UN Forest Protection Scheme Open for Organized Crime Abuse


photo: Doug Beckers via flickr.

No one doubts the critical importance of forests in preventing climate change, but with less than ten official negotiating days before the the COP15 climate talks, a number of sources are crying foul at the way talks about implementing REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programs are going -- it all involves organized crime, fake carbon credits, enforcement problems, and a lack of respect for nature and indigenous peoples. This is the deal:Environmental Groups Blast Programs Weak Wording
Starting with the lack of respect part... Late last week the Ecosystems Climate Alliance, a coalition of environmental groups including Rainforest Action Network, The Wilderness Society, Wetlands International, and Global Witness, issued a statement warning of that REDD talks in Bangkok were taking a turn for the worse.

Basically, they said the current wording of the REDD program's consolidated text would be a giant subsidy for the logging industry. According to a spokesperson for Global Witness, "the REDD process is doing precisely what it was created not to do."

No Explicit Protection for Intact Forests or Forest Peoples
Furthermore, the Wilderness Society expressed dismay that there is no explicit wording to protect natural intact forests in the program. Rainforest Foundation Norway raised its voice for indigenous peoples, saying,

There's no wording assuring indigenous rights. Rather, the proposals here undermine all the battles of indigenous peoples for the respect of their rights and threaten all the right guaranteed to them under existing international agreements.

A point-by-point analysis of what ECA believes is wrong with REDD and what should be done to rectify is available: Ecosystems Climate Alliance Reaction to Non-Paper 11 of 03/10/09 @12.00

photo: World Resources Institute via flickr.
Interpol Says Crime Syndicates Eyeing REDD
At the same time, an new piece in the Guardian has found that there are deep concerns about the possibility for abuse of the REDD system, originating at the highest levels of diplomacy.

The prime issue is enforceability and the potential for abuse of the system in the form of fake carbon credits being issued, forged forest accounting (tracts of land that are logged being listed as intact, etc...), and desires of international organized crime to infiltrate it all.

The organized crime angle is raised by Interpol, a representative of which specialized in environmental crimes who is writing a report for the World Bank on illegal forestry saying,

Alarm bells are ringing. It is simply too big to monitor. The potential for criminality is vast and has not been taken into account by the people who set it up.

Organized crime syndicates are eyeing the nascent forest carbon market. I will report to the bank that REDD schemes are open to wide abuse.


Corrupt Politicians Already Dealing in Fake Carbon Credits
Even the UN itself has just admitted the potential for abuse, "Where countries are corrupt the potential for REDD corruption is dangerous. People have tried to take advantage of the market in an unacceptable way and the carbon cowboys are trying to get the benefits. We can expect more of this as REDD develops."

Those 'people' most recently refers to a Papua New Guinea's now-suspended climate change minister who is alleged to have given $100 million in fake carbon credits to communities in exchange for forest protection support.

But Nevertheless, We Must Find a Way to Protect Forests
All of that said, forest protection is simply vital for both climate protection, preservation of biodiversity and, in my opinion, for that intangible but crucial rationale, because intact forests and intact ecosystems are important simply because of their intrinsic worth as a whole.

Ultimately, it may be an enforcement nightmare, but until we can change the hearts and minds of humanity to place intrinsic value of the forest, outside of a market transaction, we must develop programs which place an economic value on forests which encourage preservation over plantations, while respecting indigenous rights. And do so in a way that provides as few loopholes opening up abuse as possible.

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Tags: Carbon Emissions | Conservation | Deforestation | United Nations

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