh, and this is likely many years down the road.

As previous analysis has shown significant costs savings from using REDD+ in carbon markets, I expect countries interested in using markets to discuss the details of transacting REDD+ ITMOs next year, either within the UNFCCC negotiations or in clubs of carbon markets in parallel to the UNFCCC.

The Marrakesh COP will probably yield less tangible text related to REDD+ than past UNFCCC meetings, though REDD+ negotiators will probably have much to discuss with each other outside the negotiating rooms. What I will be looking for are signs that REDD+ implementation is accelerating and how the accounting and transparency discussion in the UNFCCC might impact REDD+ and the forest sector.

Also posted in Forestry, Marrakesh, REDD+| Leave a comment
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