CDM: a new subsidy for the green desert?
FERN is calling on EU governments at the COP9 climate talks (1-12 December) to boycott carbon credits originating from sinks projects, especially those from industrial tree plantations, in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
In a new report, Forest Fraud: Say no to fake carbon credits,1 FERN and SinksWatch track the failure of governments to provide proper environmental and social safeguards for CDM sinks projects, and show how the plantation industry is preparing to use CDM money to continue its unsustainable practices. The report illustrates how the prospect of CDM funding is already causing the expansion of eucalyptus plantations in Brazil despite local opposition and environmental impacts. If governments buy into these fake carbon credits, indigenous peoples and communities will be hit twice by climate change. First, they are likely to bear the brunt of the impacts caused by global warming, and second the CDM will finance environmentally damaging tree plantations – the ‘green deserts’ which communities have been struggling against for decades. Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland are already investing in the World Bank’s Prototype Carbon Fund despite the EU’s long standing opposition to the inclusion of sinks in the CDM and their exclusion from the EU’s own emissions trading scheme. Published with the report is a ‘Ten facts about carbon credits’ leaflet which will be handed out at COP9.
1. Available at www.fern.org.
Destructive Laos project seeks friend in EIB
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is set to approve a 60 million euro loan for a major mining project in Lao PDR which will cause land evictions, river pollution, deforestation, loss of livelihood and further marginalisation of indigenous peoples.
The Sepon Copper Project,1 operated by Australian company Oxiana Ltd, involves the development of a new open pit copper mine, a treatment plant and auxiliary infrastructure. Located in a remote area of Savannakhet Province, one of the world’s global biodiversity hotspots,2 the World Bank has labelled the project environmental category A – potentially the most damaging type of project.
Despite this, the EIB may finance the project, which it claims will generate profit for the government and will comply with local environmental regulations. The Laos environmental and social regulatory framework is known to be very weak and prone to corruption. Even the Laos government admits that it has limited capacity to effectively legislate, regulate and monitor the mine. Independent monitoring is almost impossible as national NGOs are not allowed and international NGOs are strictly controlled by the state. In this context, FERN calls on member states and EC Commissioner Solbes-Mira to veto the loan when it is submitted to the EIB board.
1. Further information available from www.fern.org
2. IUCN, 2001.
Poverty reduction and environment back in ALA regulation
On 6 November, MEPs voted1 for amendments to the Commission proposal for a revised regulation governing aid to Asia and Latin America (ALA). The amendments include several FERN demands such as environment benchmark spending (10%), integration of environmental concerns into country programming, and specific natural resource and poverty related activities. Further amendments making the ALA instrument more transparent and in line with recent EU policies on development co-operation have been included as well.
Parliamentarians have also voted for the regulation to be split into two: one for Asia and one for Latin America, giving political recognition to the different characteristics of the regions. While poverty eradication is now the primary objective of the regulation, a strong push by Spanish and Portuguese MEPs has led to the reduction of EC aid to Asia (by 247 million euro) to the benefit of Latin America. The decision is difficult to defend given that poverty levels are worse in Asia, and that, per head of population, Latin America receives three times the amount of annual EC aid compared to Asia. Rumours suggest that both the Commission and the Council are dissatisfied with the split regulation, the budgetary changes, and the numerous amendments. A Council position is expected by September 2004.
1 First reading, co-decision procedure.
Parliament lacks resolve on illegal logging
A resolution from the European Parliament on illegal logging remains elusive after a dismal debate at the Industry, Trade, Research and Energy (ITRE) committee on 26 November.
Discussing a motion put forward by UK MEP Nicholas Clegg, the committee members delayed Parliamentary support for the FLEGT Action Plan.1 Depressingly, some ITRE members even tried to introduce amendments that would undermine achievements so far.
For example, Finnish MEP Samuli Pojhamo sought to ensure that companies operating legally would not have to prove the legality of their operations. If accepted this would make a nonsense of the Commission’s plan to develop partnership agreements – based on a licence of legality and associated chain of custody – to create a level playing field where all companies would have to comply with the same process. The ITRE discussion went from bad to worse when the MEPs decided to reopen the motion for further amendments.
More positively, British and separate Commission delegations now visiting Helsinki may improve Finland’s understanding of the need to respect the law and promote good governance in the forest sector, and we hope to see a better approach in the near future.
Meanwhile, before the end of 2003 the European Commission is expected to present the Council with a ‘road map’ laying out the steps ahead to implement the Action Plan. We hope this will be made publicly available and that a broad and effective stakeholder consultation process is included in it.
Finally, in the UK, Prime Minister Tony Blair responded to a Parliamentary question on illegal logging by saying that an EU Regulation and agreements with producer countries are necessary to deny access to EU markets for illegally logged timber.
With Tony being such a good boy, we are sure that Santa Claus will remember him on Christmas morning, and we hope that Santa, whose home is said to be in Finnish Lapland, will also find a way to convince those naughty ITRE members to start 2004 with a New Year Resolution – for a FLEGT Regulation! And Season’s Greetings to all our readers from everyone at FERN!
1 Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade. The Action Plan was proposed earlier this year by the European Commission and the Council of the European Parliament.
Confusion in EC climate and development work
In its position on international climate negotiations, the EU has long argued against the inclusion of carbon sinks into the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). A DG Environment press release in July 2003 stated that sinks in the CDM “do not bring technology transfer, they are inherently temporary and reversible, and uncertainty remains about the effects of emission removal by carbon sinks”.1
It is thus surprising that the European Commission has allocated funding for the implementation of CDM projects, including sinks, in its recently approved ‘Environment and Forests Programme for Developing Countries 2003’. The second chapter of the Programme focuses specifically on forest conservation and sustainable forest management, including fighting illegal logging and addressing climate change.
FERN urges the Commission to ensure that programme funding does not support CDM sinks projects. Instead climate change requires domestic action and a shift towards economies based on lower energy consumption and renewable energy.
1 See Commission document IP/03/1077
NEWS IN BRIEF
Did you know?
The European Commission gathers NGO views on a range of issues at its public consultation web site.1 The site provides questionnaires and chat rooms on topical issues and presents recent survey results. From it you can also link to consultations undertaken by individual Directorate Generals. For example DG Trade is currently seeking your participation in the sustainability impact assessment of the WTO negotiations and DG Environment also has a long track record on using this facility. But a quick look at DG Development shows it hasn’t used it at all…. a sign of the times?
New EIB briefing
If you have ever wondered how the European Investment Bank (EIB) functions and who decides what in this powerful though little known multilateral bank, five new facts sheets can help your search. See www.bankwatch.org
Governance in developing countries
The European Commission has released a communication on governance and development. Available at http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/com/cnc/2003/com2003_0615en01.pdf
1-12 December: COP9 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Milan, Italy.
11-12 December: NGO strategy meeting on certification schemes, Amsterdam.Organised by FERN.
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Half of Kenya’s only tropical rainforest has already been lost. What is left provides a unique sanctuary for biodiversity and a vital resource for local people, many of whom depend on it for fuel, medicine and food. Credit: A. Arbib.