By Mary Tharin
Apparently complying with the Kyoto Protocol, many governments established “caps” on greenhouse gas emissions, but industries willing to evade these limits, instead of responsibly reducing their emissions, avoid their environmental commitment by buying “carbon credits” from other industries from different parts of the world, that is, by acquiring the CDM bonds marketed by the World Bank. The bond or “credit” investment program known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is an inadequate system that represents a pressing danger to the environment and well-being of the world's most vulnerable populations.
Invoking the protection of the environment, the World Bank trades carbon credits that cause the destruction of indigenous farmland lands throughout the third world.
The global effort to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions began in 1997 with the Kyoto Protocol, now ratified by 183 nations, with certain supposedly encouraging strategies, but some proved to have fatal effects. The investment program in bonds or "credits" known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), became a means for industrialized countries to avoid reducing their own emissions by developing "emission reduction" projects in underdeveloped countries. .
Seemingly complying with the Kyoto Protocol, many governments have established “caps” on greenhouse gas emissions in their countries, but industries willing to evade this government imposition of limits, instead of responsibly reducing their emissions, may completely evade their commitments. through the purchase of “carbon credits” from other industries in different parts of the world, that is, by acquiring the CDM bonds traded by the World Bank.
In other words, instead of reducing their excessive emissions, rich countries can “offset” them by buying emission reduction “credits” from poor countries. Joris den Blanken, Greenpeace climate change specialist, said: "Compensation means exporting responsibilities to the developing world and takes away the incentive for industry to improve efficiency or invest in renewable energy.
While the World Bank claims that this system "supports sustainable development ... and benefits the poorest communities in the developing world," the program has in reality become nothing more than a lucrative corporate profit business. In fact, many transnational corporations use the cap and the commercialization of the program not only to evade their responsibility for emissions, but to further benefit from the development of environmentally and socially destructive industries in third world countries.
In Latin America, where a long history of corporate looting has already taken this steep toll, environmentalists and indigenous communities are beginning to openly protest the dangers of CDM. Due to a myopic focus on greenhouse gas reduction alone and a lack of accountability from local communities, many projects are producing other environmental and social ills that diametrically contradict the goals stated by the program.
But reports from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) indicate that 4,364 projects have been approved to date with CDM funding, and the movement continues to gain momentum. According to the World's Fauna Fund, the number of new project offerings rose dramatically in just a few years, from less than ten a month in early 2005 to nearly 100 a month in 2007.
The wood and pulp industries show great interest in harnessing the carbon market to justify and finance projects that involve expropriating indigenous farms and grazing lands to plant huge mono-specific plantations, which threaten the biodiversity of the area, absorb water and can deplete seriously water resources. According to a 2008 report from Japan Overseas Plantations for Wood and Paper Pulp (JOPP), titled "Feasibility Study of CDM Reforestation for Community Development on Extensive Pasture Lands in Uruguay" , “From an ecological point of view, the establishment of large-scale plantations of foreign species in this area is clearly a step in the wrong direction. From a social point of view, it could be called cultural genocide ”.
The land that would be used in JOPP "reforestation projects", according to the report, is currently used for "extensive grazing" of cattle and sheep. The report, which advocates "land eligibility," makes no mention of the people who own it, live on it, or make their living using the land in question. The only allusion to this problem is the brief guarantee that all displaced livestock "would be sold on the free market." Despite the fact that “cattle and sheep production has been the traditional rural activity in the project area and in all surrounding regions since the 17th century”, the report argues that plantations mean a more profitable use of land than grass. So the question arises: profitable for whom?
The World Bank raises the CDM as "an integral part of its mission to reduce poverty with its environment and energy strategies." However, in Latin America, as in other parts of the developing world, the global carbon market is proving to be largely detrimental to indigenous peoples and the poor. With little or no involvement in how a project is conducted, local communities have virtually no control over how it will affect their land, water, and resources.
In a recent documentary from the Carbon Trade Observatory, villagers explain that massive plantations covering nearly 40,000 hectares are absorbing water from local streams, causing a sharp decline in fishing and the death of medicinal plants. In an interview, a local woman lamented that corporate plantations "continue to destroy our community, destroy our citizens, destroy our fauna, destroy our flora, and no one does anything [to stop it]."
The lack of accountability of local populations is a fundamental flaw in the way CDM projects are presented, evaluated and implemented. The project design form used by the CDM board of directors to approve or deny funding largely neglects the impact of projects on local communities. The document does not contain any mandatory legal language and only asks for a “report on how the debt was taken and any comments received” by local holders. In its evaluation of four CDM projects carried out in Brazil and Bolivia, UNEP indicated that the “participation of members of the local community” was found to be limited.
As the World Bank pretends to emphasize sustainability and alleviate poverty through CDMs, it continually fails to deliver positive results for the environment or disadvantaged communities of the underdeveloped world. The global carbon market is proving to be just another weapon used by transnational corporations to accelerate their foray into the rights of indigenous peoples and small landholders in Latin America.
The irony of this situation takes on a particularly tragic tone when it is observed that many at-risk communities have lived sustainably for centuries and should be seen as true models in the fight against environmental degradation and climate change. Instead, the World Bank adopted an inadequate system that represents a pressing danger to the environment at the expense of other important environmental issues and the well-being of the world's most vulnerable, often better-informed populations.
Janet Redman of the Institute for Policy Studies said: "Farmers [in the global south] are negotiating their communal land rights and their ability to feed on the vagaries and price fluctuations of the international carbon market."
Mary Therin Update (From "Upside Down World")
As governments, environmentalists and industry leaders promote the UN climate change conference for December 2009 in Copenhagen, the debate on carbon offsets took center stage. Groups, including the European Commission, recognize the many shortcomings of the Clean Development Mechanism and are calling for reforms. At the end of April 2009, delegates from around the world who attended the Global Summit of Indigenous Peoples on Climate Change, issued a statement that invited governments to abandon the “false solutions to climate change that negatively impact the rights of indigenous peoples… for example carbon trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and compensation for forests ”.
Unfortunately, the CDM board of directors, instead of addressing transparency and accountability applications, proposed to intensify some more problematic aspects of the carbon offset scheme, by presenting plans to expand its application in forestry and simplify the process of using the financing . According to Óscar Reyes, from the Carbon Trade Observatory, these reforms would drastically expand the CDM while "lowering the already inadequate controls for environmental sustainability and social justice."
Meanwhile, the Clean Development Mechanism continues to expand. In May 2009 alone, 132 new CDM projects were approved, marking the highest point in the implementation process. At the same time, more evidence is emerging all over the globe that many "emission reduction projects" do more harm than good to the developed world. In June 2009, the UK Daily Mail published a report on a floating chemical factory that poisoned the water supply in Gujarat, India. According to Eva Filzmoser, from the CDM Observatory, large water and gas projects are the most damaging recipients of financing granted by this mechanism. He argued that these projects rarely save additional emissions and in fact offer perverse incentives to expand industries of environmental degradation.
In the United States, the debate on carbon offsets and cap-and-trade schemes erupted in May 2009, since the House Energy Committee passed the American Clean Energy and Safety Act, also known as Waxman-Markey project. While many environmental groups hail the project as a huge step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the US, others denounce the prominence of carbon offsetting in the law, which would open an outlet for corporations to circumvent any real commitment to reduce emissions. According to the Institute for Political Studies (IPS, acronym in English), under this legislation, compensation could be “bought” for up to 2 billion tons of carbon - about 30 percent of current emissions in the US - where half would reach from underdeveloped countries through programs such as the Clean Development Mechanism.
While most of the mainstream media and many environmental groups have jumped on the “limit and trade” bandwagon, organizations such as the Institute for Public Studies, Carbon Trade Observatory, and CDM Observatory continue to promote public awareness of the dangers of this deceptive system. A significant number of voices, including The Economist, have come out in favor of a carbon tax as a more effective way to reduce emissions. These groups call on people in the developed world to take the lead in lowering their own carbon footprints and demand a real solution for climate change to start at home.
Mary Tharin - Upside Down World, February 11, 2009, “The World Bank and Climate Change: Sustainability or Exploitation?”, By Mary Tharin. - Research students: Victoria Masucci and Christine Wilson. - Academic evaluator: Elaine Wellin, Ph.D., Sonoma State University - Translation: Ernesto Carmona for ARGENPRESS - http://www.argenpress.info/
For more information:
Sustainable Energy and Economy Network (Institute for Policy Studies): http://www.seen.org
Carbon Trade Watch: http://www.carbontradewatch.org
Friends of the Earth: http://www.foe.org/global-warming
CDM Watch: http://www.cdm-watch.org