Tagged ‘Indigenous Rights‘

REDD ‘Opportunities’ | AMAN

“We want to change this threat to an opportunity”: Interview with Abdon Nababan and Mina Setra

By Chris Lang, 4th July 2010

Interview with Abdon Nababan, secretary general of the Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN – The Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago), and Mina Setra the head of international policy at AMAN. The interview took place in AMAN’s office in Jakarta on 9 June 2010.

REDD-Monitor: Please describe AMAN’s work and explain your position on REDD in general.

Abdon Nababan: AMAN was established in March 1999, in the first congress of Indonesian indigenous peoples. Our main mandate is to recover indigenous rights in all sectors of development, in our law, in our national policy. So if we talk about REDD, we talk about it in a way to reach that mandate: to recover indigenous rights on land, on territories, natural resources, on culture, on political sovereignty and so on. Because we have that objective or goal, nothing else. So we see REDD as either an opportunity or a threat to our goal. In AMAN we see REDD as an opportunity if the result is that before we talk about REDD we have first secured indigenous rights. That’s the meaning of “No Rights, No REDD”.

If we talk about REDD, we don’t talk about the carbon market. We talk about the traditional way that indigenous people protect their forest from deforestation and from forest degradation. They have that way, they have that knowledge. They have that customary right to do that. They don’t have the power to reject threats like forest concessions or mining concessions, that’s why they want the national law, the state law. That’s all they don’t have. In that sense, we believe that REDD is already there. REDD is not a new animal in their territories, because they already have a system to protect the forest.

But REDD as a market scheme, of course that is new. They don’t have any imagination of how carbon can be traded. So we need to clarify this, because this is very important for us. If we talk about REDD, we need to clarify which REDD are we talking about?

REDD-Monitor: Before this Norway-Indonesia deal appeared, what was AMAN’s work on REDD in Indonesia? What kind of work had you been doing on REDD?

Abdon Nababan: We advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples to their customary forest, such as within the national forestry law. That we consider as our work, to advocate the space for indigenous peoples to manage their own resources, their own territories, with their own knowledge, with their own strategies.

So we have been doing that since we were established. We have helped the people to map their community land. We empowered them with critical legal analysis, education and so on. That’s our main mission.

Mina Setra: We had training of trainers for community mapping, how to use GIS so that they can map their territories. We produced material, information about REDD. What is REDD? What is the threat? And we gave that to our community members. We organised training of trainers on carbon trade and REDD, with the communities to strengthen their capacity and knowledge on the issue so they can prepare themselves to deal with it when it comes to their territories

Abdon Nababan: The question is how to prepare our members, the communities, to respond this issue. Because the issue from REDD, for now, is a threat. We want to change this threat to an opportunity. But we need well-trained activists to do that, to change this threat to an opportunity. That’s what we are doing right now.

Mina Setra: One other thing. We just established an Ancestral Domain Registration Agency on 11 March this year. We want to establish a place for indigenous peoples to register their territories. Because for several years, many indigenous territories have been mapped, we have more than two million hectares of indigenous territories that have already been mapped.

Abdon Nababan: It is not recognised, but we want to put the data in the government office.

Mina Setra: The indigenous communities have started to register their territories in this Agency, we also have a website that you can look at (

REDD-Monitor: Coming on to the Norway-Indonesia billion dollar forest deal, how is AMAN involved in the negotiations? Could you say something about the meeting that you had at the President’s Office.

Abdon Nababan: Actually we are not involved in the negotiations. Of course, as an advocacy group, we try to intervene on both sides. We are not talking in the negotiations, because it’s not our negotiations. It’s the Norwegian government and the Indonesian government negotiating. Of course, Norway asked about our position, but I think we have our global position on REDD. We don’t need to respond to that, because the “No Rights, No REDD” position, is already there. I think, they already put that in their policy even. So we don’t need to do more, except to watch how Norway deals with that.

With the Government of Indonesia, of course, that’s a different intervention. Agus Purnomo, the President’s special staff on climate change, explained the negotiations and said that one of the issues about these negotiations is indigenous peoples rights. I said, it’s not, why? Because the Indonesian government has already done quite a lot about that. That will be the better position for the President to talk about it to Norway. I talked about what the Indonesian government has already produced or released. The Environmental law recognises and protects, respects indigenous peoples rights. The Indonesian government also produced the Coastal Zone and Small Islands Management in 2007, that also recognises, protects and respects indigenous peoples’ rights. So what’s the problem, I asked? We don’t have the definition [of indigenous people], Agus Purnomo said. I explained that the definition is in this law. And that definition is based on AMAN’s work. The government adopted AMAN’s congress decision about that. And the definition is very close to the ILO convention 169. So what is the problem? The problem is the national forestry law. But you can change that, I said. You talk with the President. Come on.

If can we recognise, protect and respect indigenous peoples’ rights in coastal zones and small islands management and environmental protection and management, why isn’t it the same in national forestry law? Because, of course, we understand that in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIPs), there is no definition, but there is a bundle of rights. We can use that. Then I reminded them the comment of the Indonesian delegation when UNDRIPs was adopted. They said that we will have a terrible time in Indonesia to implement this declaration because we don’t have a national definition for indigenous people. But we already have the definition in the environmental law, so that is not the problem with implementing UNDRIPs.

But how do we define indigenous people? It’s easy. It’s a self identification. They map the territories, they show that they exist. At least for AMAN members, we have that information. And they already practise the traditional knowledge to protect their forests.

Agus Purnomo asked us to put all this in a letter to the President. Can you put our discussion in your letter? Of course, why not? No problem. Just to encourage the government – they did it already.

The government has accepted the issue of indigenous peoples, but not in the forestry sector. But the government is one. And the head of the government is the President, not the Ministry of Forestry, right? So AMAN has shown the way. In fact they are already there. If they can only use that in the negotiations.

What we need is commitment from the President to do two things: first to revise the national forestry laws, to be in compliance with international standards and so on; second to have a special national law on indigenous peoples’ rights, recognition and protection. It’s already there! There’s already the commitment in our law. So what’s the problem?

So, I said to Agus Purnomo, why don’t you say to Norway that we will continue our commitment, we will start the drafting of a law on indigenous people in 2011, for example? That’s exactly what’s in my letter to the President.

REDD-Monitor: I assume you’ve seen the article in Development Today, which says that Norway was trying to push Indonesia to include indigenous rights in the Letter of Intent and what the Indonesian government said was this is nothing to do with Norway, we are already in a process of discussion with local groups.

Abdon Nababan: The first thing I want to say is that our letter to the President is a letter from a civil society organisation of Indonesia to our President. This letter was not copied to Norway. I said to Hege [Karsti Ragnhildstveit, Counsellor for
Forest and Climate, Royal Norwegian Embassy, Jakarta], I just sent the letter to my President, from AMAN. She asked to see it. Of course! Because that’s the idea. Because these are the suggestions to my President about what he can do to recognise indigenous peoples through this negotiation.

REDD-Monitor: My understanding of the letter was that most of the first two pages were explaining the situation legally about indigenous peoples’ rights in Indonesia. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were saying, these are the laws we have recognising indigenous peoples’ rights, so these are the laws you’ve got to follow. So why didn’t the Norwegian negotiators point out to the Indonesian government, you’ve already got these laws, let’s put in the Letter of Intent that you are going to uphold indigenous rights because you’ve got to. It’s already in Indonesian law.

Abdon Nababan: That’s right. It doesn’t make sense for Norway not to talk about this indigenous issue because AMAN has talked about that. Because the letter is all about the rights of indigenous peoples, it’s not about REDD.

Mina Setra: The article in Development Today says that AMAN’s letter might have contributed to the weakness of the Letter of Intent, but for us, Norway should have their own standards of what they demand on rights. We do our things here. But they have to have their own standards to put to the Indonesian government.

Abdon Nababan: It’s our job to advocate, it’s not Norway’s. We have already the commitment.

So what are the contents of the meeting? The meeting was with Agus Purnomo, the the President’s special staff on climate change, and he wanted us to write that directly to the President. That’s all. And the President said we have already met with AMAN. Of course, his staff did already meet with AMAN, officially.

So we wrote our letter in the context of advocacy not in the context of negotiations. There are no negotiations between AMAN and the President of Indonesia related to this.

Mina Setra: Or to Norway. Nothing to do with it. We are a bit surprised that actually we feel that AMAN is being blamed for the weakness of the agreement.

We had nothing to do with Norway-Indonesia negotiations. Norway has to deal with its own standards, to push for rights in the Letter of Intent. They have to take our letter as a support for them to push that.

Abdon Nababan: AMAN also wants a national law to make sure this is happening in Indonesia.

Mina Setra: Development Today didn’t ask me about our letter to the president when they interviewed me.

REDD-Monitor: What’s your opinion about the billion dollar forest deal, what do you think of the Letter of Intent?

Abdon Nababan: Firstly it’s not so surprising for Indonesia. For Indonesia it’s not a big money. Really.

REDD-Monitor: You mean in terms of the Indonesian economy?

Abdon Nababan: Yes, in terms of the Indonesian economy. For them it’s nothing. In terms of natural resources.

I said wow. Suddenly with one billion US dollars, the President of this huge country, Indonesia, signed. That I would appreciate, actually.

Because if you talk about real business, it’s nothing. We’ve had conversion of forest to oil palm plantations. But of course Indonesia is a huge country, with 17,000 islands and 20-30 per cent of the population is indigenous people. And if indigenous peoples’ rights recognised and protected, that’s maybe 60 to 70 per cent of Indonesian land. So for us, this indigenous rights struggle is not about 100,000 people. It’s about millions of people. It’s about maybe 60 to 70 per cent of our national asset.

Of course, for Norway it’s not a lot of money, actually. This is small step, but still it’s important for Indonesia. Not for Norway. This money compared to Indonesia’s natural resources that we have right now.

REDD-Monitor: But there’s no mention of indigenous peoples’ rights in the Letter of Intent.

Abdon Nababan: That’s true. That’s why I say this was very weak of Norway. I say that Norway lost the negotiations on that. What we get from this Letter of Intent though is participation, which is very important. And second, they talk about conflict resolution. A lot of the conflict is based right now on natural resource management, in the context of indigenous rights. That, is quite a big thing for us. We have to change this to be the opportunity. Because we already have our own agenda. We have to advocate for agenda, yes? Because we still talk about the basic rights. It’s very basic. That’s my point.

Mina Setra: It’s true that there have been concerns that there is no mention of indigenous rights. Only in one section it mentions the indigenous people and local communities, as part of the governance system in the implementation of the Letter of Intent.

REDD-Monitor: Have you seen a version of the Letter of Intent in Bahasa Indonesia?

Abdon Nababan: No.

Mina Setra: Not yet, no Bahasa version.

REDD-Monitor: Isn’t that a bit strange? This is an international agreement, for a billion dollars (you say it’s not that much money, but it’s the biggest deal of its kind anywhere, ever), yet the agreement is not available in the local language.

Abdon Nababan: Of course, I know my government. They ratify so many things in international settings. If we ask for an official version in bahasa Indonesian, they’ll just shrug their shoulders and say “Oh, what?”

REDD-Monitor: But it’s quite important to have an official translation, because it’s quite easy to mis-translate.

Mina Setra: Maybe we should ask.

Abdon Nababan: For example, we did not have an official translation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. So, we translated it and sent that to the government office and they used our translation.

REDD-Monitor: Could you say something more about the proposed Law on the Recognition and the Protection of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is planned to be written and passed in 2011?

Abdon Nababan: Last year we had a series of meetings with the Regional Representative Council and also with the legislative body in the national parliament. Through this process, it will be one of the national legislative priorities for the period 2010 to 2014. So when we negotiate with the parliament, they asked whether AMAN already has a draft? Well, we haven’t got a draft yet, because we are now in the process of consultation with our members. If AMAN can prepare the draft in 2010, we will then have discussions with the parliament to ask the government to start the process in 2011. So that’s the current status. Now we are working on academic papers and also on the draft. So hopefully at the end of this year we can come to the national parliament for the discussions in the parliament with the government.

REDD-Monitor: If the Norway agreement is signed this year in October, and the indigenous law is signed next year, will the indigenous law also cover the Norway deal.

Abdon Nababan: Of course. That’s one of our purposes. That’s why we gave a copy of our letter to the President to Hege Ragnhildstveit at the Norwegian Embassy. The reason we endorse the deal is because it’s a small window of opportunity and good intentions.

REDD-Monitor: Let’s talk about the two-year moratorium. I have three concerns about this. One is that it doesn’t look like it’s going to affect existing concessions. The second is that it seems now that it may be going to start in January 2011, under the Letter of Intent it’s not clear at all when it’s going to start. And third, there’s an interview this week in the Jakarta Post with Zulkifli Hasan, the Minister of Forests, and he said, more or less, that there already is a moratorium, because he’s not issued any new land concessions that involve converting forests since he became the minister. He said that it is in effect a moratorium. The Letter of Intent is actually saying we’re going to continue for two years what is already happening.

So what’s your view on the moratorium?

Abdon Nababan: For us, now is the time to use this window. That’s going to be the main question for me. Who will be the main players in this one billion US dollar window. We will use that window whether it will be there for five years or ten years. How can we use this billion dollar window to make sure that there is a national law for indigenous people one or two years from now? That’s our main concern here. We know exactly, the one billion dollar window will not address the real problems. So the question is, who will get to that window?

Mina Setra: The Ministry of Forestry may have said that the Ministry of Forestry will not issue any new concessions for forest conversion. But the Ministry of Agriculture is issuing programmes, for example, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) project in Papua which covers 1.6 million hectares of land and forest. So if they say we will not issue any concessions, what about the other ministries? That’s the big problem in Indonesia because there’s no interrelation between the ministries. There’s a lack of communication and coordination.

Abdon Nababan: That’s also one of the reasons why we work with the Ministry of the Environment. Because if we wait for the Ministry of Forestry, nothing will ever happen.

Our strategy is to strengthen the weakest in the government. That’s why we have our MoU with the Ministry of the Environment [on the Identification of Indigenous
Peoples’ Rights and their Traditional Knowledge] and also with the National Commission on Human Rights [on Mainstreaming Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in
Indonesia]. Because that helps to empower them. AMAN takes the leadership to put ourselves there. REDD is becoming a reason to hate AMAN. We are the main enemy in the whole discussion. But it’s not REDD. We talk about human rights, we talk about the traditional knowledge. We aim to get recognition, protection, respect of indigenous peoples’ rights.

Mina Setra: That’s also the reason for the statement AMAN made at the Oslo Climate Change Conference. We wanted to appreciate the government for its progress on indigenous peoples’ rights issues. We have to admit that there is some progress. Why did we do that? Because we want to encourage them to keep doing the right thing.

Abdon Nababan: Yes, we appreciate the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Environment, National Commission on Human Rights, but not the Ministry of Forestry. We know that the Ministry of Forestry is the source of the problem. How can you solve the problem with the cause of the problem? Yet at the same time, basically we are talking about forests.

I think I need to say that at present in Indonesia, all over the country, the best forest that we have is mostly in indigenous territories, where the community strong enough to protect the forest. Without recognition and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights there will be no REDD in Indonesia. The real REDD.

We have documented that indigenous people are protecting 500,000 hectares of natural forests. This forest is ready to do REDD. Because the indigenous people have already protected that. They just have to put MRV [measuring, reporting and
verification] in place.

And the indigenous people are not doing REDD because of money. That’s a very important thing. They are doing it for their rights, for the sustainability of the community. Our members say let’s give the money to the government. If the communities report a logging company or an oil palm plantation the government can use the money to remove them. The money is for that. What indigenous peoples need is to have territorial rights. This is not about money for us.

Mina Setra: Why we have to say that, because there are some misunderstandings about our letter. In the letter to the President we have an attachment where we put one million hectares area of forest of indigenous peoples. We also put the name of the community where the forest is protected. Some people thought that we are trying to negotiate a REDD concession with the president. I want to say that that’s not true.

Abdon Nababan: What the attachment to the letter shows is that we are doing our homework. The president has to support what we have already done by reading this attachment.

We were trying to send a simple message to the President but we have realised it’s not a simple message to our side.

REDD-Monitor: There’s a rumour going around that AMAN is getting millions of dollars funding because you’ve signed on to REDD. Could comment on that, please?

Abdon Nababan: That’s not true. That’s really not true. We got money for advocacy and also to prepare our members to do that and the money comes from Norad [the Norwegian
Agency for Development Cooperation]. It’s about US$200,000. And it is not directly to us, the money goes via our own partners. That’s all the money we’ve had.

REDD-Monitor: One last question. What is AMAN’s position on carbon trading? You’ve mentioned it in passing, but what is your position on it?

Abdon Nababan: Actually, we don’t have a position on that. We don’t have an accepted position on that because we don’t know exactly how it works. Of course, we have encountered many resource people on the subject of carbon trading but we are not quite clear what exactly carbon trading is, actually in reality. So it’s difficult to say yes or no.

That’s why I said let’s use REDD to secure the rights of indigenous peoples to manage their resources – that’s our priority right now. There’s no real way that we can feel what the carbon market is. We have to focus our energy, because our energy here is limited here in AMAN. We are a very small office. We have to deal with many things. That’s one of our constraints.

Mina Setra: In our discussions we find that actually in carbon trading the commodity is being created. The market is still being established. We do not yet have the market. And the policy is still being negotiated. So actually, this thing does not yet exist, although people talk about it. What is the carbon market?

REDD-Monitor: But there is already a futures market in carbon. We’ve seen this in Papua New Guinea, where the government has no laws regulating the carbon trade, but the carbon trade started based on trading carbon derivatives. All it takes is someone willing to risk that carbon credits will be exist and be worth a lot of money in, say, 12 months’ time. Companies can start trading carbon derivatives – based on a gamble that carbon credits will be worth more than the paper they are written on. That’s perfectly legal, and happens all the time in commodities markets.

Abdon Nababan: But that’s what I said. How can AMAN, say to our members, community members, that we oppose this carbon market? Or that we agree? We cannot explain this exactly. We can talk about it to a journalist, but to our movement?

We have positions on REDD because we can explain this. Why? We can explain how our position relates to our struggle for our livelihoods. We can explain it well. But for carbon markets, there’s nothing. To understand exactly how it works, we can read books and reports and there’s good information, but can we say this to the communities who have the rights? They are the rights holders of the carbon if you link the carbon to the forest and REDD. And you’ve got to answer them. The rights holders. Not the journalists. That’s our challenge.

To put this in the context of Indonesia we already have some misleading information about the carbon market right now. Not misleading the people but with the head of the regency, head of district, the governors. The only way is to educate people to distribute this information that we already understand, exactly what the carbon market means, to the communities. We cannot go to positions on the carbon market because we don’t know how to communicate about that.

REDD-Monitor: Is there anything else that you want to say on the subject of REDD and Indonesia or indigenous rights in Indonesia?

Abdon Nababan: I think what happens right now is quite dangerous for Indonesia, for the peoples of Indonesia, because the negotiations are actually taking place at the national level. Really, the negotiations are at the international level, not even the national position. It’s only the positions of one of two negotiators. That, I think, is very dangerous.

That’s why in Indonesia right now we are fighting each other. Indigenous activists and environmentalists are fighting. Actually most of their energy right now just to say different things. That’s crazy. It’s dangerous.

Mina Setra: We were discussing this actually. That REDD will really change the situation. We just want to use the opportunity to do the best. If we can sense a little maybe that’s better, but with the government’s behaviour right now, it’s going to be very difficult. Because with other things it’s not changed. For example, mining concessions keep going even the mining concessions in protected forests.

Abdon Nababan: For me, I think of REDD as a strategy. We know that the President cannot change their own ministries, because ministry just has its own space in the state. But now we offer to the President that he can use indigenous peoples rights to change that. So we said why don’t you protect the people who protect the forests and use that to change? If you look at the Indonesian bureaucracy, they have their own space so to take that to have to work through indigenous peoples all the time. Internationally they know that, but they don’t quite fight for that, like Norway, for example. Indigenous rights are very critical to this REDD scheme.

Tags: Financing REDD, Indigenous Peoples, REDD and rights | Category: Indonesia, Norway |

2 comments to “We want to change this threat to an opportunity”: Interview with Abdon Nababan and Mina Setra

  • Clive Richardson

July 5th, 2010 at 6:21 pm

This discussion goes to the heart of issues that swirl around unresolved. There has to be direct solutions in terms of Indigenous peoples rights and solutions in terms of enterpise modeling that reflects these rights from grass roots to the International forums. Without this focus to deliver solutions the UNFCCC REDD and REDD + policies are conflict consolidation not resolution guidelines.

  • Rupert De Santos

July 5th, 2010 at 9:44 pm

very meaningful interview. It is amazing to realize that Abdon Nababan, Mina Setra, Agus Purnomo, and Hege Karsti Ragnhildstveit, have a completely different approach for REDD. Is obvious AMAN’s goal: No indigenous rights duly protected by domestic law, no support for REDD. Of course, the javanese strategy is never to play a straight forward role opposing to REDD. Is clear the opportunity for them is to trade some level of REDD voluntary offset in exchange of land rights recognition and funding. Mrs. Hege of Norway plays the Good Neighbor role, promising 1 billion to the Indonesian Government subject to unclear targets, commitments and obligations. The LoI text is very vague. What a lack of diplomatic touch of Mrs. Hege to do not have offered before a bilingual draft of the LoI to the Government as well as to Indonesian civil society, before the recent signature in Oslo.
In sum, is clear that Indonesia will not see any portion of the 1 billion offer, unless stakeholders really a common vision of the purpose of REDD as international mechanism to reduce GHG emissions.

First Nations excluded from world’s largest conservation agreement

First Nations excluded from world’s largest conservation agreement

Julius Melnitzer July 8, 2010

Twenty-one forestry companies and nine environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, have signed what purports to be the world’s largest conservation agreement. But Rosanne Van Schie, an economic development officer with Wolf Lake First Nation, says that The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, demarking logging and conservation activities, was developed without First Nations input and without regard to the rights and social realities of First Nations. This despite the fact that the territorial scope of the agreement covers land over which First Nations have negotiated historic and modern day treaties or have claims extant. The Canadian Boreal Initiative recognizes that more than 600 First Nations communities maintain traditional roots in the Boreal.

Read more:

GREENWASH | A special look at the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

A special look at the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

by Vancouver Media Co-op

The June 16-30 issue takes a hard look at the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement and features wise words from environmental groups fighting corporate greenwashing.

Download the PDF of the 14th issue here

We need help with distribution! If you are able to distro multiple copies, please hit us up!! Or, get in touch to submit an event, ad, or a story idea for the next issue.

You can reach us at vmc at mediacoop dot ca or 604 630 6864.

ENGOs Do Not Speak for Carrier Sekani Tribal Council | Nature Conservancy of Canada

NEWS RELEASE posted on May 21, 2010 by dawn

by Carrier Sekani Tribal Council

Dakelh Traditional Territory/Prince George, BC – The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council is calling on all environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) to improve their policies on working with First Nations communities, particularly CSTC communities that have unresolved land and resource claims in British Columbia, Canada. At a minimum these ENGOs should be adhering to, supporting and promoting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which sets an international minimum standards on how First Nations and indigenous people should be treated. This includes the free, prior and informed consent of our people to decide what happens in our territories.

Vice Tribal Chief Terry Teegee said, “Recently we’ve learned that the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) accepted $2.5 million dollars from Enbridge to plant trees the company removes from its projects. This happened in spite of objections from First Nations to the Enbridge Gateway pipeline project. It is very concerning.” Enbridge is currently proposing to build a twin pipeline through CSTC territory. Both inland and coastal First Nation have united to oppose the Enbridge Gateway pipeline project because the risks of oil spills are not worth a couple of jobs and some money.

“The oil that would flow through the pipeline is the dirtiest oil there is. It comes from the Alberta Tar Sands and is Canada’s largest contributor to greenhouse gases,” noted Teegee. He added, “It’s ironic NCC would work tirelessly to conserve pristine places such as the Great Bear Rainforest and most recently in the Boreal Forest, and then take funds from a company that would put it at risk of destruction if a tanker ran aground or pipeline breached. This makes no sense whatsoever.”

Yet there is little humour in this irony. Projects like the Enbridge Gateway pipeline will contribute to the cultural genocide of Carrier Sekani people by further destroying our forests and threatening our fish we’ve survived on for thousands of years. “The cumulative impacts from the mountain pine beetle infestation has forced our people to a tipping point,” commented Tribal Chief David Luggi. “ENGOs should be working with our people since we are not going anywhere, we are in the best position to monitor and contribute to the healing of our planet,” said Tribal Chief Luggi.

CSTC is calling on ENGOs to work on developing relevant polices with First Nations. “They need to operate with social conscience and credibility. FirstVoices did not accept dirty Enbridge money.” Stated Vice Chief Teegee. “We can all work more effectively together, than we can apart. We’re open to forming partnerships and alliances, but not when ENGOs compromise our values and integrity of the protection of our peoples and cultures”, proclaimed Teegee.


For more information, contact Vice Tribal Chief Terry Teegee, tteegee, 250-640-3256.

Click here to download the PDF of this press release. Click here to read the Vancouver Media Co-op’s coverage of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.

Also posted by dawn:

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ENGOs Do Not Speak for Carrier Sekani Tribal Council

On visits from Canada’s spy agency…

Ed Durgan on Anti-Olympics Arrests

Triumphant Victoria Finale for Salmon Migration

Leaked Copy of the Boreal Forest Agreement

Olympics Over, Resistance Continues…

Boreal Forest Conflicts Far From Over

RBC branch in Ottawa Firebombed

Saving Bute Inlet from General Electric

Housing Activists Reclaim Olympic Village

WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60 billion From Fear

WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60 billion From Fear


–>Amaazon+tumucumaque WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon:  Making $60 billion From FearAppearing in the Booker column (and on Watts up with that?) is an account of how the “conservation” group WWF hopes to turn Amazonian trees into billions of dollars, all in the name of saving the planet. The background briefing on which Booker relied is posted below, detailing how the rainforests are to become a monstrous cash-making machine, writes Richard North:

The Amazon – a “green gold-rush”

The WWF and other green campaign groups talking up the destruction of the Amazon rainforests are among those who stand to make billions of dollars from the scare. This “green gold-rush” involves taking control of huge tracts of rainforest supposedly to stop them being chopped down, and selling carbon credits gained from carbon dioxide emissions they claim will be “saved”.

Backed by a $30 million grant from the World Bank, the WWF has already partnered in a pilot scheme to manage 20 million acres in Brazil. If their plans get the go-ahead in Mexico at the end of the year, the forests will be worth over $60 billion in “carbon credits”, paid for by consumers in “rich” countries through their electricity bills and in increased prices for goods and services.
The prospect of a billion-dollar windfall explains the sharp reaction to the “Amazongate” scandal, in which the IPCC falsely claimed that up to 40 percent of the rainforest could be at risk from even a slight drop in rainfall.

Here, the IPCC was caught out again making unsubstantiated claims based on a WWF report. But unlike the “Glaciergate” affair where its claim that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 was conceded to be an “error”, the IPCC stood firm on its Amazon claim, stating that the assertion was “correct”. What makes the difference is that there is no serious money locked into melting glaciers. Amazonian trees, however, are potentially worth billions.

In standing its ground, the IPCC was strongly supported by the WWF, and by Daniel Nepstad, a senior scientist from the US Woods Hole Research Centre. Relying on an assiduously fostered reputation as a leading expert on the effects of climate change in the Amazon rainforests, Nepstad – who works closely with the WWF – posted on the Centre’s website a personal statement endorsing “the correctness of the IPCC’s statement”. Bizarrely, his own research failed in any way to substantiate the claim.

The carbon trading agenda

Behind this very public defence lies a network of financial interests, not least on the board of the Woods Hole Research Centre, which counts several former and current equity fund managers responsible for billions of dollars-worth of private investments. The board is chaired by Lawrence Huntington – formerly of Fiduciary Trust International. Members include Joseph Robinson of MidMark Capital and Joshua Goldberg of Altamont Capital Partners, massively wealthy investment funds.

And at the centre of the advocacy for the development of “financial instruments” which it is hoped will generate billions in income is Nepstad himself (pictured below).

Nepstad+01 WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From FearIn 2007, Nepstad, who is the highest-paid Woods Hole staff member (although not the most senior) with a salary package of over $175,000, published a paper asserting that if the droughts of the last decade continued into the future, approximately 55 percent of the forests of the Amazon would be “cleared, logged, damaged by drought or burned over the next 20 years.” Emerging carbon market incentives, he claimed, could help prevent deforestation.

The Woods Hole interest had earlier been declared in March 2006 when Richard Houghton, a senior scientist and deputy director of the centre sent a memorandum to the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) on developing a scheme called “Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries” (REDD). “Carbon credits represent the largest potential flow of revenue in support of sustainable development in tropical forest regions,” he then stated.

REDD had, in fact, been a long time coming. The basis of a system had been set up by the 1997 Kyoto climate treaty, known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), administered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Through this, third world countries which reduced CO2 emissions could turn their savings into “carbon credits” which could be sold to industries in developed countries.

Crucially, the CDM only applied to energy production and some industrial processes, and did not extend to forests. After intensive lobbying, though – and despite considerable European scepticism – in 2001, the parties to the Kyoto Protocol officially approved the use of plantations for generating carbon credits.

The EU, however, decided not to allow these credits to be swapped in its emissions trading system, drastically reducing their potential value. The concept was further weakened by the considerable difficulty in proving how much carbon biomass projects actually saved over their brief and uncertain lifetimes. Estimates varied ten-fold, which damaged the credibility of the emerging voluntary market in carbon “offsets”, which were being used to test the concept of forest-generated carbon credits.

world bank WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From FearNevertheless, many industrial plantation companies were still hoping for the scheme to be fully developed so that they could sell carbon credits to top up their finances. And in that aspiration they had powerful champions, the World Bank in Washington (pictured), Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and, especially, WWF.

Their mechanism to bring forests fully into the CDM was REDD, which first appeared as an agenda item in December 2005, at the 11th session of the Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 11) in Montréal. Two years later, at COP 13 in Bali, it had become “the big new idea to save the planet from runaway climate change.”

The scheme was to comprise two parts. First, there is a set-up fund to create “reserves” or “protected areas” (PAs), where deforestation would be prevented (This fund has already been set up and is currently worth $4.5 billion, made up from donations from Norway, France and four other countries). Secondly, the CDM kicks in. Each ton of carbon dioxide “saved” in the protected areas becomes a carbon credit, sold to industrialists in the developed world to allow them to continue emitting CO2. By this means, the funds come rolling in.

Thus, REDD had become a vehicle for building a billion-dollar global fund to take control of hundreds of millions of acres of rainforest throughout the world, a giant cash machine.

Amazon Region Protected Areas Project (ARPA)

Amazon+expeditumu WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon:  Making $60 billion From FearLong before REDD had become a formal proposal, WWF had been heavily engaged in Brazil, campaigning to save the rainforests. But a major turning point was reached when, in 1998, Brazilian President Cardoso endorsed a WWF “Forests for Life” programme goal of protecting at least 10 percent of all of the country’s forest types as a national priority.

However, at the same time, the country was in an economic crisis and the government was scaling back environmental funding, even refusing foreign donations of $25 million pledged to support environmental measures. This gave WWF the opportunity for its coup, a chance to set up what was to become a pilot scheme for REDD. With the World Bank, Brazilian government agencies and environmental specialists, it set up a task force to develop its plan.

At that time, there was a loose-knit under-funded network of national parks, poorly administered by federal and state governments. Driven by WWF, the idea was to establish a massive extension to the system, not under the direct control of the Brazilian authorities but of the NGOs themselves. This “take over” was to become the Amazon Region Protected Areas Project (ARPA).

To finance its plan, the WWF then obtained $18 million seed funding from the San Francisco-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. This was topped up with $15 million from the German government, paid through the state-owned KfW Entwicklungsbank. Then its Brazilian partner, FUNBIO (The Brazilian Biodiversity Fund) – an NGO which had been started in 1996 with a $20 million grant from the Global Environment Facility – contributed $18 million, donated by the Brazilian government.

Fronting FUNBIO, the WWF then orchestrated a formal application for a grant from its partner, the World Bank. Predictably, in 2002, the Bank donated $30 million from public funds. It also arranged for its small grants division, the GEF to donate $500,000 to a trust fund to help maintain the areas.

Amazon tumucumaque 1 23655 WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The  Amazon: Making $60 billion From FearThe funding was sufficient to set up 20 million acres of new protected areas (10 million of “strict protection” PAs and 10 million of sustainable use). ARPA had become a reality. Announced in August 2002, it included what was to become the world’s largest reserve, the Tumucumaque Mountains National Park – consisting of 9,500,000 acres of pristine rainforest.

Situated in the extreme north of the country, bordering French Guiana (see map, right: area in green), this vast park had no roads leading in or out, almost no accessibility by air, rivers that have yet to be navigated and virtually no human inhabitants. Access is by river or helicopter. And so difficult is the terrain that a WWF expedition to the northern boundary took three weeks. At least four people returned with medical problems: two with infected feet and two with malaria.

The very remoteness of this region underlines a central point. There was virtually no risk of deforestation or commercial exploitation. Although there had been some mining in the area, even the WWF was forced to concede that the damage was “smaller than predicted.”

Then, as the WWF itself admits, the bulk of the deforestation is taking place in south and southeast, with some coastal areas and a band in the centre along the main river, where water transport is possible. As to the Tumucumaque park, the WWF assessed the risk of deforestation as “nil”- in common with most of the other ARPA strict protection areas (see maps below – click to enlarge).

Amazon+deforestation+threat WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The  Amazon: Making $60 billion From Fear

Amazon+deforest WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon:  Making $60 billion From Fear
The Plan develops

Nevertheless, by the end of 2006, WWF had the bulk of its areas established, which cleared the way for the next stage of its plan. In April 2007, it and the World Bank formalised their already very close association with the launch of a Global Forest Alliance.

By combining forces and “working with partners in government, civil society, and the business sector,” said the WWF, “Alliance partners leverage support and results to reverse the process of forest loss and degradation.” The World Bank, for its part, was to provide a $250 million start-up fund which it called the “avoided deforestation” project.

Apart from the Amazon, a prime target was one million hectares of classified “conservation forest” in West Papua, New Guinea, where tribes were complaining of evictions from their traditional lands. The WWF was already negotiating with the Indonesian government to set up a management scheme.

Woodwell WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From FearMeanwhile, Woods Hole Research Centre had been at work. Representing itself to the world as a scientific institute, it is in fact an advocacy group from the same wellspring as WWF. Its founder, George M Woodwell (pictured), is a former chairman of the board of trustees and currently a member of the National Council of the WWF. He thus shares its values and objectives.

Woodwell is also a founding trustee of the World Resources Institute, another advocacy group. It is currently chaired by James A Harmon, Chairman of the investment group Harmon & Co and a director of Questar Corporation, an integrated natural gas exploration, distribution and pipeline company. He is also senior advisor to the Rothschild Group. Additionally, the Institute counts as a board member Al Gore, chairman of Generation Investment Management, a company with strong interests in carbon trading.

Funded heavily by the Moore foundation, to the tune of over $7 million, and working in partnership with the WWF on the Tumucumaque project, in May 2008 Woods Hole Research Centre, alongside the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, came up with the “Holy Grail”, a methodology for calculating the carbon “savings” from managing rainforests.

With this, they estimated that areas protected by the ARPA programme would save 5.1 gigatons of CO2 emissions by 2050. Based on the UNFCCC valuation for a ton of CO2 at $12.50, that equated to over $60 billion-worth of carbon credits. This “finding” was presented that month to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, meeting in Bonn and the work was also adopted by the World Bank.

The WWF campaign

WWF+logo WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From FearWith this essential piece in place, the WWF then started an intensive lobbying campaign. Working with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), it produced a report to argue that: “The new generation of carbon funds must address the need for a sustained reduction in carbon emissions … “.

Crucially, it complained that forest projects were “not yet recognised under the Clean Development Mechanism” The agenda was clear. WWF and its allies wanted a new treaty, to be agreed by the then forthcoming Copenhagen climate summit, to include forests in the CDM.

To that effect, WWF released a detailed policy checklist for delegates, setting out “legal and regulatory requirements to stimulate REDD activities”. Its proposal for carbon credits, tied in with a US “cap and trade” system, could provide revenues of up to $4-$5 billion per year for REDD activities.

Ramping up the publicity, it then argued that: “Aggressive action to reduce (and ultimately halt) emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) must be part of any serious policy to address the climate crisis…”. Without REDD, WWF averred, “keeping global average surface temperature increase below 2°C will likely be impossible.”

To support the case, it mobilised its allies, pulling together a raft of Brazilian NGOs with Greenpeace, Conservation International, and Friends of the Earth to launch “the National Pact to Acknowledge the Value of the Forest and to End Amazon Deforestation.”

It also set up the WWF Forest Carbon Network Initiative again arguing that carbon finance would play a critical role in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. As such, it declared, the development of carbon finance mechanisms had “emerged” as a major part of WWF’s conservation finance portfolio.

Simultaneously, it launched an Amazon Fund, inviting sponsorship contributions of $50 to preserve one acre of Amazonian rainforest for 20 years, using the opportunity to argue for placing a price on carbon through a cap-and-trade programme. By this means, it said, “keeping forests intact becomes economically valuable. Climate policy can then help realize this value for countries and communities that choose to protect forests.” Halving global emissions from deforestation could produce $3.7 trillion in net benefits to the global economy, it claimed.

Then, to lock in its preferred option, WWF launched a spirited campaign against biofuels, funding a study which argued that preventing deforestation was better for “biodiversity and climate” than clearing virgin forest and planting energy crops such as oil-palm plantations.

In the run-up to the Copenhagen summit, it was now Nepstad’s turn to increase the pressure. As lead author of an article in the prestigious Science journal, he argued for the REDD mechanism, “payments for tropical forest carbon credits under a U.S. cap-and-trade system” and the need to raise $7 to $18 billion to stop forest clearance. One of his co-authors, Frank Merry, gave his address as the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, while another had his as the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington.

Opposition to REDD

Amazon+REDD WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making  $60 billion From FearMeanwhile, the programme was not without its critics. A small, UK-based charity, the Forest Peoples Programme expressed concern that some conservation schemes to establish wilderness reserves also denied forest-dwellers’ rights. Cut off from their ancestral territories, it said, forest peoples face poverty, the erosion of their customary institutions, loss of identity and cultural collapse.

Campaigner Chris Lang, founder of “REDD Monitor“, saw the scheme as a new way of “breathing life into the scam of carbon trading”. REDD could involve the biggest ever transfer of control over forests – to international carbon financiers and polluting companies, he said.

By September 2009, Scientific American was retailing the fears of Marcus Colchester of the Forest Peoples Programme. “We see a risk that the prospect of getting a lot of money for biodiversity could lead to indigenous peoples’ concerns falling by the wayside,” he said. Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network was concerned that increasing the financial value of forests could lead to “the biggest land grab of all time.”

Expectations that things would be any different because the schemes are run by conservation groups do not appear to be fulfilled. An account of a scheme run by WWF partner, The Nature Conservancy, on Brazil’s Atlantic Coast at Guaraqueçaba, details massive “injustices”, the NGO trampling over the rights of local people.

Financed with $18 million by General Motors, Chevron and American Electric Power, this organisation – with the familiar mix of financiers on its board – created three reserves covering a total of 20,235 hectares. The commercial tie-up was seen as exposing REDD simply as a means to help polluting corporations to “offset” their emissions, without leading to any overall drop in CO2 emissions. The NGOs were simply the “front” organisations, the acceptable public face.

tribes WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From Fear
Other writers see REDD as “Tribal Peoples Versus Carbon Cowboys”, arguing that the scheme will bring indigenous peoples “massive disruption and little benefit.” Jonathan Mazower, of Survival International, notes that where outsiders place monetary value on land where indigenous people live, they “always almost suffer”. His organisation has produced a report condemning the whole system.

Reinforcing the concern, the International Forum of Indigenous Peoples on Climate Change stated: “REDD will increase the violation of our human rights, our rights to our lands, territories and resources, steal our land, cause forced evictions, prevent access and threaten indigenous agriculture practices, destroy biodiversity and culture diversity and cause social conflicts.”

When it came to the Copenhagen summit, no final agreement was reached on a climate treaty. But, much to the relief of WWF and its allies, elements of REDD – now known as “REDD+” were agreed. And, for the critics of the scheme, it looked as if their worst fears had been realised. In the small print of the proposal, there had been an explicit reference to the need to safeguard indigenous peoples. But, when it came to the actual Copenhagen accord, there was no mention of rights or safeguards at all. Yet this will go forward for final agreement at Mexico at end of the year.


Coke WWF WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From FearAs a “conservation” group, the WWF is seen by many as having an unhealthily close relationship with big business. In 2007, for instance, it entered into a partnership with the drinks giant Coca-Cola, taking a fee of $20 million as part of an agreement to tackle its “water footprint”.

It incurred the ire of The Ecologist and other environmental groups for supporting actions of the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS), which it co-founded in 2004. This grouping comprises producers, finance, trade & industry representatives, NGOs, certification bodies and universities.

Members range from Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, Bunge to Unilever, Shell, BP, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, WWF and producers such as Gruppo André Maggi – the world’s largest soybean producer based in Brazil.

Despite its concern for deforestation – in which soya growing is heavily implicated – WWF endorsed an RTRS criterion that could allow “responsible” soy to be grown on land that was deforested as recently as May 2009. And soy can still be labelled “responsible” when harvested from lands deforested after May 2009 if the producer could demonstrate that it was not prime forest or an area of High Conservation Value, or land belonging to local peoples.

On the ground, freelance writer Glenda Freeman, a native of New Zealand/Aotearoa, describes WWF activities as “Green Imperialism“, labelling this giant, corporate organisation a “BINGO” (Big International Non-governmental Organisation). She complains that WWF intervention keeps native populations “idle and dependent” while creating the problem it hoped to solve.

Anonymous authors of a publication entitled, “People Against Foreign NGO Neocolonialism” – a group of dissident environmentalists – state that foreign conservation conglomerates “whitewash effort to please donors so that the big bucks will keep flowing.” They contradict claims that these groups have had any real conservation impact.

Speaking of efforts in Papua New Guinea (PNG), they assert that, “With the help of willing donors such as AUS-AID, UNDP, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Moore Foundation, any possibility of achieving lasting conservation of PNG’s biodiversity is being destroyed in the here and now… The international conservation NGOs in PNG are proving to be a model of how not to do either conservation or development”.

Organisations such as WWF, Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy are accused of having caused “the atrophy of what would have been a natural evolution of a truly indigenous conservation movement.” Corporate, hierarchical models of conservation based upon outside foreign experts – often with little in-country knowledge or concern – threaten the world’s rainforest as surely as logging, agriculture, etc.

And in a commentary that could have been written with the Tumucumaque Mountains National Park in mind, they note that uninhabited forests that are impossible to log or destroy in any other way are pointed out, without the hint of a snicker, as being “forests we have saved” by these neocolonialist NGOs.

Lines are drawn on the map to show the new conservation areas. Yes, the big boys say they’re achieving a lot of conservation in PNG and they’ve got the maps to prove it. It’s all a whitewash effort to please donors so that the big bucks will keep flowing.

Amazon+soya WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making  $60 billion From FearWriters Lim Soomin and Dr. Steven Shirley, of Keimyung International College, Daegu, Republic of Korea, are equally critical. Within Brazil, they say, the WWF’s efforts have created concern from both business and political groups that want to integrate the massive potential of the Amazon into the country’s economy through dam building, mining projects, highways, ports, logging and agricultural exports.

Running counter to these domestic plans, they write, are international efforts promoted by the WWF and other NGOs that seek to restrict Brazil’s business and industry from utilizing the natural resources. Essentially, these groups are seeking to ban Brazilians from using what is Brazil’s unless a foreign government or bureaucracy gives permission.

Meanwhile, the campaigning group Friends of Peoples Close to Nature complained of the World Bank’s “lies and deception with WWF”, noting in particular that “projects to promote new markets in carbon have despoiled landscapes and ruined livelihoods.”

A giant international corporation

eco imperialism WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon:  Making $60 billion From FearIn the introduction to the book Eco-Imperialism: Green power, Black death by Paul Driessen, we read of the “ideological environmental movement.”

This, we are told, imposes the views of mostly wealthy, comfortable Americans and Europeans on mostly poor, desperate Africans, Asians and Latin Americans. It violates these people’s most basic human rights, denying them economic opportunities, the chance for better lives, the right to rid their countries of diseases that were vanquished long ago in Europe and the United States.

Worst of all, in league with the European Union, United Nations and other bureaucracies, the movement stifles vigorous, responsible debate over energy, pesticides and biotechnology. It prevents needy nations from using the very technologies that developed countries employed to become rich, comfortable and free of disease. And it sends millions of infants, children, men and women to early graves every year.

This ideological environmental movement, we are thus informed, is a powerful $4 billion-a-year US industry, an $8 billion-a-year international gorilla. And WWF is one of the major players. Like the profit-making international corporations it so freely criticises – into which it has crawled into bed, taking their money – the WWF itself is a massive international corporation,. Its declared income for 2008 was €447 million, including €107.7 million for its international arm.

This enables it to finance a massive publicity effort, giving it privileged access to the media, and to governments and international agencies – from which it draws much of its funding.

Ranged against this corporate giant is a disparate, ill-funded range of individuals and groups, with only a small fraction of its resources. Inevitably, the voice of WWF is heard loudest, drowning out complaints and concerns.

That much also applies to its field activities. Where, as is so often, it is operating in remote areas, there is rarely an independent voice or observer capable of recording what precisely happens. Much of what we know of WWF’s activities, therefore, comes from WWF itself, inevitably spun in its own favour.

A self-serving industry

carter WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From FearThe greatest criticism, however, is that the organisation is manifestly self-serving. Certainly, no one can argue that WWF is not personally rewarding for some of its officers. The current CEO of the US branch, Carter S Roberts (pictured left), is paid “compensation” of $439,327.

Before joining WWF he spent 15 years at The Nature Conservancy. Earlier in his career, he led marketing and management teams at Gillette, Procter and Gamble and at Dun and Bradstreet, where he advised companies including RJR/Nabisco and Coca-Cola. The associations reinforce the impression of a small clique dominating the environmental charity “industry” and the closeness between that industry and the commercial corporates.

As to the Amazon venture, this perhaps is the clearest example of the self-serving ethos, best illustrated by comparison with what an effective conservation programme might seek to achieve.

In this, it is widely recognised that the greatest pressure on the forests is through clearance to make way for agriculture, including soya, sugar growing for ethanol production, and cattle ranching. In fact, according to Greenpeace, cattle ranching currently accounts for 80 percent of forest clearance (see map below).

Amazon+cattle WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making  $60 billion From FearHowever, as WWF has acknowledged, the bulk of this clearance is in the south and east. And, as Greenpeace reports, the maximum pressure is in the southernmost state of Mato Grosso. On the other hand, there is no cattle ranching in the extreme north and west, where the bulk of the WWF protected areas are situated, and neither is the land suitable for soya or sugar cane growing.

It follows, therefore, that for an “avoided deforestation” project to have most effect, it should be located in areas where the forest is most at risk – i.e., in the south or east, and especially in the Mato Grosso. To locate projects in the uninhabited north, or the sparsely inhabited, inaccessible west, cannot be considered a high priority.

Furthermore, as is pointed out in a report from the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, for maximum carbon sequestration, the most effective option is reforestation of deforested areas. This is also the best conservation and biodiversity option.

As to a finance system based wholly or largely on carbon credits, there were “considerable risks for perverse incentives regarding these objectives.” Firstly, the potentially huge number of credits that would become available if the entire global forest mass was included in the CDM would crash the carbon price. This would give CO2 producers a “get out of jail free” card, reducing their incentive to adopt carbon reduction technologies by allowing them to acquire cheap credits and maintain a “business as usual” profile.

Secondly, a simplistic, market-based system such as CDM would not discriminate between priority areas, which tend to be problematic, and the “low hanging fruit”. This is recognised by the Freiburg report – which was commissioned by Greenpeace – where reference is made to “leakage”, the displacement of emissions, rather than any absolute reduction.

Such nuanced arguments, with other reservations set out in further reports, seem to be absent from the WWF case. While Greenpeace opposes the universal adoption of the CDM mechanism, and proposes focusing on priority areas, WWF persists in making shrill demands for unrestricted carbon trading. Without this, it says, “keeping global average surface temperature increase below 2°C will likely be impossible.”

A human-centric approach

Amazon+survival WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon:  Making $60 billion From FearIn contrast to the wildlife-centric approach of the WWF, and the environmental activism of Greenpeace, the World Rainforest Movement (WRM) and organisations such as Survival International, take a human-centric approach.

Securing the land rights of indigenous people, and rigorously enforcing them, they argue, is the best way of preventing damaging exploitation of the forests. And, as Survival International illustrates, environmental degradation and human rights abuses often go hand-in-hand.

Other issues, such as illegal logging, are primarily matters for law enforcement. While NGOs have proved of considerable value in pointing out lapses in enforcement – and worse – as well as reporting illegal activities to the authorities, establishment of extremely expensive protected areas is hardly necessary for such functions to be performed. The revenue-generating potential of monitoring activities, however, is very low.

In it for the money

Taken at face value, and certainly at the valuation placed upon its enterprise by WWF, setting up protected areas in the Amazon rainforests is wholly benign. From a robust, climate-sceptic stance, however, attempting to lock carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is a waste of time and effort. On the other hand, even if the entire climate change agenda is accepted unreservedly, the enterprise still fails to pass muster – on numerous counts.

In the first instance, the ARPA project is extraordinarily expensive. The $80 million spent is more than ten times the entire income of a charity such as Survival International. Arguably, with considerably less funds, it achieves a great deal more than this exercise.

Secondly, even if the enterprise could be considered good value in isolation, it would be very hard to argue that the areas chosen – in the context of the damage being done elsewhere – represent the main or even an important priority. The resource expended, undoubtedly, could achieve more in other areas.

Thirdly, the reserves are a high maintenance exercise and are not economically viable. They require a constant flow of funds from external sources – thus generating the need for the carbon trading scheme. A less ambitious – or more pragmatic – scheme which achieved less than perfection but which was economically self-sustaining, would achieve more overall. Such a model, though, does not seem to have been considered.

Amazon+smoke WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making  $60 billion From FearFourthly, the projects seem to have been set up in anticipation of the need for continued external funding, essentially creating a demand for financial scheme that would otherwise have no justification. Effectively, one could see the ARPA scheme as a Trojan Horse for trading in forest carbon.

Fifth, the actual amount of carbon saved would be minimal, and only a fraction of what could be saved if other options were taken up, such as reforestation.

Sixth, the trading in forest carbon would destabilise the CDM, crashing the carbon price and obviate the need for industrial CO2 producers to invest in “clean” technologies. Longer-term, it would reduce the amount of finance available for forest preservation and restitution, as funds were diverted to harvesting “low hanging fruit”.

Seventh, the programme is an interference in the internal affairs of host nations, distorting national priorities and absolving – or even preventing – those nations developing environmental protection schemes attuned to their own specific needs. It also risks damaging the rights of indigenous peoples, and creating dependency cultures.

In terms of climate change mitigation, conservation or any similar aspect, therefore, there is nothing to commend this WWF strategy. It is wholly malign. From the WWF stance, however, there are many advantages.

Firstly, the scheme would generate significant income for the pioneer, which happens to be WWF. It also generates funds for donor countries, either directly or indirectly by subsidising environmental programmes which would otherwise have to be tax-funded. This ensures cordial relations between the NGO and the governments on which they rely for access and permission to operate.

Secondly, it is a high-profile activity with a strong “feel-good” quotient which is likely to be attractive to private and corporate donors. It allows the claim that “we are saving the forests” – and the planet.

The effect of this, incidentally, can be seen in the report of KFW Entwicklungsbank, which cites project manager Jens Ochtrop. He says: “There is practically no more illegal felling of trees, planting of soybean fields or grazing of cattle in the ARPA areas. The protection by ARPA also affects land speculators and illegal tree fellers. They keep away”.

But then, in the inaccessible Tumucumaque Mountains National Park and other strict protection areas, there was no illegal felling of trees, planting of soybean fields or grazing of cattle. One could make a similar case for the success of a wild elephant eradication scheme in Croydon High Street or Brooklyn.

Amazon+tumac WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making  $60 billion From FearThirdly, the activity is politically “safe”. It avoids confrontation with vested interests in the host country, which might then provoke a political backlash and curtailment of (revenue-generating) activities. It also positions the organisation away from the areas of highest degradation and thus absolves WWF from having to intervene – or report abuse – which might upset actual or potential corporate sponsors and allies.

Fourth, carbon trading itself presents a very valuable income stream for investment and finance houses, which are well-represented on the boards of environmental charity allies and donor foundations. All of these can be relied upon to provide generous support for future activities, funded in part from carbon trading.

Fifth, forest credits available in significant numbers would reduce overall the costs of emitting CO2 for many industrial enterprises and eliminate the need for expensive CO2 reduction technology – and many of these industrial enterprises are generous funders of the environmental movement.

Chris Land, again puts some this in perspective, noting that the Indonesian government is fond of REDD, “not least because it hopes to gain millions of dollars worth of funding through REDD.”

Amazon+cattle2 WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making  $60 billion From FearHe also notes that countries in the north are keen to fund REDD in Indonesia, not least because it allows them to greenwash continued oil extraction. Norway’s StatoilHydro, he says, is developing oil projects in Indonesia. Meanwhile, Norway’s Ambassador to Indonesia, Eivind Homme can claim that, “Norway is financing the UN REDD program, one of the pilot projects on climate change, in Indonesia.”

That identifies a final element. The scheme allows national governments to be seen to be “doing something” on climate change, while avoiding excessive burdens on their industries, on which they rely for taxation and employment. Governments are increasingly important financiers of environmental NGOs, and will tend to favour those who support their agendas.

Putting this all together, one does not need a public admission from WWF to assert – with great confidence – that the motivation behind its current Amazon schemes is money. Similar motivation can be seen in other environmental groups, including the Woods Hole Research Centre.

Above all, to keep the money flowing, there must be continued alarums about “climate change” and its impact on rainforests. Without global warming, of course, there would still be pressure on the forests from logging, from agricultural encroachment and other land use. But it would be difficult to sustain such a large cash flow from dealing with these problems, or legitimise intervention in what would then be the internal affairs of host nations.

Climate change – à la WWF – therefore, affords both cash and an excuse to intervene. If it didn’t actually exist, it would surely have to be invented.

As reported by RN