Greenpeace wants to see a world where deforestation is a dirty word and where polluters can’t hide by buying dubious forest offset credits.
Former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger initiated the Governors’ Climate and Forest Task Force (GCF) in 2008. From its very beginning the GCF has been a leading advocate for using questionable forestry programs that allow industrial polluters to weasel their way out of emissions reductions.
This is why we found ourselves in San Cristobal de las Casas, a town in southern Mexico, this past week.
San Cristobal played host to the latest GCF meeting, and while it’s easy to get carried away by the beautiful setting of San Cristobal, it is important to understand what’s at stake here. Greenpeace is fighting to ensure that the program to curb deforestation – known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) – delivers on its promises.
In order to deliver on these promises, we need strong national REDD programs. But not everyone wants the same thing we do. The GCF wants REDD to be implemented on a sub-national or jurisdictional level. This cannot guarantee that deforestation that is stopped in one part of the country isn’t just driven to another part of the country.
Not only is the GCF pushing this dodgy, so-called solution to REDD, but it also wants to allow forests to be used to offset industrial emissions in California. That’s right. They want to push one state’s problems to another state.
Chanuk, a Lacandon woman, in her home in Lacanja Chansayab, a community located in the limits of Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, in Lacandona Rainforest. Lacanja Chansayab is one of the six communities participating in the REDD+ (Reduction Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) Programme from the State Government.
Why is this a problem?
For years, Greenpeace has been pointing out that in order have a realistic chance of stopping catastrophic climate change, we need bold action on reducing industrial emissions and tackling deforestation. Doing just one of the two will simply not be enough.
But allowing offsets from REDD programs to be used to forego real emission cuts in California or elsewhere does exactly that. It lets companies off the hook precisely because they can buy questionable offsets rather than investing in new, green technology.
So is it all dire news in San Cristobal? Certainly not.
As we highlight in our report, Outsourcing Hot Air, which we launched in San Cristobal, we see the GCF as a very important initiative to share experiences and information between states and provinces around the world. The GCF can play an important role in convening and advising sub-national governments which are essential in the effort to halt deforestation.
In San Cristobal we have seen much of that and would encourage the GCF to focus even more on this important effort. The GCF sees itself at a crossroads. It’s important that it chooses the right path and abandons its dangerous push for offsets and for a sub-national approach to REDD and focuses on its strengths as a forum to create the seeds of change.
Sebastian Bock is a Greenpeace Forests Campaigner