New Copenhagen Draft Proposals Offer Subsidy for Forest Destruction and Land Grabs
Proposals are expected to lead to large-scale carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for tree and crop monocultures, including for biochar production, 'no-till' GM soya , and tree and shrub monocultures falsely classed as 'carbon sinks'. Details are to be worked out by a technical UNFCCC meeting next year.
Stella Semino from Grupo de Reflexion Rural, Argentina states: "If the new proposals are agreed on this week we will see a massive new boost for crop and tree plantations alike which, in the name of 'climate change mitigation' will speed up the destruction of forests and other vital ecosystems, the spread of industrial agriculture, and land-grabbing against small-farmers, indigenous peoples and forest communities. Industrial monocultures are already a major cause of climate change and their expansion will further destabilise the climate."
Under the current terms of the Kyoto Protocol, no CDM offsets are allowed for existing forests or soil carbon, although a very limited number of CDM credits can go towards industrial tree plantations. Current proposals for large-scale offsetting for 'carbon sinks' closely resemble those contained in the domestic US climate bill and also ones previously put forward by the US before their withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001. At the time, the EU had refused large-scale 'offsetting' of greenhouse gas emissions with presumed 'carbon sinks', warning that this would render a climate change agreement completely ineffective.
Anne Maina of the African Biodiversity Network states: "The right kind of agriculture, such as organic and biodiversity-based farming, has the potential to store carbon in soils and increase resilience to climate change. But realistically, small-scale organic farmers in Africa are not going to be the ones participating and benefiting in CDM or these large-scale UNFCCC market systems. They will be locked out of the process, and their livelihoods threatened by GM crops and biochar land grabbing, if this process goes ahead. The proposed language will lead to a destruction of the very same solutions we need to support."
Camila Moreno from Global Forest Coalition adds: "In Brazil we're seeing an obscene agribusiness lobby presenting themselves as the solution as they destroy Brazil's unique rainforest and savannah habitats and contribute massively to climate change. Yet they continue to ply their trade in the highest political circles with impunity. The new draft inclusions for the CDM will further mandate this ransacking of the global South."
(1) The proposals can be found at http://unfccc.int/resource/doc...
(2) Biochar is fine-grained charcoal applied to soils. It is being promoted widely as a means of sequestering carbon even though there are major scientific uncertainties over the amount of carbon in charcoal which will remain in soils for different periods, over possible losses of existing soil carbon as a result of charcoal additions and over the potential of charcoal dust to worsen global warming in the same way as a black soot from fossil fuel and biomass burning does.
(3) Monsanto has promoted the inclusion of no-till agriculture into the CDM since the late 1990s and they have just been awarded the Angry Mermaid Award for their lobbying (www.angrymermaid.org/). Industrial no-till agriculture involves large-scale agro-chemical spraying to destroy weeds rather than ploughing the soil and herbicide-resistant GM crops are most commonly used with no-till, particularly in North and South America. The impacts on soil carbon are scientifically debated and uncertain, there is evidence that this method can lead to more emissions of the very powerful greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, and the introduction of no-till GM soya in Argentina has been shown to have accelerated the destruction of the Chaco forest.
(4) It is proposed that the 2010 SBSTA meeting of UNFCCC will recommend new CDM methodologies for example for tree plantations, 'forest management', a term widely used for industrial logging, and soil carbon management.