Interview with Manon Castagné, CCFD-Terre Solidaire, by Nicole Gérard
Despite the global emergency, the 26thUN Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, is now scheduled for November 2021. It was originally timed to coincide with the five-yearly review of national climate plans for emissions reductions targets through 2030, thereby building on the Paris Agreement’s aim to keep climate change to a maximum 1.5ºC.
Instead we had the “June momentum” – virtual discussions among Paris Agreement parties and stakeholders – that pointed to issues where work “must begin without delay and without retreat”. Manon Castagné attended this on behalf of CCFD – Terre Solidaire and we catch up with her on what was of relevance for forests.
“The issues addressed included the importance of submitting ambitious new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs); the possibility of combining NDCs with COVID-19 recovery; recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in ecosystems protection; and the need to eliminate racism and discrimination from climate efforts and programmes.”
There is increasing concern that although COVID-19 has done nothing to halt the climate emergency, it is stalling efforts to deal with it, as important events such as the Bonn Climate Change conference have now been postponed. Fern and civil society partners will follow developments such as the divisive discussions on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the“carbon market article”.Many devils lie in its details, Manon explains:“States are hoping to re-use the guardrails of REDD+, but the REDD+ experience demonstrates that these have been completely inadequate.”
Taking no real action to reduce emissions
“Certain issues are so fundamental, with outcomes so foreseeably detrimental to overall ambition, that it should no longer be necessary to expend time and energy discussing them; still less, on discussing them again.”
“Carbon markets based on offsetting emissions are in themselves problematic – the climate crisis no longer has time for such trade-offs. They suppose a zero-sum game and, instead of reductions, what you have is the status quo,” says Castagné.
Building on this bad idea, double counting,where emissions reductions realised in one place are counted both in the country where the reduction happens and the one that buys the carbon offset, is another such devil (an issue that Fern has documented in the past).
More frightening still is the impact of carbon markets on forests and agricultural lands. Some States, as well as companies and [well-funded and powerful] private sector lobbies are insisting on the land sector’s potential as carbon sink and pushing for it to be part of the Paris Agreement carbon market.
“The problem is that carbon removed from forests can be reversed,” Castagné says. “Eventually, stored carbon always ends up being released. This can happen through human activities – land clearing for agriculture, for instance, and use of chemical fertilizers on agricultural lands – or through things over which we have less control, such as naturally occurring forest fires or extreme weather events. Selling carbon credits based on temporarily stored carbon ends up raising emissions.” Land-based carbon dioxide removals should therefore never be used to offset fossil fuel emissions.
The enormous amount of forest offset credits under discussion is yet another devil. “Inclusion of the land sector in carbon markets would generate an immensequantity of credits, and a proportionally vast reduction of climate ambition. It would be a disaster that puts everyone, and especially vulnerable populations, at risk.
“Including land sectors in carbon markets risks breaching human rightsas we’ve seen repeatedly through REDD+. From the moment that lands are considered a financial asset, they are pulled into a speculative logic that competes with traditional land use,” Castagné continues. “The populations who need their land for subsistence are at much greater risk of land-grabbing and forced evacuation. Human rights and food security generally face a grave threat.”
Alternatives that work for people also exist
“There should be financing to protect forests, rehabilitate rich ecosystems, and encourage transformation toward agroecology. At no point do these financial fluxes need to be included in market mechanisms. Art 6.8, designed to integrate ‘holistic and balanced non-market approaches’ is a much better alternative.”
Here, governments must take a bolder stance.
“Many States have the resources and capacity to put non-market programmesin place, and to ensure that they are developed at a systemic scale,” she explains. “For large-scale agroecology to succeed, farmers must be helped during the transition, but we must also coordinate the whole chain of actors and help them reorganise to ensure everyone gets a fair share from exchanges, and consumers have access to quality food – these are all things that private companies cannot achieve.”
“Importantly, States must also legislate to stop subsidising harmful practices – we must have that ambition. Unfortunately, where carbon markets are concerned, public authorities are retreating in favour of private finance, but we cannot protect land by leaving these in the hands of actors whose primary goal is profitability.”
Finally, fundamental concerns that should have been fully integrated long ago continue to prove problematic. Human rights considerations must strictly frame all climate efforts, including the carbon markets currently under negotiation. Project design and implementation must involve civil society, local communities, Indigenous Peoples, women; and they must embrace Free Prior and Informed Consent obligations. Supervisory bodies must meet strict governance principles, including transparency and accountability. Solid, independent grievance mechanisms must exist when things go wrong.
As the climate crisis accelerates and links between destruction of nature and global pandemics become clearer, populations are counting on Parties to stop falling at the same hurdles, and to come up with genuine solutions.