Seeing REDD About Climate Change

Some climate activists, convinced we need to do something now to reduce emissions, are willing to put their money where their mouth is. They buy forests to protect them.

we must do something

Sometimes this is a good thing. But as California Governor Jerry Brown recently learned, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) is not without controversy.

Jerry Brown basked in adulation during his whirlwind trip to Paris, and the evening of December 8 figured to offer more of the same. Standing alongside governors of states and provinces from Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, California’s governor planned to tout his state’s leadership role on global climate policy. …The December 8 event was held at a mid-19th-century-mansion-turned-hotel and was hosted by the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, which is a collaboration of 29 states and provinces in forest-rich countries that are preparing to join a program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).

“As Brown concluded his remarks, Pennie Opal Plant, an East Bay resident and member of the group Idle No More Solidarity San Francisco Bay, stood up near the front of the room, directly in front of the governor. “Richmond, California says ‘no’ to REDD!” she shouted, ‘”no’ to evicting indigenous people from their forests, and ‘no’ to poisoning my community!” About thirty people, who had dispersed themselves throughout the room to avoid prior suspicion of coordinated dissent, soon joined in a chant of “No REDD! No REDD!”

Governor Brown fled the room in a hurry.

California wants to buy forest land in developing countries so that it can continue clear cutting its own forests with a clean conscience and a noble record on reducing global emissions of CO2. However, a lot of the land that is bought for REDD has people living on it.

As the Guardian pointed out way back in 2008, “Conservation has immeasurably worsened the lives of indigenous peoples throughout Africa,” says Simon Colchester, director of the Forest Peoples Programme, which works throughout the tropics. His researchers have documented forced expulsions, human rights violations and the progressive destruction of livelihoods as a direct result of conservation in the region.

In Botswana, local conservationists once worked with the government to evict the remaining Bushmen from their ancestral land, which has been turned into a national park. In India, the Gujjar nomads in Uttar Pradesh have been victims of international conservation charities in the past, too. In Cameroon, whole villages were removed from a particularly rich piece of forest. The aboriginals of Palawan island in the Philippines were forced out to make way for a national park.”


There are other, lesser, problems with REDD, as noted here:

  • Leakage refers to the fact that while deforestation might be avoided in one place, the forest destroyers might move to another area of forest or to a different country.
  • Additionality refers to the near-impossibility of predicting what might have happened in the absence of the REDD project.
  • Permanence refers to the fact that carbon stored in trees is only temporarily stored. All trees eventually die and release the carbon back to the atmosphere.
  • Measurement refers to the fact that accurately measuring the amount of carbon stored in forests and forest soils is extremely complex – and prone to large errors.”

This open letter from the No REDD In Africa Network is addressed to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ban Ki Moon of the U.N., the President of the World Bank and many other worthies. It should however be read by all.

The letter states, “We, the No REDD in Africa Network (NRAN) together with the Sengwer Indigenous Peoples Programme and the undersigned 66 organizations and over 300 individuals, strongly condemn the massive evictions and forced relocation of the Sengwer Indigenous People, one of the few remaining hunter-gatherers of the world, from their ancestral home in Kenya’s Cherangany Hills. The Kenyan government calls the Sengwer People ‘squatters and or Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs),’ despite the fact that they and their ancestors have lived in the Cherangany Hills since time immemorial; and that Article (63d) of the Kenyan constitution (2010) grants them inalienable rights to their ancestral lands.”

“We take great exception to the press statement issued by the World Bank in which it attempts to distance itself from the forced relocation of the Sengwer People. The cause and effect is perfectly clear; the Bank in its highly controversial role as both carbon credit financier and broker is aiding and abetting the forced relocation of an entire Indigenous Peoples through its Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP) which includes REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), in the Cherangany Hills.

“Forced evictions and displacements were started in early 1980s, unsuccessfully. However, from 2007 when an Indigenous Peoples Planning Framework (IPPF) for NRMP was adopted by both Kenya Government and World Bank, there have been almost yearly forced evictions of the Sengwer People with the latest evictions being the most violent of them all. It is no coincidence that the evictions began in 2007, the very same the year that the World Bank’s Natural Resource Management Project started.”

The Sengwer join indigenous people in dozens of countries that have been displaced for green initiatives and the reduction of emissions. They won’t be the last.

REDD is poised to join a veritable Pantheon of well-meaning measures that have done little good and quite a bit of bad in efforts to combat climate change. Using corn for ethanol when people are going hungry? Cutting American forests to create wood chips for European power plants? Offshore wind farms? Stopping German nuclear power and replacing it with the dirtiest coal on Earth? Cap and Trade?

It’s all symptomatic of the same syndrome: ‘We must do something. This is something. We must do this.’

The most effective measures to date in reducing emissions have been byproducts of other forces at work: The growth of natural gas, economic hard times, natural improvements in energy efficiency.

It’s understandable that initial efforts to combat climate change would have some losing ideas as well as winners. But where are the winners?


9 responses to “Seeing REDD About Climate Change

  1. Good catch. Climate Imperialism is is the latest manifestation of the white man’s burden. REDD is an amazingly arrogant manifestation of climate imperialism. Taking tax dollars from a wealthy state to directly control resources of a poor state and impose the rich state’s values on those poor (dark) folks. Of course it’s all for their good. Of course

  2. Another aspect to old growth forests is their importance to the precipitation patterns: A. M Makarieva and her colleagues have shown empirically how forests function as a “biotic pump” to bring moisture from the ocean to land many kms away. Another reason that burning the woods is a bad idea.

  3. California should implement a program to put grass clippings in large plastic bags mixed with sand and dump them in the ocean 50 km offshore. The grass won’t rot, and the carbon will be sequestered. This is more practical.

    • How about taking the paper used worldwide to hype the climate consensus, bag it and dump it att in the same manner? A lot more carbon than grass clippings…..

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