Viewpoints: Should California cap and trade use forestry offsets? No

Plan won’t stop actual emissions

By Jeff Conant
Special to The Bee
Published: Sunday, May. 19, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5E
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 19, 2013 - 8:37 am
When Californians passed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, we committed to one of the most forward-thinking pieces of climate legislation in the country, with comprehensive strategies to reduce carbon emissions from nearly all sectors of the economy. Unfortunately, the California Air Resources Board is considering a move that will undermine the best intent of this law by linking it to a benign-sounding yet dubious and untried scheme to protect rain forests in Mexico and Brazil.
Many peasant farmers and indigenous people who live in those forests oppose the proposal, fearing it will repeat an all-too-familiar pattern of land-grabbing, without actually stopping deforestation. Californians should oppose it, too.
The rigorous standards set by AB 32 have already been undermined by ARB's decision to allow the industrial facilities like power plants and refineries that account for 85 percent of the state's emissions to meet their pollution reduction targets by buying carbon offset credits. Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and the California Environmental Justice Alliance, among others, opposed the use of offsets when it was proposed – and we still do.
Now, through an agreement that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed in 2010 with the governors of Acre, Brazil, and Chiapas, Mexico, ARB is poised to further weaken AB 32 by allowing up to half of the offsets to be met by a scheme to reduce deforestation in two of the poorest and most remote states in Latin America.
The scheme is known as REDD, for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. Under this proposal, instead of reducing their own emissions, California polluters could instead pay the governments of Acre and Chiapas to protect their tropical forests, thus capturing and "offsetting" industrial emissions.
A win-win, right? Not so fast.
In Chiapas, Schwarzenegger's agreement set in motion a dynamic that has increased social conflict and led several peasant farmer and indigenous organizations to rise up in protest. In 2011, in an effort to fast-track the scheme, Chiapas' then-governor began making payments to one group of jungle-dwelling indigenous people on the condition that they stop growing crops in the forest and guard the forest against "invaders" – usually other poor indigenous farmers. Pending funds from California, the money came from Chiapas' public coffers for the time being. The deal threw fuel on the fire of an already simmering agrarian conflict and angered Chiapas citizens, who hadn't been consulted.
Two years later, the fund has dried up, that governor is out of office, and Chiapas is literally bankrupt. But rural conflict continues – and deforestation has not been reduced.
Californians should want no part of this mess.
Proponents of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation scheme have more hope in Acre, in Brazil's western Amazon, which is often touted as a model of how to protect the rain forest. But many groups there – among them the Union of Rural Workers of Xapuri (which environmental martyr Chico Mendes once led), academics and indigenous peoples' organizations – tell a different story.
They charge that, since the state's Payments for Environmental Services Law went into effect, logging has more than doubled and the number of cattle has tripled. How could this be? With money flowing from the state to landholders for the carbon they sequester, land prices are going up, leading to concentration of land in the hands of ranchers who can profit by protecting token bits of forest while grazing and logging the rest.
Some payments are also being made to poorer forest dwellers on condition that they refrain from impacting the forest through cutting, burning or planting. But this has the perverse effect of shutting them out of their lands, reducing them to welfare recipients without offering support for longer-term solutions.
Until and unless California has the ability to guard against such perverse effects, Californians shouldn't want any part of this, either.
Let's not forget that offsets don't reduce pollution. They merely displace emissions reductions from one place (in this case, California), to others (Chiapas and Acre). This means that emissions will continue here in the state. Further, California's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation program – to be taken up by the Air Resources Board this summer – will not only displace emission reductions – it could also displace real people in Acre and Chiapas.
Let's not shirk our responsibilities by allowing California to accept offsets from the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation program, when it's more effective – and more just – to cut actual carbon emissions here at home.
Jeff Conant is International Forests Campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

From: Andrew Miller []
Sent: Monday, May 20, 2013 10:59 AM
To: Conant, Jeff
Cc: Bosques ATI; ''
Subject: Response needed

Viewpoints: Should California cap and trade use forestry offsets? Yes

tate can help save other regions

By Tony Brunello and Dan Nepstad
Special to The Bee
Published: Sunday, May. 19, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5E
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 19, 2013 - 8:37 am
We love our forests in California. After a century of rapidly losing them to farming and logging, we finally succeeded in virtually ending deforestation in California. We were driven by our interest in the natural beauty, the wildlife, the sustainable timber supplies and the water-purifying functions of old-growth redwoods along the coast, the blue oaks growing across the Central Valley and the mixed pine forests of the Sierra. It was only possible because we had a clear vision of the importance of our forests and a successful strategy for protecting them.
California has an opportunity now to help forest-rich states in Brazil, Mexico and other nations take a similar step to keep their forests. But why should Californians care?
First, we are part of the problem. Much of the palm oil that is hidden in our cosmetics and foods is grown on recently cleared lands in Indonesia and Malaysia. We make furniture, build decks and cover our houses and businesses with ipe, teak and mahogany extracted from tropical forests.
Second, tropical forests are part of the solution. Their trees are a giant reservoir of carbon that is emitted into the atmosphere when they are cut down, logged or burned. The sum of these activities around the world releases about the same amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year as all of the world's cars, trucks and buses combined. Reducing emissions from tropical forests is one of the cheapest ways for the globe to reduce its carbon footprint.
Finally, California can help tropical partner states where the world has largely failed. We can send a much-needed signal to tropical nations and states that California – and the world – want to help in reducing tropical deforestation.
The opportunity before California could have large impacts beyond our border – accepting limited carbon offsets from states that meet rigorous criteria for reducing tropical deforestation. Carbon offsets in California's cap-and-trade program play a limited role in overall state reductions, and any tropical forest offsets could – and should – also play only a minor role within the program.
California's Air Resources Board states that more than 400 million metric tons of the state's greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 2020 to meet our legal mandate. They estimate that roughly 30 percent of those reductions will come from the cap-and-trade system while the rest will come from our regulations for cleaner cars, renewable energy and energy efficiency regulations.
California should provide limited space to allow "sector-based" forest carbon offsets into our cap-and-trade system for only those tropical states that meet strict economywide rules, such as those developed here in California in partnership with the state of Acre in Brazil and the state of Chiapas in Mexico. See to see the recommended rules. According to these recommendations, no state could trade emissions offsets with California unless they have strict statewide deforestation baselines and targets, ensure local communities' lives are improved, respect indigenous peoples' rights, and meet or exceed the environmental standards we have here in California.
Acre began to build the laws and systems that are needed to switch from the forest-clearing rural economy to the forest-maintaining rural economy 13 years ago. It is working. It has already achieved emissions reductions of more than one-third of California's mandate by 2020. Acre, Chiapas and another 16 tropical states from around the world have been meeting with California for the last four years through the Governors' Climate and Forests Task Force.
The tropical states have slowed deforestation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. But they have seen only a trickle of positive incentives. Their political will is flagging. These are not isolated forest carbon projects. They are forest-maintaining rural development. And our tropical state partners can't do it alone.
It is time for California to help other forested states that are trying to mirror our environmental and economic progress. Accepting limited international forest offsets is the right direction for California policymakers.
Tony Brunello is the executive director of the Green Technology Leadership Group, partner at California Strategies and former California deputy secretary for climate change and energy. Dan Nepstad, a scientist, is director and president of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) International Program in San Francisco, and a lead author of the forthcoming fifth global assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Andrew E. Miller
DC Advocacy Coordinator

Amazon Watch
Washington, DC
Cel: +1-202-423-4828

On May 6, 2013, at 5:50 PM, Conant, Jeff wrote:

Friends – today we have sent the letter below, (and here) to the state of California asking that they reject REDD in the state’s global warming law. We have also sent this press release. Please share with your networks as you’re able.

Amazon Watch—Asia Pacific Environmental Network—Battle Creek Alliance—California Environmental Justice Alliance—Carbon Trade Watch—Center for Biological Diversity—Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment—Communities for a Better Environment—Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity—Food & Water Watch—Forests Forever—Friends of the Earth-US—Greenpeace International—Global Community Monitor—Global Exchange—Grassroots Global Justice Alliance—Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice—Green Party of Alameda County—Health of Mother Earth Foundation (Nigeria) —Justice in Nigeria Now! —Indigenous Environmental Network—International Indian Treaty Council—Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project—Oilwatch International—Rainforest Action Network—
Sierra Club California—Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples

                                                                                                                        May 3, 2013
The Honorable Jerry Brown
Governor of California
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Via fax: (916) 558-3160

Mary Nichols
Chairman, California Air Resources Board
1001 “I” Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Via fax: (916) 327-5748

Re: Climate Change Policy – International Forest Offsets in California’s Cap and Trade Program

Dear Governor Brown and Chairman Nichols,
Following the recent release of the recommendations put forward by the REDD Offsets Working Group (ROW) we would like to use this opportunity to explain why we urge you not to approve the use of international forest offsets as a compliance option within California’s emissions trading scheme.
For years our organizations, most of which are based in California, have been working toward the protection of forests, preventing catastrophic climate change, and promoting ecological justice and social equity. In this context we applaud the State of California for considering new ways to curb its emissions and protect the last remaining tropical forests. However, ROW’s proposal to use rainforests as an offset to replace industrial emissions would achieve none of these objectives.
Science tells us that in order to have a realistic chance of stopping catastrophic climate change, we need bold action on reducing industrial emissions and tackling deforestation at the same time. Doing just one of the two will simply not be enough. Unfortunately, ROW’s proposal is not only unlikely to deliver real, additional and permanent emission reductions, but it would also prevent Californians from getting the benefits of AB 32 at home. By allowing enterprises to buy international forest offsets, the amount of industrial emissions within the state would be greater than otherwise allowed by law, exposing people here in California to greater health and environmental risks, and preventing progressive Californian companies from benefitting from new technologies and innovations.
While many problems exist with offsets in general, there are significant issues unique to tropical forests which make them broadly unfit to offset industrial emissions as proposed by ROW. One of these is permanence: end-of-pipe emissions stay in the atmosphere for centuries, if not millennia, where they contribute to climate change, whereas reductions in forest emissions cannot be reasonably guaranteed for such a period of time given how quickly forests can be degraded by companies, pests, and even the impacts of climate change. Other inherent problems that prevent subnational forest offset projects from actually reducing emissions are: non-additionality, in which offsets are used to protect a forest area that would have been protected anyway; and leakage, whereby the drivers of deforestation (such as timber companies) merely shift from one part of the country to another, or across an international border. Due to those issues, the inclusion of subnational forest offsets in California’s cap and trade program would likely increase rather than decrease emissions relative to AB 32’s objectives.
Tropical forests have unique social, economic and cultural significance to those who live in and depend on them for their livelihoods. Independent investigations into the promotion of international forest offsets have raised serious concerns related to human rights violations and there is major opposition from indigenous peoples and local communities in both Chiapas, Mexico and in Acre, Brazil (the two jurisdictions where California would most likely obtain its initial credits), to the proposal put forth by ROW. Similar concerns have arisen in Nigeria and Indonesia, which are under consideration for future inclusion in the program. Given these concerns, we are compelled to point out that many of the key features of the proposed REDD program, including improved forest governance, the development of relevant legal frameworks, and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities (including their full, effective participation and free, prior, informed consent), are beyond the regulatory authority of the State of California.
For these and other reasons, other major emissions trading schemes such as the European Union ETS have rejected of the inclusion of international forests as an offset option. Additionally, a comprehensive assessment of REDD+ conducted by experts in derivatives trading has found that “using carbon markets to finance REDD... is likely to be a drain of resources, both in terms of money and time, away from the very serious problems REDD seeks to address.”[1]
We would therefore ask that you not permit the use of international forest offsets for compliance in California as proposed by ROW, since they will not deliver real, additional, and permanent emissions reductions and could lead to serious human rights violations and social problems.
To really tackle tropical deforestation at its root, California policymakers should consider examining how the state’s existing policies, including those related to procurement, public investment, fuels, and other issues, may enable rainforest destruction through contributing to demand for petroleum, timber, soy, paper, palm oil, and other commodities.
We appreciate California’s interest in helping to protect tropical forests and would be happy to discuss with you steps the State could take to achieve that end. You may contact Jeff Conant at Friends of the Earth-US at; (510) 900-0016).
Amazon Watch
Asia Pacific Environmental Network
Battle Creek Alliance
California Environmental Justice Alliance
Carbon Trade Watch
Center for Biological Diversity
Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment
Communities for a Better Environment
Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity (FACES)
Food & Water Watch
Forests Forever
Friends of the Earth-US
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Greenpeace International
Global Community Monitor
Global Exchange
Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice
Green Party of Alameda County
Health of Mother Earth Foundation (Nigeria)
Justice in Nigeria Now!
Indigenous Environmental Network
International Indian Treaty Council
Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project
Oilwatch International
Rainforest Action Network
Sierra Club California
Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples


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