EDF Talks Global Climate

Temer’s rollback of Brazil’s environmental and indigenous protections threatens livelihoods and world’s climate goals

Guest authors: Juliana Splendore, EDF climate change and indigenous issues consultant in Brazil, and Joelson Felix, Communications Officer of COIAB – a Brazilian indigenous organization representing indigenous peoples in the Brazilian Amazon

An aerial view of the Brazilian Amazon under a pouring rain | Photo by Juliana Splendore

One year into his presidency, Brazilian President Temer is leading a dismantling of crucial protections for Brazil’s indigenous territories and the environment.

New policies the president recently approved put at risk indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands, and could open the flood gates for Amazon deforestation, which has been rising dramatically in the past few years.

The president’s actions, aimed at winning the favor of the powerful agriculture lobby in Congress, threaten the livelihoods of the indigenous peoples who live in the forests, as well as Brazil’s international climate leadership and the world’s ability to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets agreed to in the Paris Agreement.

One of the world’s largest tropical forest areas, the Brazilian Amazon is home to more than 200 groups of indigenous peoples. Nearly half of the Brazilian Amazon, an area about five times the size of California, is designated as indigenous lands or protected natural areas, and as such is protected from development. These indigenous and protected areas and their indigenous populations were key to Brazil’s decreasing its deforestation by 70% from 2005 to 2014, which has made it the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, these gains are now at risk. Over the last two years, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon nearly doubled from 4,500 km2 in the period of 2011-2012 to 8,000 km2 in the period of 2015-2016, according to the National Institute of Space Research (INPE).

The significant rise in deforestation caused the Norwegian government this year to cut its forest protection payments to the Amazon Fund to about $35 million, $65 million less than in 2016. This cut directly affects the indigenous populations in the Amazon, who are among the main beneficiaries of the Fund.

Rollbacks in indigenous lands and environmental protections

Since he took office August 31, 2016, scandal-plagued Brazilian President Temer approved new measures and federal rules aimed at helping him gain critical support from the advocates of agribusiness and large rural landowners, known as the ruralistas, who make up one of the most powerful caucuses in the National Congress with over 200 seats.

Temer has created a new federal rule to be implemented by Brazilian Administration that can be used to deny many indigenous peoples the right to their lands. It stipulates that indigenous peoples do not have the right to their lands if they were not occupying them in October 1988, when the current constitution came into effect. Essentially, it denies the right of the indigenous peoples who lack sufficient documentation to prove that they were expelled from their lands during that time. As a result, many pending requests by indigenous groups for titles to their traditional territories could be denied because of their earlier expulsions. Another part of the new rule also prohibits the expansion of existing indigenous territories. Finally, the new rule also allows certain types of infrastructure projects to be permitted on their titled territories without any consultation.

A new short-term measure signed by President Temer (MP759) – which can be easily turned into a law – is expected to substantially intensify deforestation in the Amazon region. The new measure facilitates the legalization of public lands that were illegally occupied in the period of 2004 – 2011 and increases the size of land parcels that can be claimed. This measure could result in the loss of millions of hectares in the Amazon to land speculators.

Indigenous peoples in a training organized by ISA (Instituto Socioambiental) | Photo by Juliana Splendore

Need for more international attention and support

Taken together, these developments in Brazil endanger not only the livelihoods of indigenous populations, but also the significant amount of forest carbon stored in indigenous territories in the Brazilian Amazon, threatening the world’s ability to stabilize global climate.

The silver lining here is that the advocacy efforts led by the indigenous movement, environmentalists, Norway, and some international organizations are playing a key role in  mitigating the effects of the policies and guidance approved by Temer.

Now, indigenous peoples need even more support from international actors, in particular from EU governments and international companies committed to reduce deforestation in their supply chains. The governments and business leaders need to tell President Temer to roll back the new rules and measures.

Posted in Brazil, Deforestation, Indigenous peoples / Leave a comment

Deepening collaboration: Aligning private sector and government commitments to tackle deforestation

By Breanna Lujan, EDF Policy Analyst, and Brian Schaap, Forest Trends Senior Associate

Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, photo by Neil Palmer (Flickr: CIAT)

When it comes to reducing deforestation, companies and national governments tend to operate in their respective silos. Effectively reducing forest loss, however, will require collaboration between both corporations and governments. According to a report published today, Collaboration Toward Zero Deforestation: Aligning Corporate and National Commitments in Brazil and Indonesia, companies and governments are beginning to work together toward their shared goals of reducing deforestation.

The report presents case studies that explore the ways in which companies and governments are collaborating, and highlights recommendations for how this collaboration could be strengthened—with implications not only for the two focal countries of Brazil and Indonesia, but for tropical forest countries worldwide. Aligning corporate commitments and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – official climate action plans submitted by parties of the Paris Agreement–is of critical importance to meeting national deforestation reduction and reforestation goals. Collaboration between companies and governments will not only enable each sector to achieve their respective deforestation reduction goals, but will also pave the way for future partnerships and enhanced action.

Need and opportunity for public-private partnerships

Deforestation continues to account for around 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while destroying biodiversity and threatening livelihoods. In 2014, Brazil and Indonesia together accounted for 38% of global tropical deforestation—with the majority of deforestation in each country driven by commercial agriculture.

Many companies and governments have committed to reduce deforestation. As of early 2017, 447 companies have made commitments to reduce deforestation in their supply chains, according to research by Forest Trends’ Supply Change initiative. Concurrently, of the 191 countries that submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an estimated 80% included plans to address the land sector in their mitigation targets.

Collaboration between these two sectors is essential: corporations need a regulatory and policy environment conducive to their reduced deforestation commitments—which governments can provide; and governments would benefit tremendously from the participation of key corporate actors in order to achieve the reduced deforestation and forest landscape restoration goals put forth in their NDCs.

Finding Synergies: Lessons from Brazil and Indonesia


Brazil’s  NDC aims to reduce emissions 37% below 2005 levels by 2025, and 43% below 2005 levels by 2030—and outlines the role that reducing deforestation and increasing forest landscape restoration could play to achieve these emission reduction targets. Many companies with operations in Brazil developed zero deforestation commitments and are collaborating with the government and NGOs in multi-stakeholder initiatives such as Mato Grosso’s Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI) program. The PCI aims to reduce deforestation, increase reforestation, and increase sustainable agricultural and livestock production—all goals that align with Brazil’s NDC. Companies including Marfrig and Amaggi have signed on to this initiative and are contributing to the design, implementation, and mobilization of finance to support the PCI. Another PCI participant, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), created a de-risking fund to increase cattle intensification and reforestation. Through interactions via the PCI and other partnerships, the private sector is supporting the government to accelerate the implementation of the country’s NDC goals, and revealing the ways in which these collaborations can be scaled-up and amplified throughout the country.


The government of Indonesia, in addition to enacting several policies focusing on peatland and forest conservation and restoration, has made an unconditional commitment in its NDC to reduce emissions 29% below business-as-usual (BAU) estimated emissions by 2030, and a conditional commitment—contingent upon international support, including finance—to reduce emissions 41% below BAU by 2030. Meanwhile, companies committed to reducing deforestation in their supply chains have made No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) commitments of their own. Many of these companies are collaborating with subnational governments in jurisdictional, multi-stakeholder initiatives aimed at achieving their shared goals of reducing deforestation. The Central Kalimantan Jurisdictional Commitment to Sustainable Palm Oil is one of the most advanced public-private collaborations to address deforestation and emissions in Indonesia, and is bringing together representatives from local governments, NGOs, indigenous peoples, smallholder farmers, and oil palm growers and buyers toward the goal of certifying all palm oil produced in the province by 2019—with Unilever as a particularly active private sector participant.


Lessons from Brazil and Indonesia show that corporate zero deforestation commitments—when buttressed by strong government policies and enhanced by multi-stakeholder partnerships—can help countries reach their goals of reducing deforestation and enhancing forest landscape restoration. This type of collaboration is of increasing importance and has come to the fore in countries such as the United States, where businesses and local and state governments are teaming up to uphold the spirit of the country’s Paris Agreement pledge, despite the US federal government’s announcement to leave the Agreement.

Based on the findings of the report, companies and governments from tropical forest countries worldwide should consider the following recommendations to promote more effective public-private partnerships toward reducing deforestation:


  • Advocate for policies that support corporate deforestation-free goals
  • Participate in existing multi-stakeholder initiatives and help them scale-up and replicate
  • Support efforts to strengthen and enforce regulations that can help to reduce deforestation


  • Conduct transparent consultations on elaborating and implementing NDCs, and solicit corporate input
  • Identify ways that private sector actors and subnational initiatives can support NDCs
  • Support private sector supply chain sustainability improvements through targeted policies, incentives, and financial mechanisms
  • Remove barriers to more stringent conservation efforts by companies
  • Better align national definitions of ‘forest’ and ‘deforestation’ with private sector zero-deforestation policies

For more details, please view the full report.

Posted in Brazil, Deforestation / Leave a comment

California Models Climate and Air Pollution Action with Balanced Approach

Air pollution visible in downtown Los Angeles | Photo by Diliff, via wikipedia comms

California is once again demonstrating its bold climate leadership. As Washington, D.C. continues to abdicate its role as a climate champion, California is stepping up to extend its landmark cap-and-trade program, address local air pollution, and push California businesses forward toward a cleaner economy.

Environmental Defense Fund strongly supports AB 398 (E. Garcia) and AB 617 (C. Garcia), as well as their authors, Legislative leadership, and the Brown Administration. We commend their vision and initiative on a bill package that addresses the growing threat from climate change and improves public health outcomes by addressing local air pollution in the most impacted neighborhoods.

AB 398: Extending the cap-and-trade program

This bill seeks to extend California’s groundbreaking cap-and-trade program until 2030, with a 2/3 vote. We support this bill for 3 key reasons:

  1. This bill maintains the environmental integrity of California’s cap on emissions. By introducing a price ceiling on allowances, the Air Resources Board with the Legislature’s guidance provides greater certainty on costs. Done poorly, such a ceiling can put environmental outcomes at risk. This proposal addresses that concern by requiring that any excess emissions be made up for by high-integrity emissions reductions outside the cap. This ensures that California does not bust through its emissions cap.
  2. This proposal extends the economic benefits of cap and trade. California has added over a million jobs since cap and trade launched in 2013, and this bill includes important provisions to further develop a green workforce for the 21st century economy. At the same time, cap and trade encourages investments in alternative forms of fuel. This decreases our dependence on fossil fuels, which protects consumers from volatile gas prices.
  3. Extending cap and trade sets a national example for other states to follow. California is on track to meet our 2020 target of reducing emissions to 1990 levels, and the 2030 goal is even more ambitious. We are demonstrating that emissions reduction and a thriving economy can go hand-in-hand. And we will not leave our most vulnerable communities behind.

AB 617: Clean air for California’s most vulnerable communities

The second part of this essential package is an unprecedented air quality bill which seeks to address local air pollution in California’s most impacted neighborhoods. For EDF, these are the 3 main reasons we are committed to supporting this bill:

  1. This measure targets neighborhoods burdened by multiple sources of air pollution. California communities like Richmond, Modesto, or Torrance aren’t polluted by just cars or one refinery – they have many different sources of air pollution. This bill identifies these neighborhoods and focuses monitoring and emissions reduction plans based on burden, rather than source.
  2. Industrial facilities are required to upgrade their technology. There are many facilities that have not been upgraded in decades. This means they emit far more pollution than if current technology were used. This bill requires that industrial sources covered by cap and trade are retrofitted to a standard that reflects technological advances, but are also cost-effective.
  3. This bill increases penalties for big polluters. Many air pollution penalties haven’t been adjusted since the 1970’s. This bill increases these so big polluters no longer have an advantage over facilities that follow the law. This is critically important to hold polluters accountable, especially for the residents who live nearby.

Yes, there is still compromise in politics

California can address climate change without leaving communities behind.

The ability to compromise seems absent from most political arenas these days. The zero-sum strategies of filibusters and government shutdowns are more the norm than a negotiated settlement. However, the California State Senate and Assembly Leadership, along with Governor Brown’s Administration have re-discovered the art of the possible, and isn’t that what politics is all about? They have managed to find the compromise with stakeholders that addresses the twin challenges of climate pollution and air quality.

This package is a path forward that demonstrates to the country and to the world that California can address climate change without leaving communities behind.

There is no silver bullet to accomplish this, despite what we all wish. The environmental community needs businesses to thrive so California’s economy remains strong. Business needs the environmental community to hold them accountable. The Legislature needs all of us to help continue setting the standard on climate policy. We don’t get to take our ball and go home because things aren’t going our way.

As we demonstrate how to address climate change and air pollution, let’s also demonstrate to Washington, D.C. how to compromise. We urge the Legislature to support AB 398 and AB 617.

Posted in California / Leave a comment

Making a deal on California’s cap and trade: It’s all about the cap

Inside the California State Capitol building in Sacramento. Photo via Flickr/ kkanouse

California politicians are deep into negotiations over how to extend the backbone of the state’s climate policies, the cap-and-trade program. The Governor’s office and legislative leadership are nearing a compromise that can lock in the 2/3 vote that would provide the strongest legal foundation for a future cap-and-trade program and accelerate the state’s progress to cleaning up the air.

The integrity of the cap is critical, because it is the cap that provides the guarantee that California will meet its climate target.

The comedian Larry David once said “A good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied.” Elected leaders can probably identify with that sentiment, as they take on the unenviable task of constructing a deal among multiple parties — one that would be a critical step forward for climate action, but might still leave everyone involved at least a little dissatisfied.

As they do, we at EDF will be laser-focused on one question related to cap-and-trade design: Does the deal protect the environmental integrity of the cap?

In the current negotiations, the issue of integrity comes to the fore with one particular aspect of the draft proposal: the design of a "price ceiling" for emission allowances.

It’s all about the cap…

The integrity of the cap is critical, because it is the cap that provides the guarantee that California will meet its target. California has a portfolio of climate policies working together to reduce emissions, and all have their role to play. The signature feature of the cap-and-trade program is that it places a firm limit on carbon pollution and holds the state accountable for achieving the climate targets set in law.

The central importance of the cap in ensuring that the state meets its goals is critical to keep in mind when considering one key aspect of the compromise deal being discussed in the Capitol: a so-called “price ceiling” on the allowances polluters need to comply with their obligations under the cap. While a limit on allowance prices might sound like a good idea, if poorly designed it could come at a significant cost to the integrity of the program — because the only way to keep prices from rising above the ceiling is to allow unlimited emissions.

In other words, a price ceiling is potentially a blank check to polluters that risks busting a hole in the cap. That introduces the risk that California blows past its targets — undermining its claim to climate leadership, and raising the chances of climate catastrophe.

A plan to board up the busted cap

The potential saving grace in the current proposal is that they have a plan for how to board up the hole in California’s climate target if the price ceiling is deployed. The Air Resources Board is required to use revenue raised through compliance at the price ceiling to secure high-quality reductions to make up for any excess above California’s cap. It’s important that this provision be protected, by guaranteeing that all the revenue from a price ceiling is used to reduce emissions, and by imposing a requirement that the emissions debt created by the price ceiling is repaid on at least a ton-for-ton basis.

Now, a far better strategy would be to use or strengthen the tools that have kept cap-and-trade costs down so far, like a reserve of allowances and offsets to avoid getting close to the price ceiling in the first place. But a plan for boarding up the hole is better than nothing at all.

Price ceiling should be a “Break glass in case of emergency” — and only an emergency strategy

The best argument that can be made for a price ceiling is that it can prevent even worse outcomes, such as prices rising high enough to threaten the continued existence of the program. To be clear, such an outcome is highly unlikely — but anyone who lived through the electricity crisis of 2000 knows that we can’t rule anything out.

If a price ceiling is to be included, it must be as a last resort — a kind of “Break Glass In Case of Emergency” strategy. And just like a fire alarm behind a pane of glass, it should really be reserved for genuine emergencies — not simply to let polluters off the hook.

EDF will be laser-focused on one question related to cap-and-trade design: Does the deal protect the environmental integrity of the cap?

It’s also important that the program itself be allowed to function as intended. The beauty of the cap-and-trade program is that it lets the price rise or fall to whatever level is necessary to cut emissions in line with the target. A high price serves as a valuable signal to spur investment in new innovations that can then drive costs down. Set the price ceiling too low, and you cut off that signal — potentially driving prices up in the long run.

All of that means that the price ceiling needs to be high enough that it doesn’t threaten the integrity of the program, or interfere with the ordinary working of the market.

The current proposal wisely provides some very clear and specific direction to the Air Resources Board which will be able to carefully consider and get extensive stakeholder input before setting on a final number. This is not giving carte blanche to an executive agency but rather identifying factors that will dictate an acceptable range and also recognizing the complexity and importance of setting the right price ceiling number.

EDF would much prefer that the signature feature of California’s climate policy, the cap, not be put at risk in the first place. But we are also committed to actively working toward a deal while still fighting for the best possible safeguards for the cap.

Even as we have to contemplate compromises in California it is important to keep our eye on shining optimism that California does represent. The state is debating how not whether to act on climate and for many enduring the sometimes demoralizing swamps of D.C. this is an enviable place to be.

Posted in California / Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Brazil, Deforestation / Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Brazil, Deforestation, Indigenous peoples, News, REDD+ / Leave a comment