This editorial seeks to alert about the agendas of companies that dominate international processes related to forests, which seem to be entering new phases. The decisions made have very real impacts on forest communities. It is crucial to stay vigilant.
This year, 2020, comes with its own dangers for forests and forest peoples, as international processes related to forests appear to be entering new phases. However, the biggest challenge we face remains the same: despite mounting evidence of increasing deforestation over the past 20 years as well as dispossession and violence against forest peoples, the negotiations International affairs on forests are trapped by the maneuvers of companies seeking to increase their profits and by “green make-up” campaigns based on voluntary initiatives.
This editorial aims to alert people to the undisputed agendas that dominate these international decision-making processes. Decisions often made have very real impacts on the lives of forest-dependent peoples and communities; therefore, it is crucial that grassroots groups as well as forest peoples and their allies remain vigilant against all potential risks.
This year, the United Nations' Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which entered into force in 2016, will re-evaluate the national targets set for each country. The Paris Agreement identifies forests (and trees) as one of the main “solutions” for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus promoting industrial tree plantations around the world. However, at the UN climate negotiations in November 2019, no agreement was reached on key issues related to carbon markets and offset mechanisms. Even so, several voluntary initiatives have been put forward and millions of dollars are being invested in increasing forest compensation mechanisms and large-scale plantations as viable “solutions” to the climate crisis. As expected, possible strategies to leave fossil fuels underground are not being discussed, despite the fact that the extraction and burning of fossil fuels is the main cause of the climate crisis.
During the 2019 climate negotiations, the fossil fuel and conservation industries gained momentum by introducing a new term for compensation: Nature-Based Solutions (or Natural Climate Solutions), which were presented as the solution to the climate crisis. REDD +, the much publicized policy on forests in force for the last 15 years, has been replaced by discourses around Nature-based Solutions, which aim to increase the “storage” of carbon in the natural world. Meanwhile, debates about deforestation have been replaced by the term "restoration." Once again, the focus is not on the real drivers of the climate crisis. We are facing a scenario full of opportunities for the business sector, since the responsibility for the climate crisis does not fall on the companies responsible for deforestation, forest degradation and climate pollution on a large scale, but on peasant agricultural practices and natives.
Another international process set for this year is the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD is supposed to aim to protect biodiversity, but, conversely, it has also promoted highly damaging false solutions, such as offsets for biodiversity loss. This mechanism has been endorsed by numerous conservation NGOs, polluting industries, the UN, and the World Bank, and is being used primarily by the mining industry. Why? Because it basically allows extractive and other industries to enter forest areas where such extractive activities were previously prohibited, as long as these companies "protect" or "recreate" another area that is considered "equivalent" in terms of biological diversity. .
The conservation industry and its business allies are pushing for a drastic increase in protected areas around the world to green their destructive activities. According to the IUCN, the target should be 30% of the world territory. But the conventional conservation model assumes that "nature" must be separated from human activity. As such, an increase in protected areas also means more evictions, violence and discrimination against the true protectors of the forests: indigenous and forest-dependent communities. It could also mean more areas available for companies' offset projects.
Finally, it is also relevant for forests and forest peoples to mention the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) projects, which will start in 2021. The aviation industry It has some of the most polluting companies in the world. The main objective of this Plan is to allow the aviation industry to continue its increasing emissions of fossil fuels, on the grounds that those emissions will be “offset”. Decisions on what types of offsets will be included in CORSIA this year will be reviewed. On January 7, 2020, the Cooperative Forest Carbon Fund (FCPF) of the World Bank requested the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to accept the credits. REDD + compensation plan of the FCPF.
None of these agreements and negotiations is designed to solve any crisis. Those who are truly responsible are left intact. Meanwhile, false solutions that strengthen pressures on land and its grabbing for the benefit of commercial interests continue to be promoted, financed and facilitated, along with the prolongation of historical injustices, deforestation, pollution, violence, discrimination, etc. .
But it's not all bad news. Resistance is fertile. A recent research project commissioned by the Informal Alliance Against Oil Palm Plantations in West and Central Africa reveals a significant decline, over the past five years, in the amount and total area of land transactions to establish plantations industrial oil palm, decreasing from about 4 million 700 thousand hectares to 2 million 700 thousand hectares. A major reason for this is the growing resistance to this destructive and violent industry.
The WRM reaffirms once again its solidarity with the populations that depend on the forests, who remain committed to the fight to defend their territories against those truly responsible for the climate and forest crises.