Environment, Carbon and Forests
IRIN, 23 July 2014 | Between March and May, during the cashew harvesting season, it is typical to see trucks line Amílcar Cabral Avenue in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau's capital, waiting to offload their cargo on to ships. But when they line up all year long, suspicion is raised, especially as demand for the nut has plummeted. From interior regions of Guinea-Bissau, the trucks openly haul tree trunks, said Constantino Correia, an agro-engineer and former director of the country's forest management agency. The cargo, mainly African rosewood, is destined for China, according to Abílio Rachid Said of the government Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas (Ibap). Environmental activists have been denouncing illegal logging in Guinea-Bissau for years, but now it may be too late, "as we risk not having [the African rosewood] in the coming years", Said warned. "It is a type of wood in extremely high demand in the Chinese market."
By George Monbiot, The Guardian, 24 July 2014 | It is not just that neoliberalism has failed spectacularly in that this creed - which was supposed to prevent state spending and persuade us that we didn’t need state spending - has required the greatest and most wasteful state spending in history to bail out the deregulated banks. But also that it has singularly failed to create the great society of innovators and entrepreneurs that we were promised by the originators of this doctrine, by people like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who insisted that it would create a society of entrepreneurs.
AP, 25 July 2014 | A fungus carried by an invasive beetle from southeast Asia is felling trees across the Everglades, and experts have not found a way to stop the blight from spreading. Then there's a bigger problem — the damage may be leaving Florida's fragile wetlands open to even more of an incursion from exotic plants threatening to choke the unique Everglades and undermine billions of dollars' worth of restoration projects. Since first detected on the edge of Miami's western suburbs in 2011, laurel wilt has killed swamp bay trees scattered across 330,000 acres of the Everglades, a roughly 2 million-acre system that includes Everglades National Park. The fungus is spread by the tiny redbay ambrosia beetle, which likely arrived in this country in a shipment of wood packing material.
By Gloria Gonzalez, Forest Carbon Portal, 24 July 2014 | Forestry projects located in Alaska – “the Land of the Midnight Sun” – could soon be allowed to provide carbon offsets to California’s cap-and-trade program. Right now, forestry projects providing offsets to California’s program must be based in the lower 48 US states, but the staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) will propose allowing Alaska-based forestry projects into its carbon trading program. The aim is to have an update to the ARB’s forestry protocol ready for ARB board consideration in late 2014. Both the American Carbon Registry’s (ACR) and the Climate Action Reserve’s (CAR) voluntary forest offset protocols allow for the inclusion of offset projects located in Alaska. But the ARB did not allow Alaska-based projects when considering early action methodologies and programs back in 2011 because of the absence of data from the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program of the U.S. Forest Service.
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian, 21 July 2014 | Beef’s environmental impact dwarfs that of other meat including chicken and pork, new research reveals, with one expert saying that eating less red meat would be a better way for people to cut carbon emissions than giving up their cars. The heavy impact on the environment of meat production was known but the research shows a new scale and scope of damage, particularly for beef. The popular red meat requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and results in five times more climate-warming emissions. When compared to staples like potatoes, wheat, and rice, the impact of beef per calorie is even more extreme, requiring 160 times more land and producing 11 times more greenhouse gases... “The big story is just how dramatically impactful beef is compared to all the others,” said Prof Gidon Eshel, at Bard College in New York state and who led the research on beef’s impact.
By Susann Twidale, Reuters, 22 July 2014 | Britain's government said it would stick with a goal to curb emissions by 2027 to 50 percent of the 1990 levels, a target that has led to political opposition and that its own advisers have said will be hard to meet. The country has set binding targets for greenhouse gases over four five-year periods to 2027, known as carbon budgets, which aim to put it on track towards cutting emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by the middle of the century. "Retaining the budget at its existing level provides certainty for businesses and investors by demonstrating government's commitment to our long-term decarbonisation goals," Ed Davey, secretary of state for energy and climate change, said in a statement on Tuesday.
By Sophie Yeo, RTCC, 23 July 2014 | A UN-backed conference in Venezuela has ended with a declaration to scrap carbon markets and reject the green economy. The Margarita Declaration was issued at the end of a four-day meeting of around 130 green activist groups, which the Venezuelan government hosted in order to raise the volume of civil society demands in UN discussions on climate change. “The structural causes of climate change are linked to the current capitalist hegemonic system,” the final declaration said. “To combat climate change it is necessary to change the system.” The declaration will be handed to environment ministers when they meet ahead of the UN’s main round of talks in Lima this year.
By Carey L. Biron, IPS, 24 July 2014 | The international community is failing to take advantage of a potent opportunity to counter climate change by strengthening local land tenure rights and laws worldwide, new data suggests. In what researchers say is the most detailed study on the issue to date, new analysis suggests that in areas formally overseen by local communities, deforestation rates are dozens to hundreds of times lower than in areas overseen by governments or private entities. Anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to deforestation each year. The findings were released Thursday by the World Resources Institute, a think tank here, and the Rights and Resources Initiative, a global network that focuses on forest tenure. “This approach to mitigating climate change has long been undervalued,” a report detailing the analysis states.
By Roger Harrabin, BBC News, 24 July 2014 | Burning wood to fuel power stations can create as many harmful carbon emissions as burning coal, according to a government report. UK taxpayers subsidise energy firms to burn wood to meet EU renewables targets. But the report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) shows sometimes much bigger carbon savings would be achieved by leaving the wood in the forests. This suggests power firms may be winning subsidies for inadvertently making climate change even worse. The report has caused controversy within DECC as it indicates the initial subsidy rules were much too simplistic. The government has now promised to strengthen the regulations on burning wood, and to make standards mandatory. Environmentalists applauded the move but said they wanted to see details and a timetable for the new rules. They insisted that the proposed new regulations must be based on the new document.
By Becky Crew, Science Alert, 24 July 2014 | Stretching over a space of 9,400,00 square kilometres and covering most of North Africa, the Sahara is the largest non-polar desert in the world. And it’s getting bigger. According to the US’s Public Education Center website, the effects of climate change are causing the Sahara to creep into bordering countries such as Senegal, Mauritania, and Nigeria, which poses a serious threat to their farmlands and agricultural productivity. The Guardian reports that by 2025, two-thirds of Africa's arable land could be lost to the desert if nothing is done to stem its expansion. To mitigate this and other environmental issues affecting Africa such as land degradation, the effects of climate change, and a loss of biodiversity, Senegal is leading a 20-nation initiative known as the Great Green Wall. Most notably, this initiative involves erecting a wall of trees across the southern edge of the Sahara desert, which will be 14 km wide and 7,600 km long.
By David Gaveau, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 22 July 2014 | Extreme episodes of trans-boundary haze in Southeast Asia in 2013 and 2014 — and an anticipated El-Niño-induced drought during the second half of 2014, which could result in significantly heightened fire activity across Indonesia — have focused attention on causes and origins of fires in peatland areas of Sumatra. It has also prompted the affected countries in the region to develop policies to mitigate future fires in the region — as well as penalties for those who start the fires. Indonesia’s vice president has convened senior ministers from several agencies to combat the problem, and a special “situation room” is being established to ensure firefighting capabilities and response within hours after new fire hotspots are detected by satellites.
By Barbara Fraser, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 23 July 2014 | When it comes to stemming the global trade in illegal tropical timber, local activists in timber-producing countries may be more effective than sophisticated technology and import regulations, say experts from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Whistleblowing by environmental groups has led to some crackdowns on the illegal trade in high-profile species such as bigleaf mahogany from South America, and those groups should be given a more formal role in international oversight agencies, suggests a recent paper published by CIFOR and London-based Chatham House. “Engaging civil society representatives from countries where the illegal timber trade occurs expands your information base, as long as they are credible non-governmental organizations,” said Rosalind Reeve, a senior associate researcher at CIFOR and co-author of the paper.
By Colin Bettles, Farm Weekly, 26 July 2014 | Experts say the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) has fallen well short of reaching its key objectives and remains problematic, despite surviving the carbon tax axing. The Abbott government’s Direct Action policy aims to replace the carbon tax as a key policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent by 2020. That new policy involves retaining the CFI, which allows farmers and land managers to earn carbon credits by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the land. The carbon credits can then be sold to people and businesses wishing to offset their emissions. This year’s federal budget allocated $2.55 billion to establish the government’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). Environment Minister Greg Hunt says the ERF will expand the CFI to enable emissions reductions across the entire economy to be credited beyond the land sector.
By Loren Bell, mongabay.com, 24 July 2014 | Dear Joko Widodo, Congratulations on your successful bid for the Indonesian presidency. Although neither you nor your opponent spent much time focusing on the environment, the world hopes your previous record in Surakarta (Solo) and Jakarta, coupled with the idealistic language in your campaign platform, is evidence enough of your intent to slow the rapid destruction of Indonesia's environment. It will be a long and challenging road, but the Indonesian people have entrusted their country to you based on the promises you made to them. The world looks forward to watching you enact policies that keep these promises. As a reminder, your 42 page platform begins by enumerating the major issues holding Indonesia back. Among them, "environmental damage as a result of excessive exploitation of natural resources," is singled out as a key cause of economic weakness of the country.
The Jakarta Post, 26 July 2014 | Officials from the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus (REDD+) Management Agency have urged the incoming government to remain committed to the ongoing efforts to reduce carbon emissions. REDD+ chairman Heru Prasetyo said on Thursday that the next government had a big task ahead, as it not only had to maintain momentum but must also ensure the indigenous groups’ rights bill was passed. The bill, if passed by the House of Representatives, is expected to empower indigenous groups in reclaiming and sustaining customary forests for sustainable development. “By acknowledging their rights, indigenous groups can serve as strategic partners in the protection of forests,” said Heru. He said that indigenous groups were estimated to hold the rights to around 45 million hectares of forest currently being misused as commercial concessions.
By John Vidal, The Guardian, 25 July 2014 | Radical plans by the World Bank to relax the conditions on which it lends up to $50bn (£29bn) a year to developing countries have been condemned as potentially disastrous for the environment and likely to weaken protection of indigenous peoples and the poor. A leaked draft of the bank's proposed new "safeguard policies", seen by the Guardian, suggests that existing environmental and social protection will be gutted to allow logging and mining in even the most ecologically sensitive areas, and that indigenous peoples will not have to be consulted before major projects like palm oil plantations or large dams palm go ahead on land which they traditionally occupy. Under the proposed new "light touch" rules, the result of a two year consultation within the bank, borrowers will be allowed to opt out of signing up to employment safeguards, existing protection for biodiversity will be shredded, countries will be allowed to assess themselves...
Forest Trends, July 2014 | This policy brief examines the institutional and legal framework surrounding forest conversion in Lao PDR, giving special consideration to the social, environmental, and legal implications of expanding land investments to meet Lao PDR’s economic development goals summarized in the National Export Strategy (2011-2015).
mongabay.com, 23 July 2014 | After exceeding an ambitious fundraising target to launch a near-real time forest monitoring system in the Congo Basin, a San-Francisco based start-up is now eyeing expansion in the Amazon where it hopes to help an indigenous rainforest tribe fight illegal logging. On Monday, Rainforest Connection (RFCx) announced a partnership with Equipe de Conservação da Amazônia, a Brazilian NGO, to bring its alert system to the forest homeland of the Tembé people. Rainforest Connection's system is built using a network of recycled Android smartphones, which are modified to detect specific sounds, including the audio signatures to chainsaws, gunshots, and vehicles. When the system registers one of these sounds, it sends a signal — in real-time — to local authorities, who can then potentially take action to stop illegal logging or poaching as it happens. Each RFCx device can monitor roughly three square kilometers of forest.
IPS, 24 July 2014 | The international community is failing to take advantage of a potent opportunity to counter climate change by strengthening local land tenure rights and laws worldwide, new data suggests. In what researchers say is the most detailed study on the issue to date, new analysis suggests that in areas formally overseen by local communities, deforestation rates are dozens to hundreds of times lower than in areas overseen by governments or private entities. Anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to deforestation each year."This model of government-owned and -managed forests usually doesn't work. Instead, it often creates an open-access free-for-all." -- Caleb Stevens. The findings were released Thursday by the World Resources Institute, a think tank here, and the Rights and Resources Initiative, a global network that focuses on forest tenure.
Strengthening Community Forest Rights is Critical Tool to Fight Climate Change, Says Major New Report
World Resources Institute, 23 July 2014 | Strengthening community forest rights is an essential strategy to reduce billions of tonnes of carbon emissions, making it an effective way for governments to meet climate goals, safeguard forests and protect the livelihoods of their citizens, according to a major new report. The report, called “Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change: How Strengthening Community Forest Rights Mitigates Climate Change,” is being published jointly by World Resources Institute (WRI) and Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). The paper provides the most comprehensive analysis to date linking legal recognition and government protection of community forest rights with reductions in carbon pollution.