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Nov 29, 2011

UN climate talks 2011: REDD in the real world

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 29, 2011 03:45 PM

On day two of the climate talks Friends of the Earth International held a workshop at C17, the civil society space in Durban, on how a carbon trading scheme is ruining the lives of indigenous communities wherever it is implemented.

REDD workshop durban 1Lucia Ortiz, Friends of the Earth Brazil, explains how REDD came about. 

Lucia Ortiz from Friends of the Earth Brazil opened the workshop and explained what REDD is.


REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. It is a carbon trading scheme that came out the of UN climate negotiations. It is a way of enabling big carbon emitters - mainly in the global north - to continue to pollute whilst paying other countries to keep their forests - which store up to 20% of the world's carbon - in the ground.

Read our report for more information

The floor was then open to other people to present their experiences of REDD in their respective countries.


The view from Uganda

First to present was David Kureeba from Friends of the Earth Uganda (NAPE).


Since 2007 the World Bank and other institutions have been offering Uganda money for REDD projects. Many projects have failed to materialise but now things are happening on the ground and forest dwelling communities are being seriously affected.

The government is kicking out communities from the forests and giving away their land to private investors to be turned into plantations for growing agrofules, palm oil and other monocultures.

The communities that manage to remain on their land, after it's been sold beneath them, find that their rights have been eroded. Women can no longer collect wood for making fires because the wood belongs to the new 'owner' who has paid for all trees to remain in order to claim carbon credits.


When the land is bought for cultivating agrofuels the chemicals that are used seep into the rivers and kill the fish that communities live off.

Recently the government tried to give away a protected forest to a foreign buyer in order for them to grow sugarcane. Under the rules of REDD this would be perfectly legitimate. But chopping down a forest in order to create a monoculture plantation is in no way a solution to climate change.

REDD workshop durban 2David Kureeba, Friends of the Earth Uganda, explains how REDD is forcing communities off their land. 
NAPE are still challenging this decision in the courts.

David concluded his presentation by listing some of the lesson he's learned in his experiences with REDD:

"Governments are taking advantage of REDD. The government harasses anyone who resists a REDD project. There is a lack of knowledge by communities on REDD.




"Finally, REDD money is not reaching communities. It is taken by the top brass" he concluded.

It was a damming indictment of REDD.

REDD tries to get a foothold in Mozambique

Nilza Matavel from Friends of the Earth Mozambique (JA!) talked about the consultation, or lack of it, that is taking place in Mozambique at the moment as it gears up to start its REDD projects.

A Brazilian organisation that specialises in REDD recently held a series of workshops in Mozambique and civil society groups were invited. However, what was presented at the workshops was an extremely positive view of how the scheme would work. The hosts failed to present the negative aspects of REDD, which by far outweigh any positives.

JA! was the only group in the room raising objections to the presentations because they were the only ones with all the facts to hand. As a result, the minutes to that meeting were never circulated and in the following workshop no references were made to JA!'s objections. Nilza and her colleagues eventually walked out of the process.

"This is how things currently work in Mozambique" Nilza told us. "The proponents of the project will no doubt get the green light to go ahead after having 'consulted' with civil society"

a loss of sovereignty

The situation is the same in Latin America where numerous REDD projects are up and running.


Ivonne Yanez from OilWatch Ecuador gave her perspective on Ecuador's 'Social Forests' programme.

"When the government gives subsidy to indigenous people for payment of environmental services, which means looking after the forest, it also means the indigenous people give the right for anyone, including gas and oil companies to access their lands. The people don't realise this is what they're signing up to."

Finally Lucia talked about the situation in Brazil where the commodification of the earth is reaching new levels.


Due to pressure from corporations the Brazilian government is dismantling its internationally respected forest protection laws and literally outsourcing nature. Trees, rives and the air above are being turned in to credits to be traded on Wall Street.

Lucia echoed the common thread in all these REDD projects:

"The one who buys the credit has unrestricted access to the land. Communities are losing the sovereignty of their land which will mean an end to traditional practices"

Find out more about REDD

Nov 28, 2011

UN climate talks 2011: video

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 28, 2011 04:15 PM


Friends of the Earth International joined a crowd of 10,000 people on the streets of Durban to call on climate negotiators to listen to the voice of the people at the UN climate talks.


Director of Friends of the Earth South Africa, Bobby Peek, explains why many South African civil society organisations are calling these climate talks in Durban the “conference of the polluters”


The 'we have faith' rally took place in the Kings Stadium, Durban. The event was hosted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a number of South African faith leaders and musicians. FoEI Chair Nnimmo Bassey also addressed the crowd and warned them that Africa will be cooked if countries are allowed to pledge and do as they please in the negotiations.

UN climate talks 2011: will they listen?

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 28, 2011 07:40 PM

The climate talks have begun but the negotiators seem to be sticking to last year's script. An impromptu assembly outside could teach them a thing or two.

Conference of the People General Assembly Durban 2A group of people discus what climate justice means to them at the Conference of People General Assembly.  As delegates streamed into Durban's International Conference centre for day one of the UN climate talks, another assembly was getting underway on a small patch of grass over the road.


The 'Conference of People General Assembly', also known as Occupy COP17, got together to start a conversation of their own on climate change.

Addressing the assembly was Pablo Solon, Bolivia's former chief climate change negotiator, who gave his view of the official talks and stressed the importance of people's gatherings like this one.


"The issues being negotiated are the future of human life…The Cancun agreement will cook the world. Temperatures will increase by four degrees and in Africa they will increase by eight degrees"

"Negotiators will not change if there is no social pressure. The future of the world begins here."


With those words in mind, the assembly split into small groups to talk. Their first task: to discuss the meaning of climate justice. 


the state of the talks

Inside the conference centre, at Friends of the Earth International's first press conference, our chair Nnimmo Bassey echoed the views of Solon and quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu whom he spoke with at a rally the day before:

"Those who think they would survive when climate change gets to the tipping point and becomes uncontrollable are fools."

He stressed the fact that Africa is suffering the most - alongside small island states - from the impacts of climate change:

"We are not speaking of what will happen in 5 years or ten years we are talking about what is going on right now.. We are speaking about droughts, we are talking about climate environmental refugees already in the continent. We are talking about floods, we are talking about crop failures, desertification, mudslides" he said.


Nnimmo also reminded the audience that Africa is, by no means, the only continent suffering the consequences of extreme weather though. In the past year alone countries in Asia and Latin America have suffered from terrible flooding.

FoEI press conferenceLucia Ortiz, Bobby Peek, Nnimmo Bassey and Meena Raman speak at FoEI's first press conference of the climate talks. . Meena Raman from FoE Malaysia talked about the state of the talks and the entrenched positions of many developed countries.

"Rather than strengthen the emissions targets and cut out the loopholes to galvanise real action on climate emissions, the US, Japan, Canada and others are pushing to scrap the agreed, legally-binding framework to cut emissions and replace it with a voluntary ‘pledge and review' approach. This approach would put the world squarely on track to catastrophic global warming" she said.

Finally Lucia Ortiz from Friends of the Earth Brazil talked about the conflict and insecurities communities are facing in her country as flawed schemes to offset carbon emissions, such as REDD are persued.

In closing, Bobby Peek from FoE South Africa confirmed his belief that conference delegates are already feeling the pressure from the civil society voices on the outside demanding climate justice.


The question is: will they listen?

Nov 24, 2011

Our demands in Durban

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 24, 2011 06:35 PM
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Urgent action must be taken at the COP 17 talks in Durban. Find out what we're calling for.

offsetting magic trick
Members of Friends of the Earth International show COP 15 delegates that carbon offsetting is the greatest con trick in history. Copenhagen, 2009.
We are reaching a historic culmination of events in the fight for radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and systemic change in the unjust and unsustainable economic system which underlies the climate crisis. 


Corporate and financial elites and multinational corporations are intensifying their efforts to serve and protect their interests through false solutions like carbon markets.


This injustice is being met with resistance by movements, organisations and activists that are calling for the transformation of societies to take back our futures.


Friends of the Earth International demand that governments at COP 17:

  • Accept strong, legally-binding emission reductions for developed countries based on science, equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
  • Commit to adequate and appropriate public finance for developing countries mitigation and adaptation.
  • Reject all forms of carbon trading and offsetting.
  • Embark on just transitions towards genuinely sustainable economies domestically through the reduction of commodity flows and consumption, investment in public infrastructure, appropriate renewable energy, green jobs, small-scale sustainable agriculture and community-led biodiversity and forest conservation.
  • Respect and enforce the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. 
  • Reject any role for industrial monoculture tree plantations, agrofuels and GMOs and other false solutions such as nuclear energy and carbón capture and storage (CCS).
  • Respect the Convention of Biological Diversity moratorium against geo-engineering.

What can you do?

Your contribution counts. You can join the movement for climate justice. You can pressure your government to take a stronger stance in the international negotiations and help ensure a safer climate and protect the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people and communities around the world.


The movement for climate justice is growing and becoming stronger, as we are seeing in Durban with organisations and social movements mobilising for climate justice and planning to continue to struggle against false solutions like carbon trading.


Real solutions to climate change are available, for instance reducing consumption, improving energy efficiency, choosing sustainable locally-produced food, and switching to clean, green power. We, take action together to build a new society and transform the current unjust and unsustainable economic system. This is the only chance we have of being heard and stopping the further decline of the world’s climate and the possibility of catastrophic climate change.


Take action online now!

Nov 18, 2011

UN climate talks 2011: Background to the talks

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 18, 2011 01:10 PM

The world is on a precipice. Already the lives and livelihoods of millions of people are being devastated by the impact of increased extreme weather events like flooding, droughts and hurricanes. Climate change is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people per year, most of whom are in poorer communities in the poorest countries of the world.

Flood-2If urgent action is not taken, not only will climate change get worse but we could overreach dangerous tipping points into irreversible and catastrophic climate change. 

 Developed countries’ governments are neglecting their responsibility to prevent climate catastrophe.  The positions of these governments at global climate talks are increasingly driven by the narrow economic and financial interests of wealthy elites and multinational corporations while the poorest communities suffer. 


These interests, tied to the economic sectors responsible for pollution or profiting from false solutions to the climate crisis like carbon trading and fossil fuels, are the key forces behind global inaction.


the solution

Tackling climate change means changing the unjust and unsustainable economic system, especially our dependence on polluting fossil fuels and the over-use of the world’s resources.  To do this we need to push governments to act in the interests of ordinary people, workers and communities and the poor and vulnerable.  


Within the UN, rich developed countries must meet their historical responsibility by committing to urgent and deep emissions cuts through the Kyoto Protocol – the existing legally binding framework, without carbon trading, offsetting and other loopholes, They must also repay their climate debt to poorer countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America so that they too can tackle climate change. This will benefit people all around the world by ensuring a safe climate, more secure livelihoods, more green jobs, clean affordable energy and energy efficiency. 


Questions and answers on the talks

What is happening at the UN climate talks?

Should the world abandon the UN talks and try and tackle climate change somewhere else?

What do FoEI want to see happen at COP 17?

Do FoEI support the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol?

What is wrong with carbon markets?

What is REDD and what are forests credits?

What is climate finance?

What is the 'corporate capture of the UN'?

What's wrong with biofuels?

What is industrial agriculture's role in climate change?



Nnimmo Bassey addresses journalists 1The UN climate talks are supposed to be making progress on implementing the agreement that world governments made in 1992 to stop man-made and dangerous climate change.  
The agreement, made nearly 20 years ago, recognises that rich countries have done the most to cause the problem of climate change and should take the lead in solving it, as well as provide funds to poorer countries as repayment of their climate debt. But governments have done very little to deliver on these commitments and time is running out.  

What’s more, it looks like rich countries want to use the Durban climate talks to further diminish their responsibilities to tackle climate change and dismantle the whole framework for binding reductions of greenhouse gases, without which we have no chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. They are also pushing for the expansion of false solutions like carbon trading, a further escape hatch from emissions reductions which will make climate change worse and cause further harm to people around the world while bringing huge profits to polluters.


Cancun demo at UN climate talks, 2010The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the best forum for international negotiations to tackle climate change. It represents all 192 countries from around the world with each country having an equal voice, at least in theory.   
There are still big power imbalances and issues with transparency, resources and participation in the UNFCCC which need to be addressed, but it is much better than forums like the G8 and G20 where poor countries have little or no voice.
The problem with the UN talks is not the talks themselves but the fact that the positions of governments are increasingly hijacked by narrow corporate interests linked to polluting industries and industries which are seeking to profit from the climate crisis.  
These interests are pushing rich industrialised countries to dodge their commitments to urgent and dramatic cuts in their emissions and provide climate funds for poorer countries, because this would challenge opportunities for national level growth in established economic sectors like manufacturing, industrial agriculture and resource extraction.
Governments and corporations are also using the talks to expand false solutions to climate change like nuclear power, biofuels and carbon trading – these activities make the climate worse and often cause a lot of harm to poor and vulnerable communities. 
If we want to unlock the negotiations we need to tackle the excessive influence of these interests and ensure that our governments are representing the interests of ordinary people and communities, those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and those who are articulating the real solutions to the climate crisis.


March of the Campesinos, cancunIf we are to stop climate change getting worse and maximise our chances of avoiding catastrophic and irreversible climate change we need a transformation of our unsustainable economic system and a rapid move away from global fossil fuel dependency and the over-use of the world’s natural resources by a small minority.  
This requires rich industrialised countries to stop their drive to dismantle the global framework for binding emissions reductions commitments and commit to emissions reductions without offsets or loopholes in line with the latest scientific evidence and with their responsibility for causing the problem of climate change, and to the transfer of adequate public finance to developing countries so that they can build low carbon and sustainable economies whilst also attending to urgent poverty eradication and development needs.  
To ensure this happens, we need to see the governments of the poorest countries, like those in Africa, truly stand up for the interests of their people and communities and demand that rich countries take action on climate change and repay their climate debt.

Do foei support the continuation of the kyoto protocol?

Minimum 40%, no offsettingTo stop climate change and do to so in a fair and equitable way we need international legally-binding obligations to drastically cut emissions based on science and equity. The basis of this system already exists in the form of the climate convention and the Kyoto Protocol.

Rich countries, led by the US, Canada, Japan and Russia, are trying to tear up these international treaties and replace them with a high risk voluntary approach.  

Rich countries must agree to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol with strong targets and no carbon trading, offsetting, or other loopholes if we are to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.


offsetting magic trickCarbon trading is a false solution. Carbon trading involves offsetting – an escape hatch for countries and companies from making urgently needed emissions reductions. Carbon trading is locking rich countries and poor countries into dirty, high carbon growth paths and development models and a continued reliance on fossil fuels. It is undermining our chances of avoiding catastrophic climate change by delaying the much needed transformation of our economies away from fossil fuel use.  
Despite its deep-seated problems, many countries want to expand the global carbon market. Such a decision would have disastrous impacts for it would provide industrialised countries with further opportunities to offset their emissions reductions and avoid making domestic emissions cuts.

Carbon markets also have potential human rights and environmental impacts resulting from the land grabbing associated with many offsetting projects like REDD, plantations and agrofuels. 
There is a very strong corporate lobby in support of the expansion of the global carbon market, coming from a variety of different financial, business and industrial sectors in both industrialised and developing countries. This includes financiers, traders, owners of polluting industries, owners of land or resources with potential to qualify for offset credits and others.  
Governments must resist the expansion of the global carbon market in Durban, and support real emissions cuts and real solutions to the climate crisis. 


Redd protest in cancunAt COP 17, governments will decide on how to finance projects under the mechanism known as "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation" (REDD). There are already big problems with REDD, with many communities in the developing world having their land rights and livelihoods threatened.

Now, in addition, there is a strong push from industrialised countries for REDD projects to be financed through the global carbon market, which will open up further loopholes in terms of global cuts in carbon emissions and also dramatically increase the chances of destructive impacts on communities and the environment in countries where REDD projects are based.  
Any agreement on deforestation should be a rights-based approach to stop deforestation and support land rights. Their protection must be part of recognition and repayment of rich countries’ climate debt. Forests must be kept out of carbon markets as trading forests for pollution has no part to play in a just international climate agreement. 

Including forests in carbon offsetting initiatives does not work: it diverts attention from real measures to reduce emissions and prevent deforestation, and threatens Indigenous Peoples and local communities who depend on them for survival. 


Philippine Movement for Climate Justice 2Climate finance is the repayment of the climate debt of the rich industrialised world which has done the most to cause the problem of climate change and has far greater resources available to tackle the problem. It is essential that developing countries receive adequate climate finance if they are to develop cleanly whilst also tackling urgent development needs. 
Climate finance must be new and additional to existing aid money and emissions reductions by rich countries, and must come from public sources and be governed by the UNFCCC. So far, progress on delivering climate finance where it is needed has been pitiful. Only tiny amounts have been committed, and much of this is recycled aid money diverted from other urgent causes.  
It is essential that the cash for the Global Green Fund comes from new and innovative sources that provide the adequate and reliable finance that developing countries need. The Global Green Fund should not rely on finance from carbon markets. Carbon market finance is not legitimate finance as it is based on the offsetting of rich country emissions cuts. 
The World Bank should have no role in governing or managing climate finance.  It is the largest multi-lateral lender for oil and gas projects and a major actor in deforestation and many World Bank-funded projects have had other destructive environmental and social impacts. The Bank has failed to accept its own internal recommendations to stop funding polluting coal, oil and gas extraction.


Brussels against WB and its lending to ESKOM-2Large multinational corporations and corporate and financial elites are unduly influencing political decision-making on climate change, and pushing for the prioritization of their short-term economic interests (such as energy, manufacturing, industrial agriculture and financial interests) over the protection of the environment and the wellbeing of people and communities. 
Major corporations and polluters are lobbying to undermine the chances of achieving climate justice via the UNFCCC. Much of this influence is exerted in the member states before governments come to the climate negotiations, but the negotiations are also attended by hundreds of lobbyists from the corporate sector trying to ensure that any agreement promotes the interests of big business before people's interests and climate justice. 

what's wrong with biofuels? 

David Gilbert, USA - 2nd placeGiven that biofuels mostly come from large scale industrial agriculture, and they are far from sustainable, and we prefer to refer to them as agrofuels. An increasing amount of scientific research shows that agrofuels are fuelling deforestation, loss of biodiversity and even climate change. They have also been proven to fuel food price increases, hunger, land rights violations, water scarcity and human rights abuses.

Agrofuels benefit large agribusiness and energy companies and their expansion does not help to address climate change. Instead, promoting agrofuels reinforces the current unsustainable model of consumption and production which has fuelled climate change in the first place.

what is industrial AGRICULTURE's role in CLIMATE CHANGE? 

gm protests in spainIndustrial agriculture is resource intensive and polluting, and drives climate change and environmental destruction. It feeds deforestation, loss of biodiversity and climate change, as well as food price increases, hunger, land rights violations, water scarcity and human rights abuses, whilst driving up the profits of large corporations.   
Industrial agriculture is a threat to the sustainable, small-scale farming which is truly climate-friendly. Protecting and expanding this type of small-scale sustainable agriculture is essential if we are to reduce emissions from agriculture whilst ensuring a safe and sustainable food supply for the world’s population.