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Boreal Forest Agreement With Industry: Not One Hectare Of Forest Has Been Protected In Three Years

Boreal Forest Agreement With Industry: Not One Hectare Of Forest Has Been Protected In Three Years

Canadian-Boreal-Forest-Ag-006

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement” (CBFA) was reached on 18 May 2010. Photograph: Richard Brooks/Greenpeace/EPA.

“Efforts to control corporations’ destructive impacts must have a critique of corporate power at their heart and a will to dismantle corporate power as their goal, otherwise they reinforce rather than challenge power structures, and undermine popular struggles for autonomy, democracy, human rights and environmental sustainability” – Corporate Watch [Britain]

A Tar Sands Partnership Agreement in the Making?

By Macdonald Stainsby
Canadian Dimension
August 1st 2011

 

Campaigns against tar sands production have grown rapidly over the last four years. From the relative obscurity in Alberta to an international lightning rod for people trying to address all manner of concerns from indigenous and community self-determination to peak oil and climate change – criticisms of the largest industrial project in human history have gained a major voice.

The voices are certainly not homogenous, but a large contingent of these voices call for a shut down of tar sands production and a move away from fossil fuels – if not an outright move away from market-led growth of any sort. But, in the language of the environmental elite, what are the “decision makers” preparing to do with all this anti-tar sands resistance?

While there are still small scale, community led victories against certain developments – like the defeat of the recent Prosperity Mine proposal in British Columbia – I contend that mainstream environmentalism has effectively become a means by which corporations (who used to be anathema to environmentalists) now get the social license necessary to operate. There are obvious examples such as the World Wildlife Fund running commercials with Coca-Cola. But the real social management is done out of sight, and involves some of the most important players in the circles of the North American ruling class.

Co-opting Environmentalism

In the United States, major foundations – led at the time by the Sunoco-oil founded and controlled Pew Charitable Trusts – stopped fighting against environmentalism and sought instead to co-opt it and make it a “partner.” This model expanded over the next couple of decades until it slowly began to creep north of the border into Canada. Now this same technique dominates the Canadian enviro landscape as well, in some cases with a new twist. The Canadian Boreal Initiative [CBI] – a champion of “working with industry to find common solutions” – is not even an organization, but receives their money from Ducks Unlimited Canada who receive theirs from Ducks Unlimited in the United States. All of this funding originates with the Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia. The Pew Foundation was started with a multi-billion dollar grant from Sunoco and today their board of directors is more than 50 percent tied to Sunoco, either through the Pew family or executive work with the oil giant. This same Pew gives funding to other well-known policy right-wing hawkish think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

The CBI spearheads something they call “the Boreal Conservation Framework,” a plan to protect at least half the Boreal Forest. Fact: far, far less than half the boreal forest has been developed or is slated for development. This “initiative” partners openly with corporations such as Suncor, Nexen and several leading forestry corporations. The CBI, funded and directed by the Pew, also signs on to their framework the International Boreal Conservation Campaign – another Pew front group in the US. Along with corporate friendly organizations like the WWF, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy and of course, Ducks Unlimited are a smattering of First Nations governments. Also among their signatories are the Tides Foundation and the Ivey Foundation.

With this behind them, the CBI then “negotiates” what the final deal of a particular industry should look like. Guaranteed at the outset is that corporations will continue operations, and that the general public is out of the loop right up until the moment the “deal” is announced.

Many other foundations – most but not all American – now play the same game of social manipulation in the environmental field. Foundations such as Rockefeller Brothers, Ford and Hewlett have not only entered into the fray in a major way, in the case of the tar sands campaigns, they have collaborated with the Pew to take social manipulation to a new level. The aforementioned Tides Foundation was set up as a sort of clearing house for other philanthropists and foundations, for many years receiving the overwhelming bulk of their money through the Pew. Today, other groups and foundations give them money and earmark where they want it spent. Tides exercises total control over something you are not supposed to hear about: The North American Tar Sands Coalition.

The Tides and the North American Tar Sands Coalition

The routine is fairly straightforward. After a long stretch when grassroots and community led struggles build up support using a multitude of strategies – from direct action blockades to boycott campaigns and speak outs, demonstrations and more – suddenly many of the organizers who started the campaign are shuffled aside. Professionals are either appointed within the ranks or are imported from outside and all are given foundation-led salaries. With or without public knowledge (almost always without) a “stakeholder” negotiation is undertaken between corporations, government and the new “professional” environmentalists will take place. The terms of the negotiations do not reach the public until a smiling photo-op of the “stakeholders” appears at a press conference to announce an “end” to a particular “campaign” now called a “win-win.” Details will vary, but they always include three things: A promise to stop organizing against a particular industry, market-based incentives that would lead to “change practices” and a guarantee for that industry to be allowed to develop, now unhindered. Such a process is slowly being constructed for tar sands production in Canada.

As if on cue, once the multitude of forces against tar sands development began to crack into both national and international media the large foundations appeared in the background. In this particular case, they had set up a spider’s web of control from the getgo. All the usual foundations – Pew Charitable Trusts, Hewlett, Rockefeller Brothers, Ford Foundation – now use the Tides Foundation as a singular source to centralize control over the would be recipients of funding.

By funnelling all money through the Tides Foundation all organizations and movements that approach any of these sources can be directed to only one source – the Tides Foundation and their “North American Tar Sands Coalition.” The NATSC is headed by one Michael Marx. While they also have “Canadian” and “American” campaign leaders, Marx has near total authority to forge the funding decisions, policy directions, media strategy and over-all focus of how the “coalition” will operate. Who then, is Michael Marx?

Marx is known as a “corporate responsibility” campaigner. Previously working with Forest Ethics and now, along side his control over the tar sands campaign, he is a head of Corporate Ethics International. His own personal bio celebrates that he has previously helped “green” Wal-Mart, one of the largest and most labour exploitative corporations in the world. He does not believe that the tar sands can or should be shut down, and is shaping political messaging to that end. The list of ENGO’s that are funded by Michael Marx’s NATSC is long, but to list merely the largest of the Canadian ones that have been with them from the beginning of the “invisible to the outside” coalition: The Pembina Institute, Environmental Defense Canada, ForestEthics, World Wildlife Fund (Canada), The Sierra Club of Canada (and associated regional chapters), Eco Justice and the Canadian Boreal Intiative. Perhaps most important to note is that the coalition also involves Greenpeace Canada – important because historically GPC did not take foundation funding but has now been listed for several grants from Tides Canada for this work.

There are also many regional only organizations – working on regional only campaigns, such as to ostensibly stop the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline across arts of unceded first nations territory in northern British Columbia. These groups involve Living Oceans society, The David Suzuki Foundation, west Coast Environmental Law and the Dogwood Initiative with a host of community led groups. These regional grants are controlled by Canadian understudy to Michael Marx, Jennifer Lash.

Since the highly criticized deal called the “Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement” was signed in 2010 between what was called nine environmental NGOs and 21 forestry companies, Tides has started muttering in public as their own voice – calling for the “bridging of the two camps” of environmentalists and energy companies over the tar sands. No first nations have been mentioned in their pronouncements. Nonetheless, in Europe they have moved in to steer the direction of anti-tar sands campaigning. Marx himself showed up recently in the UK, speaking out on campaigns to “stop tar sands expansion” in ads paid for by Corporate Ethics International. These same ads have appeared in Alberta; Marx himself lives in San Francisco.

Astro-turfing is a term often applied to various Republican or Tea Party ventures in the United States, ones where money and slick marketing are used to build an appearance of a grassroots network where, in fact, none truly exists. While there most certainly is such a grassroots network against the tar sands – and it is expanding globally – the astro-turfing of “demands” to go into the backroom negotiations is tailored to appear genuine. The manner it is done is to put forward a vague and almost completely uncontroversial call and ask people to sign on to some declaration.

As of late that has appeared to be towards the blight of the toxic tailings ponds littering the landscape by the vast open-pit mines. In recent months as well, Suncor (the original tar sands corporation, former property of Sunoco oil and largest energy company in Canada) announced they had developed “dry tailings technology” and that they planned over time to roll out and implement it. Considering that Suncor is openly partnered with the Canadian Boreal Initiative, it seems strangely convenient that the astroturfing campaign is now targeting tailings ponds – shortly after many of the more corporate environmental organizations and the largest players among tar sands operators were caught – trying to have a private, unreported meeting together.

The first attempt at such a meeting, last April, was spearheaded by the Pembina Institute. The Pembina is employed as consultants for Nexen, Suncor, TD Financial and many other industrial corporations and has partnered with the original tar sands giant Suncor Energy since 1982. That meeting was to be a “fireside chat” but it was cancelled when people got wind of it and it appeared first on the mediacoop.ca and later on in the Globe and Mail. Today, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Tides Foundation and others are calling for “dialogue.”

What Would a Tar Sands Partnership Agreement Look Like?

Based on the market trajectory of the Marx-led team, it will involve beyond promises on water and tailings – including carbon offsets, promised investments in “green” energy technology alongside perhaps some announcement on further research into carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Based on all previous deals in Canada and the United States, such a framework could only be announced as the “end to the war over tar sands” – to effectively give social license to tar sands operations permanently. This would then eliminate Tides based on all previous deals in Canada and the United States, such a framework could only be announced as the “end to the war over tar sands” – to effectively give social license to tar sands operations permanently. This would then eliminate Tides based anti-tar sands funding for all organizations in the NATSC. Certain groups such as Greenpeace, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Rainforest Action Network as well as several community initiatives have official positions to end tar sands development. The Pembina Institute, CBI, Tides, David Suzuki Foundation, Sierra Club, and near the totality of ENGO’s who receive NATSC funding in the United States do not call for the cessation of tar sands development, but mitigation of the “worst” impacts.

The breathtaking pace and size of tar sands development in Canada has not gone unnoticed to other would-be producers; many countries around the planet have deposits of bitumen that would require much the same technology. Those investors have been visiting Canada, learning, and heading elsewhere where bitumen beckons. A partial list of locations that are now threatened with tar sands extraction includes Trinidad and Tobago, The Republic of Congo, Madagascar, the US state of Utah, China, Russia and Jordan. There is also the country that may have even larger deposits than Canada – the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

With the exception of Venezuela, whose production is still but a fraction of Canada’s, none of these countries have gone into commercial production at this point. It will be nearly impossible to stop tar sands developments in Africa, Latin America Asia and elsewhere if all of our collective work in opposition to the development of tar sands is sacrificed to a “partnership deal” that allows for continued tar sands extraction. Corporations like France’s Total in Madagascar could then argue: “If this development is clean and responsible enough for Canada, why not so for Madagascar?” Such a dynamic must be avoided at all costs on many levels, not least of which is the remaining sliver of hope that the worst effects of climate change can be avoided, rather than simply managed or mitigated.

Climate justice organizing is, in part, an attempt to go beyond the counting of C02 emissions and to get to the heart of solutions to the climate crisis – solutions that involve the end of oppression of the communities that bear the brunt of the climate crisis, and do so in ways that respects their self-determination. Addressing the needs of these communities as they speak for the solutions they want cannot be a part of a backroom, anti-democratic model of development pushed forward with money from the very industries trying to eliminate them from history. It will take a global effort to hear and then amplify the voices – from Africa to Asia, and north to south in the Americas. None of these voices can be heard if someone closes a door to hold secret meetings with the financial powers whose assets already scream so loudly – as we edge ever closer to a point of no return.

MacDonald Stainsby is a social justice activist and journalist currently living in Edmonton and is the coordinator of http://oilsandstruth.org.

http://ecosocialismcanada.blogspot.com/2011/08/tar-sands-partnership-agreement-in.html

http://canadiandimension.com/

ENGOs sign over right to criticize, companies continue to log caribou habitat

May 26, 2010

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement Reconsidered

ENGOs sign over right to criticize, companies continue to log caribou habitat

by Dawn Paley

Clearcutting in the boreal forest in Alberta. The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement allows an area the size of Prince Edward Island to be cut in the caribou range, while deferring logging to outside the caribou range an area the size of Toronto. Photo: Dru Oja Jay

VANCOUVER—Last week’s announcement of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) was celebrated by environmental groups as a historic deal that could save a significant amount of sensitive woodland caribou habitat.

An early criticism of the deal was that Indigenous governments and organizations were left out of the creation of the agreement. The public was also left in the dark while the CBFA was negotiated in secret between nine environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) and 21 forestry companies.

The 71-page agreement has yet to be released on the CBFA website. The Vancouver Media Co-op obtained a leaked copy shortly after the deal was announced.

Greenpeace and the other ENGOs involved in the agreement have chosen their words carefully. Greenpeace has called the deal an “unprecedented accord…covering more than 72 million hectares of public forests, an area twice the size of Germany.” The agreement includes what the proponents are calling a series of interim measures to protect caribou habitat while various levels of government take action to create protected areas for caribou.

Further investigation reveals that this agreement aims to silence all criticism of logging practices in the boreal forest in return for less than two years of diverting harvesting and road building from 72,205 hectares of woodland caribou habitat into other areas of the boreal forest.

View enlarged version. Map source: Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. Annotations and overlays by Petr Cizek and Dru Oja Jay.

The 21 logging companies involved in the deal are grouped together as the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC). Together, FPAC member firms hold tenures for over 72 million hectares of boreal forest, stretching north from the Northwest Territories down through northeastern British Columbia and continuing east all the way to Newfoundland. Included in these tenures are 29,336,953 hectares of caribou range lands, according to the report.

Between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2012, FPAC companies had scheduled to harvest and build roads on 756,666 hectares inside caribou range lands. That means according to existing industry plans, the vast majority of caribou range lands were not slated to be harvested by the spring of 2012, when the current agreement expires.

Far from protecting caribou lands in their entirety, the outcome of the CBFA reduces the FPAC affiliate cut in caribou range lands from 756,666 to 684,461 hectares until spring 2012. This means 72,205 hectares of harvesting and road building will be “deferred” to “areas outside of caribou range.” In other words, there is no change in the amount of harvesting, only in the locations where harvesting takes place.

While the agreement technically “covers” a forest twice the size of Germany, the amount of caribou range that will not be cut before 2012 as a result of the agreement is only slightly larger than the City of Toronto.

The deal still allows 684,461 hectares to be cut in caribou habitat. This, despite the fact that an expert committee of the Canadian Wildlife Service recently recommended that virtually all industrial activity within woodland caribou range be suspended. In agreeing to the CBFA, the nine ENGOs involved are actively supporting the logging of an area larger than the entire province of Prince Edward Island within caribou habitat between now and 2012.

According to section 14.F of the deal, “FPAC members will publicly state that between April 1 2009 and March 31, 2012 there will be no harvesting or road building in approximately 28,651,492 hectares of caribou range in their tenures (or over 97.6 per cent of the caribou habitat in managed forest).”

By reducing the overall number of hectares of caribou range they refer to, logging companies and ENGOs can claim a near total halt on logging in caribou range lands, even though they’ll still log 684,461 hectares, almost 10 times the area they’re claiming to have saved.

Finally, the “three year” deal actually started more than a year ago, on April 1, 2009: industry promises for harvesting deferrals expire April 1, 2012.

But the numbers game is far from the only Orwellian aspect of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.

Until April 1, 2012, nine ENGOs have signed on to work together with FPAC companies in “developing and advocating for policies and investments that improve the competitiveness of the Canadian forest sector, create a climate of greater investment certainty, while at the same time have a neutral to positive impact on the sector’s ecological performance.”

In addition, these ENGOs have agreed to express a “continuum” of support for FPAC members, ranging from “recognizing that [sic] the leadership represented by the commitment of FPAC Members to develop and implement the CBFA” to “demonstrating support for products from the boreal operations of FPAC members.”

To ensure that the days of Greenpeace dropping banners from Abitibi-Bowater’s HQ are long forgotten, the agreement stipulates that ENGOs will take back whatever bad things they may have said about FPAC member companies in the past.

This mandatory change in tone by environmental groups takes a couple of forms.

According to Section 6.3.D.ii, “Where an FPAC Member demonstrates an impediment to selling forest products to a specific customer from the boreal as a result of past or current advocacy work or communications, ENGOs will communicate with that customer to confirm they are receiving all joint communications related to progress in implementing the CFBA and that this should be taken into consideration in making procurement decisions.”

The agreement also stipulates that ENGOs will “review and update” their websites to “remove or update any information superseded by the CFBA.” For example, should Canfor find a photo or story about their activities in the boreal forest on the Forest Ethics website objectionable, “immediate steps will be taken to revise that material.”

The agreement also means that if an environmental group which is not a signatory of the deal should happen to tell someone from, say, the David Suzuki Foundation about plans to denounce one of the companies involved in the CBFA, the person from the Suzuki Foundation must warn FPAC member companies immediately.

ENGOs and FPAC will then jointly plan how to respond, which includes actively working together to “have such a third party appropriately modify its position and/or public statements.” This legalese means that the ENGOs and FPAC might jointly threaten to sue or sue the third party. In the past, industry has undertaken such SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) suits, but it is precedent-setting that ENGOs have now become willing participants in striking down criticism of forest practices across Canada.

In return for swapping 72,205 hectares of harvesting out of the boreal forest and maintaining “voluntary deferrals” for another two years, the CBFA transforms the nine ENGOs involved into a promotional service, protection racket and intelligence gathering service for twenty one companies that are actively logging woodland caribou habitat within the boreal forest.

Dawn Paley is a Vancouver-based journalist and a member of the Vancouver Media Co-op.

Claims vs. Actual Protection: Land mass comparisons:

Click to enlarge:

Click to enlarge

Signatories to the CBFA:

Environmental Non-governmental Organizations:

Canadian Boreal Initiative
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
Canopy
David Suzuki Foundation
ForestEthics
Greenpeace
The Nature Conservancy
Pew Environment Group
International Boreal Conservation Campaign
Ivey Foundation

Logging companies (grouped together as the Forest Products Association of Canada):

AbitibiBowater Inc.
Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc.
AV Group
Canfor Corporation
Canfor Pulp Limited Partnership
Cariboo Pulp & Paper Company
Cascades inc.
Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd.
F.F. Soucy Inc.
Howe Sound Pulp and Paper Limited Partnership
Kruger Inc.
Louisiana-Pacific Canada Ltd.
Mercer International
Mill & Timber Products Ltd.
NewPage Corporation
Papier Masson Ltée
SFK Pâte
Tembec
Tolko Industries Ltd.
West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd.
Weyerhaeuser Company Limited

http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/3450

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